||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.
Diocese of Orlando
Orlando, FL – Saturday March 3, 2007
9:30am – 12:30pm
Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law Courtroom
6441 East Colonial Drive
Orlando, Florida 32807
For information contact:
The Criminal Justice Office – Catholic Charities of Central Florida or
The Respect Life Office of the Diocese of Orlando
Thomas Gillan @ 407-658-1818 or Leotrainer@aol.com
or Sheila Hopkins (Florida Catholic Conference): (850) 205-6826 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Dust To Dust
By: Dale Recinella
It’s not even spring but the mercury is pushing eighty at high noon. “Already sweating and it’s only Ash Wednesday,” I sigh, making my way into the prison guard stations and entry gates.
“What’s in the plastic bottle?”
“Ashes,” I respond nonchalantly, as though I’m back in the Italian Catholic neighborhood of my youth. “Ashes for Ash Wednesday.”
“Ashes,” I repeat, pointing to the telltale outward sign on my own forehead. “It’s a Catholic thing, sir. The ashes are on the gate pass.”
Soon I’m back at the chapel. The chaplain hands me the list of Catholics in the prison. “There’s over a hundred of them. Good luck.”
Twenty years ago many of the men in this prison were in general population. That meant Catholics could come to the chapel and receive ashes just like in a church. Those days are gone.
This prison is now all solitary confinement. The almost 1200 cells are all lockdown. There will be no ashes unless the ashes come to them.
Solitary confinement has it’s own rules. The ashes must be administered through the “food flap,” the narrow opening in each man’s door through which food, toilet paper, clothes, laundry, mops, toilet brushes and everything else pass between the world inside that cell and the world outside. Only an officer on the wing can unlock the food flap. And he must stand right there until it’s relocked. With twelve prison wings I will need help from at least a dozen different officers. Those poor guys are going to be overjoyed to see me.
The hall sergeant turns the outside lock in the thick metal door of the first wing, banging his key against its huge brass handle. The clanging reverberates up and down the wing stairwells announcing to the officers inside that someone is “on the door.” That door won’t open until an officer inside keys the companion lock.
The door opens. I enter, identify myself and announce my purpose. The blank expressions around me are not unfriendly or uncooperative. They are just blank. In few words, I summarize the purpose of the ashes and the method of application. The officers nod. One is assigned to escort me through that wing. As we climb to the third floor atrium, he pauses, “No offense, sir, but just what are those the ashes of?”
He’s trying to be very respectful. I can only imagine what he’s been told in this part of the country about us Catholics. He seems visibly relieved at hearing about the palm branches.
Cell by cell, floor by floor, wing after wing, officer after officer, the food flap is opened. I kneel on the concrete floor before each cell and reach through the opening, taking the hand on the other side. “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit….”
Brother after brother bows his head and receives that mark which is so uniquely Catholic, ”Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you will return.”
The interruptions of the daily routines are inevitable. The nurse must distribute meds. Food carts arrive with dinner. Laundry must be collected. The officers patiently juggle priorities while trying to accommodate my mission.
Finally it’s the last wing. Almost five hours have passed. There are thirteen more men to go. My escort officer listens quietly as I kneel and pray, ”Lord, do not face us suddenly with death, but give us time to repent.”
“Sounds like a good prayer for all of us,” he sighs, locking the flap.
“All of us who are dust, “ I smile. “Have you met anyone that isn’t?”
First published: The Florida Catholic, March 8, 2001
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