An Important Visit
Jan 18, 2017
Last week several former inmates of Lino Lakes came to the 10:00 am Mass to catch up with some of the members of the prison ministry. It was good to see them in a fraternal group with Deacon Clarence Shallbetter accompanying them. I did not get as much of a chance to talk with them as I wanted to since I had to fulfill a promise to bless some Epiphany chalk for the blessing of houses. By the time I was finished with that the boys had moved on. In greeting them at the door on the way in I was impressed by how happy they seemed. One of them brought his son along. They all had different jobs and were following the pathway to "normalizing" their lives. This parish community is very important to them because over their time in the prison some of our parishioners came to pass on the Catholic faith to them every Tuesday evening.
Learning about the Catholic faith was important but what actually made the difference for each of these men is the regular commitment they witnessed. Every week people from St. Joe's went out of their way to be with these prisoners. For some of them it was the first time in a long time that they knew that they mattered to somebody. On Sunday, January 21 some prisoners in the Catholic studies program at Lino Lakes are going to be confirmed by Archbishop Hebda. This week I will be saying Mass at the prison and I will go back the next week with the Archbishop. In my first meeting with the prisoners a year ago, I told them that as Catholics understand the role of pastor, he is held responsible for the souls of all who live in the boundaries of his assigned parish. I said to them: "you are my parishioners and I am your pastor". I did not realize then how profound that statement was for them, but they have reminded me of that several times over this past year. Please pray for these men who will be confirmed in a week.
What is Church membership supposed to be about? I think for too many it is seen as a sort of Country Club where we gather sharing similar values and outlooks. For me: true membership is first having our lives transformed by the joy of the Sacraments and the power of God's Word and then as we mature in that we become those who in turn help transform others in love. God's love that dwells within us has the capacity to reform any and all who we encounter if we let Him. I was reminded of that when our brothers from the prison system cam home to visit us last week.