A lot of deacons are involved in prison ministry — but few have spoken about it with such insight.
Details, from Catholic San Francisco:
There are enough house rules as is at San Quentin State Prison, and it is not Deacon Larry Chatmon’s place to add to them when he serves inmates in his prison ministry. He does have some friendly advice for them, however, when they leave the chapel after services.
“I tell them, ‘You have to take what is in that chapel with you when you go back to the yard,’” he said. “I tell them, ‘For you to go in there and receive the Spirit and just leave it there and go back to where you are is not life-changing. If you want life-changing, if you want to truly experience Christ, take him with you.’”Chatmon, in fact, was promised a life-changing experience himself when three years ago he added prison ministry to his list of duties and volunteerism at St. Paul of the Shipwreck Parish in San Francisco, where he and his wife, Loretta, have worshiped for more than 25 years. He got what he hoped for.
Here’s what Chatmon found: There are people in prison who are probably closer to Christ than most of us, closer to Christ than many people would realize. He was amazed, in fact, by how committed to their faith many inmates are – that they want to learn more about the Catholic Church.
“We don’t find a lot of people in our parishes with that hunger,” said Chatmon. “There is a hunger that they have. Part of that comes from where they are and the circumstances in which they have to live.”
He added, “It brings about an eagerness. People begin to search for God when they hit the ground, when they hit a brick wall. They start looking for some other way.”
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