||Susan M. Recinella, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed|
The Gifts that Keep on Giving
By: Dale Recinella
The train from Rome to Verona takes about six hours.
The time is evenly split between sketching our path on my AAA map of Italy and writing postcards. The days in Rome went well. High school students were bussed in from around the city to a presentation at the Bibliotecha Borromeo, the library of the historic Borromeo family. The students were deeply interested in the issues of the death penalty and the realities of life on death row. So were the other audiences in Rome. All were seeking to understand America’s strange fascination with a practice that every other western democracy has banned
An exceptional audience was composed of the graduate students attending St. John’s University at Vatican City in international relations. Almost all were from countries other than the U.S. After thoroughly discussing America’s international problems created by pursuing the death penalty in the face of claimed treaty violations on human rights, racism, torture and extradition, the discussion turned to cost.
A northern European lady who works with a large multinational corporation in Rome grew exasperated. “We are talking about human life—not about widgets. How can a decision whether or not to kill a person be based on the cost of feeding and clothing them. Do you hear yourself?”
As invigorating as such encounters had been, I could hardly have anticipated what is waiting in the suburbs of Verona, in a small, industrial community called Chiampo. The first night is an address to over one hundred regional leaders of the Catholic charismatic renewal. I gear my remarks to the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, even in prison, and the joy of fellowship with our Catholic brothers behind bars. By nine o’clock I have been speaking for an hour through simultaneous translation. I prepare to end.
Key members of the gathering lean forward and speak out loud, “Tell us about the men on death row and in your solitary confinement prisons.”
No one stands to leave. No one looks at their watch. By 10:30 pm I am sure that this presentation must end. In America it’s unthinkable to continue so late on a weeknight. I begin to close. Again they will not allow it.
“Tell us how we can help. Tell us how to be brothers and sisters in Christ to the men you have described.”
We continue until almost midnight. The next night is even more astounding. The Franciscan church in Chiampo that hosts the weekly meeting of this renewal is literally standing room only. Easily four hundred or more. And what do they want to hear? About our brothers in prison, especially on death row, and how the Catholic charismatic renewal can minister to them, bring them hope.
I am not surprised to learn that this regional Charismatic renewal movement, Gruppo Abramo, conducts Bible studies and leads praise and worship in the Italian prison near Verona. They also assist the poor and the homebound.
“The gifts of the Spirit are not given to us for ourselves,” a leader explains over decaffeinated cappuccino in the wee hours of the morning. “They are given to be used to bring joy and Good News to others—especially the poor, the sick and the imprisoned. Surely this is part of the heart of the Catholic charismatic renewal.”
“If you clutch the gifts of the Spirit and try to possess them for only yourself and your close friends, the gifts whither away,” continues another member of the pastoral team. “But if you go out into the world and bestow them on those in need, they multiply beyond anything you could have imagined.”
“It’s true,” the first rejoins. “None of us can be more generous than God.”
First published: The Florida Catholic, February 21, 2002
© 2002 Dale S. Recinella & The Florida Catholic.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
No further reproduction or republication without prior written permission.
I Was In Prison
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Dale S. Recinella
, Catholic Lay Chaplain, Florida Death Row and Solitary Confinement
Susan M. Recinella
, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed