||Susan M. Recinella, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed|
St Peter’s in the Glen Anglican Church, Glen St Mary, Florida
The Biblical Truth about America’s Death Penalty and the Death Penalty Up Close
(open to the public).
Saturday April 25, 2009 - 9:00 a.m. to Noon followed by free lunch
DALE S. RECINELLA - Catholic Lay Chaplain for Florida Death Row and Solitary Confinement
DR. SUSAN M. RECINELLA – Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed and Families of Murder Victims
For information, contact: Ms. Sue Leger Krall
cell 613-2542 Hm 259-6568
To Light a Candle
By: Dale S. Recinella
During my middle school years at St. Michael’s of Livonia, I frequently rose early while the family slept.
My morning place was a basement corner near the laundry chute. There, in a knotty pine case, my favorite books stood ready to yield their wisdom.
As morning noises of Dad’s preparations for work and the drone of the radio news on WJR cascaded down the chute, I would curl in the warm glow of a
solitary bulb and consume my treasures. My favorite was a book by The Christophers, “Three Minutes a Day.”
Each morning’s offering was a brief account of real people faced with real problems. In every case, their faith had shown the way, an answer,
a power to overcome. It was a reality show, in written form, where the key to winning, to staying on the island of hope and perseverance, was
faith. Again and again, in those inspiring tales, the phrase returned, “Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”
In a strange quirk of memory, that phrase and the glow of those mornings come flooding back to me as the bishop and I step into a solitary
cell in “T” dorm. This dorm is not a pretty place. Here are housed the men whose life with mental illness, and possibly a host of other problems,
has led them on a path to the most severe restrictions. The solitary cells in this unit all have steel-and-plexiglas doors. The man inside is
fully visible. One corridor houses those who have repeatedly attempted to take their own lives in prison. Everything and anything in their
hands could become a weapon of self-destruction. They wear only their skivvies and a tear-away blanket.
The corridor we are on today holds the men who are functioning at a level above that—some just barely. The ones who do well here will
graduate back to “S” dorm where the restrictions are a bit milder and the supervision a bit less intense, but the psychotropic medications
are still very heavy.
This place is too stark, too dangerous, and too real for any TV show. This is the reality of the plight of the mentally ill in an affluent
society that refuses to pay for care. This is the end of the road for many of those who are physically sick in mind and have fended for
themselves on the streets without community services. This is the last stop on a train to hell in an affluent state that has closed down
thousands of civil mental hospital beds, leaving the care of the male mentally ill to the criminal justice system. If there is darkness, that is it.
And yet, the man we are here to see is lighting a candle. For four years, despite the ravages of his illness, he has worked steadily
to understand the Catholic faith. This morning, his efforts are to be rewarded. The bishop is here to baptize and confirm him and offer
his first Communion.
Six officers in full gear accompany us to his cell. The door opens. We enter. He is in shackles and waist cuffs, wearing a butting helmet
and spit and bite shields. The officers remove the helmet and shields and fall back, flanking us with a semi-circle of observant protection.
The bishop dons his stole and begins the rite of baptism. As the words of exorcism fall from the bishop’s lips, the man begins to tremble.
By the time the water is poured upon his head, he is flowing with tears, whispering over and over, “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus.”
Finally, I break the quiet pause after his first Communion. “You have become a part of our family of faith. A cloud of witnesses surrounds
you. You are not alone anymore.”
To myself I think, “Thank God, you have chosen to light a candle.”
First published: The Florida Catholic December 25, 2003
© 2009 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.
Your name and information will never be used or shared 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