||Susan M. Recinella, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed|
Where Every Day Is Mothersí Day
By: Dale Recinella
Susan finishes her hair and straightens her collar. Itís early Sunday morning. Time for us to head for the church.
Morning mist hugs the stucco white walls of St. Maryís, embracing the sanctuary with a transcendent shadow against the sunrise. A three-story stain glass window looms behind the altar. Mary is holding the Child while the serpent is securely underfoot. As mist and sunbeams dance around the church, the colored-glass image of Mary the protective Mother seems alive, pulsing from brilliance to darkness and back to radiance. We kneel in prayer.
At that very moment mothers throughout the five counties of our rural parish are calling their children to breakfast and ordering them to put on their Sunday clothes. But Susan and I are praying for the women who are dressing just five minutes away, the mothers who are donning makeup and brushing their hair in the cells at the local jail.
We never asked to do a Eucharistic service at the jail. It all started because a young woman from up north found herself doing federal time in the rural south, a thousand miles from home. Thatís not unusual. Many small counties contract to hold prisoners until beds open up in federal prisons. For the government, itís cheaper to pay the daily charges to the local sheriffs than it is to build more federal prisons. But inmates can end up half-a-country away from their families.
God bless the ministers at our local jail. The poor fellows hadnít banked on the tenacity of the Yankee cradle-Catholic who demanded worship services in her own faith. She told us that for six months she had written letters through the jail chaplains to our local church and to our Bishop. No one ever received them.
Finally, she met a Southern Baptist Pastor who knew us personally. He called and gave us her name, saying, ďThat girl wants a Cath-o-lic service and nothiní else Ďll do her.Ē
Thatís how it began.
Susan and I are inside the visiting room to greet the five ladies as they file in. Hair primped. Makeup perfect. Jail inmate uniforms as clean as they can get them. This is their Sunday church. Only one thing is missing. Their children.
At the end of the service, we join hands in prayer. The women offer their deepest heartfelt needs. The prayers are for their children.
One has three children being raised by her elderly mother in the rural Midwest. If only she could look after them, know what they are doing, who they are with. She prays they wonít fall into the ways that brought her to prison.
Another has two children being raised by an aunt in Florida. Her three-year old daughter is sick. The family has decided not to tell the girl that her mom is in prison. She holds Susanís hand as they pray for Jesus to protect the little girlís heart from spirits of fear and abandonment.
A third woman has children living with a family member in a large urban inner city. She canít even vocalize her prayer. All that will come out is tears.
Itís time to go.
We sit quietly in the jail parking lot for a minute before returning the Blessed Sacrament to the church. Years ago Susan ministered to women in prison on Mothersí Day. But today isnít Mothersí Day.
ďI thought the pain of separation from their children was especially bad on that day,Ē she sighs deeply. ďI didnít realize that for a mother in prison, the pain is there every single day. Every day is Mothersí Day.Ē
First published: The Florida Catholic, May 28, 2000
© 2000 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
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.
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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