Church At Its Best
I Was In Prison
Online Prison Ministry Newsletter
November 28, 2007
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

Church At Its Best
By: Dale Recinella

It’s Saturday morning in Winter Haven, Florida.


The 10:00 am sun pours from a cloudless sky over the citrus trees behind the church. Orange specks peer brightly from among the bright green leaves. The sloping roof of St. Matthew’s Church answers in its own hues of deep green. All a beautiful backdrop for the unusual event in the portico of the church.

The rear door of the hearse swings open. Six pallbearers receive the casket. A crowd of about seventy parishioners is present to partake in the solemn funeral Mass that acknowledges this deceased as one of us, a Catholic brother in Christ. What is unusual is that none of these people is related by blood to the man who has died. Almost none of them have ever met him face-to-face. Yet, here they are, and here is his body.

A white cross-bearing cloth is draped over the coffin. The pastor, Father Ruse, begins a blessing and leads the procession inside. The simple brown-varnished box containing the remains is positioned in front of the altar and astride the towering beauty of a white Easter Candle. All the symbols proclaim life. The Mass begins.

Ricky, the deceased, was executed at 9:30 am Wednesday October 2nd by lethal injection at Florida State Prison. Father Ruse was his spiritual advisor. After four years of monthly visits and five weeks of deathwatch weekly visits, Father Ruse was with him at cell front for the five hours prior to execution. My wife and I served as a support for Father and the members of his pastoral team who participated in the vigil and prayers that surrounded this event. Father never came alone to Florida State Prison. In a very real sense, all these people from his parish who are gathered here today came with him.

This is a piece of the mystery of church. This is the family of faith, a visible sign of the Community of Saints. I’ve heard it said that the Eskimo language has no word for orphan because any child who loses its parents is immediately absorbed into another family. There are no orphans. This Catholic Family of Faith is the same reality in the spiritual realm. There are no abandoned members of this family. No one from this family should ever end up in Boot Hill.

Boot Hill is the ultimate statement that a human life did not matter to anyone. It is the ultimate degradation for those who have already been relegated to the bottom of the pile. Boot Hill is the state administered pauper’s graveyard for those who die in prison at Raiford or Starke with no one to even claim their body. I’ve been told that men have been removed from the execution chamber, processed by the medical examiner and sent directly to Boot Hill. There is no more effective pronouncement of the worthlessness of a human life.

These good people of St. Matthew’s of Winter Haven are taking a stand this morning for the value of human life, not just in general, but in the particular case of this man who some considered to be valueless. They are taking this stand at the cost of their personal resources of time, mind and money. They are throwing down the gauntlet in the face of the culture of death, choosing to see this man not as his worst deeds, but rather as God sees him, made in the image and likeness of God.

Through the course of the funeral Mass prayers are offered for his victims, their loved ones and for him and his loved ones. Some of the songs sung are the same as those that Ricky and Father Ruse sang with the prison chaplains at his cell front just hours before his death. Ricky’s final words are shared. In closing the homily, Father Ruse says it all:

“This is church at its best.”



First published: The Florida Catholic, October 17, 2002

© 2002 Dale S. Recinella & The Florida Catholic. Used with permission. No further reproduction or republication without prior written permission. All rights reserved Used with permission. All rights reserved.
No further reproduction or republication without prior written permission.

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This ezine is targeted for people involved in prison ministry or in stopping the death penalty, we think you will find helpful information for people who are undecided about capital punishment, for those who have never experienced the inside of a jail or prison, and for those who feel called to participate through prayer and adoration.

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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

If you Like this Weekly Ezine - You will love Dale's Book!
Sr. Patricia Proctor
Paperback: 433 pages

Excellent book on the topic!,
June 13, 2005 Nathan Eanes
(Review from Amazon.com)

The Biblical Truth about America's Death Penalty is a must-read. It deals with Biblical standards of Capital Punishment and then compares them to the system used in America today. It is the best-researched, most faithful to scripture, and most evenhanded analysis I have ever read concerning the Death Penalty. Whatever your persuasion on the issue, this book will teach you a great deal. Recinella is a trained lawyer and committed Christian who now volunteers part-time on Florida's death row. He thus understands law, the Bible, and the system of execution in America. I challenge anyone who supports the Death Penalty to read this book.



This ezine edited by Sister Patricia Proctor, OSC - Poor Clare Sister
to support the IWasInPrison Outreach