No Excuses
I Was In Prison
Online Prison Ministry Newsletter
October 17, 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
Florida Catholic Bishops’ Campaign against the Death Penalty

Dale S. Recinella and Dr. Susan M. Recinella are the featured speakers in this program on the Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty in America. The Bishops of Florida have approved this series of presentations to educate Catholics and interested others about Church teaching on the death penalty. Attendance by catechists, educators, Respect Life coordinators, and Peace and Justice Committee members is particularly encouraged. The program will be offered in every diocese in Florida during 2007. At the following two locations, books will be available for purchase and signing.

Diocese of Venice
Saturday, October 27, 2007
1:30-4:30 p.m.
St. Ann Hall, Bishop Nevins Academy
4380 Fruitville Road
Sarasota, Florida
Contact: Marina Kopko (941) 441-1112
Sheila Hopkins (Florida Catholic Conference): (850) 205-6826 or

No Excuses
By: Dale Recinella

As young Scouts, we memorized the virtues that should shape our life. We all liked bravery.

Every issue of our scouting magazine, Boys’ Life, carried at least one hair-raising true story of courage in the face of imminent peril. A young man pulling a family from a burning car. A teenager belly crawling across thin ice to rescue a child in frigid waters. We imagined ourselves in the picture, leaping to the heroic. Courage was popular.

The virtue called trustworthiness wasn’t as big a hit. Trustworthy was tougher to visualize. We knew we shouldn’t lie or steal. But it’s hard to picture a negative. Our young minds tended to skew trustworthiness towards loyalty, especially to our country. The fifties and sixties were Cold War years. Our culture was immersed in spy drama: books, television, movies—as well as the real ones on the news. It wasn’t hard to imagine trustworthiness as refusing cooperation with the enemy at all costs. That sounded exciting. Like bravery. Our troop leader wouldn’t have it.

“It means doing what you said you’re going to do,” Mr. Pelligrino harped on a trustworthiness that sounded dull and boring to us. “It means being where you should be when you’re supposed to be there. It means people can rely on you.” His emphasis would increase in proportion to our waning attention.

That was forty years ago. But based on his description, we may be living in an age that needs trustworthiness more than it needs bravery. I’ve seen enough “No Fear” decals to last me a lifetime. I’m ready for some that say, “No Excuses.”

My brothers who live in prison must feel that way, too. I know the guys at Union Correctional do. They’ve heard it all. Promises to write. No letters. Promises to visit. No call outs. Promises … promises … promises …. “A pocket full of mumbles” as Simon and Garfunkel called them.

In prison when someone does what he or she promises to do, it is not soon forgotten. That may be why one of the best-known and most respected people on the entire compound at Union was a short elderly man from outside. He’s been pegged with the unlikely moniker, “Big John.” Big John always promised to come back. He always did. Until the day he died.

Kairos is a Cursillio-type weekend that has been adapted to the prison environment. The weekend is given by free-people from parishes and churches near the prison. Inmates apply to participate in the weekend and are screened for faith readiness. The program is now nationwide. It started at Union Correctional in Florida in the 1970s.

Big John showed up for the sixth Kairos weekend at Union in 1980. He made almost 50 more of the weekends since, only missing three over twenty years.

Moreover, he and his wife Julia were regulars at the Sunday Catholic services at Florida State Prison and Union Correctional for over twenty years. Big John celebrated his 92nd birthday and was still attending Mass regularly at the prison with the inmates dressed in blue. And he always wore a tie. Everyone knew that if the Big Man missed a Sunday Catholic service, there was a big reason.

It’s not hard to come up with good excuses for not being able to share the Mass or Communion service with our Catholic brothers in blue every Sunday. Big John was a man with no excuses. Big John just showed up.

As his slight frame eased into the prison grounds each week, cane in one hand and a fistful of jokes in the other, virtually every officer, every inmate, every guest, knew that the shadow of a really Big Man had crossed their path.

It has been several years since Big John went to the big house in the sky, to his eternal reward. Yet, every Sunday, as the Catholic inmates at Union Correctional Institution pour into the chapel for Mass, one can hardly shake the sense that Big John is sitting right there in his favorite seat. He never made excuses before. Why would he start now?

First published: The Florida Catholic, September 14, 2000 © 2000 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.

I Was In Prison
News & Updates
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.

Your name and information will never be used or sha#3333FF with anyone. We promise!

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

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