||Susan M. Recinella, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed|
A holy button-pusher
By: Dale S. Recinella
I met Marcus Hepburn on a Christ Renews His Parish weekend at Good Shepherd Parish in Tallahassee more than 20 years ago — way back in the late ’80s when the CRHP weekend team numbers at Good Shepherd were still in single digits.
He and his spiritually gifted wife, Toni, had recently lost their beautiful daughter to illness. Their instinctive response
was to channel the ferocious energy of their grief into outreach to others who were suffering.
In 1991, I begin ministering as a prayer partner to men in prison at Apalachee Correctional Institution (ACI) in Sneads,
just 50 miles west of Tallahassee. Within a short time, it seems quite natural to invite Marcus to join me in the ACI
prison chapel on Saturday mornings. Marcus is willing to give it a shot.
And, in his gentle but always gregarious manner, he suggests we invite another man to share the fun. The target of our
persuasion is Michael Savage, an alumnus of the CRHP program at neighboring Blessed Sacrament Parish. The seeding team
for Blessed Sacrament’s CRHP program was fielded by Good Shepherd. That is how we met Mike.
Within a very short time, Marcus and Mike both join me for Saturdays of ministry at ACI. Every week we show up
together with cases of day-old doughnuts from the Good News soup kitchen. While I handle 30-minute appointments
one-on-one as a prayer partner in a separate room, Marcus and Mike are running Bible studies and discipleship
classes in the chapel banquet area.
Fifteen years later, in the summer of 2008, Mike and now-ordained Deacon Marcus join me for cell-to-cell rounds
on death row and in solitary confinement one day per month. They make the early-morning two-hour drive from Tallahassee
in time to meet me at St. Mary’s of Macclenny at 7 am. For Deacon Marcus, it is a shock to find out they must leave
Tallahassee before Starbucks opens — country coffee en route will have to do.
But there is an even bigger surprise waiting for Deacon Marcus in the confinement wings at Florida State Prison.
As he dutifully covers the 33 cells on the mezzanine level of a solitary confinement wing, Mike and I become aware
of the rising din of angry inmate voices reaching up through the open atrium to our third-floor level. By the time
we return downstairs to the officers’ quarterdeck, the noise is impressive.
“What did you do?” I ask plaintively. “Why is everyone so upset?”
“I have no idea.” Deacon Marcus is the picture of innocence. “I just offered them reading material and offered to
pray with them. But they all kept yelling some word at me. I think it begins with an f.”
By the time I can finally speak, the officers are laughing as hard as Mike and me.
“Marcus, they’re saying, ‘Flush.’ In solitary confinement, they are not able to flush the toilets in their cells.
The flush button is on the outside in the wall next to their cell door. They are screaming, ‘Flush.’”
A lesser man might make excuses or just leave the wing. Not Deacon Marcus. He stretches upright to full stature,
right hand pointed in the air, saying, “And flush we will.” He returns to every cell, apologizing through the solid
steel door to every single man, one at a time. And, with Fred Astaire-quality panache, smilingly flushes all 33
toilets, one at a time. The inmates in the cells erupt with applause.
It is no wonder that the men he encountered in those cells over all his visits embraced his infectious enthusiasm
and heartfelt love. It was devastating for me to inform so many hundreds of men that Deacon Marcus went home to
the Lord on June 8, 2010. One inmate’s sentiments spoke for us all. “Man, why does God take the good ones!”
Deacon Marcus, you leave us a legacy of joyful service that will always inspire and challenge those who step
inside a prison fence.
First published: The Florida Catholic OnLine, September 13, 2010
© 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