A powerful story of a priest’s remarkable, difficult ministry to those on death row. Details, from the Columbus Dispatch:
When Death Row inmate Mark Wiles asked the Rev. Lawrence Hummer to comfort him during his final hours, the Catholic priest agreed.
Wiles reassured him, saying, “I’ve never done this before, either.”
Hummer, a priest for 40 years, has a contract to counsel Catholic inmates at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution. When Death Row moved to the prison in 2011, his role expanded to include men facing execution.
Hummer, the pastor at St. Mary Catholic Church 5 miles away, visits the prison each Monday to say two Masses — one for the general population and the other for Death Row. About a dozen attend from Death Row.
Wiles was baptized as a Catholic in 2004. He was separated from fellow inmates for several days before his 2012 execution and unable to attend Mass, so the others had let Hummer know: “You’ve gotta go see Wiles because he’s got a date.” It was then that the priest told Wiles to let him know if he needed anything, prompting the inmate to eventually ask him to be his spiritual guide at the end.
Wiles was convicted of fatally stabbing 15-year-old Mark Klima, the son of his former employers, during a 1985 burglary at their farmhouse in Portage County.
Hummer quickly learned that Wiles had reconciled with God about what he had done. Two days before the execution, he gave Wiles communion. They spoke of a Bible passage from the Gospel of John in which a resurrected Jesus greets his disciples after his death, saying, “Peace be with you” — even though they had abandoned him.
Hummer said they both wept when he told Wiles, “The Lord is going to meet you in peace, and I’m sure that fella you killed is going to be standing right beside him to meet you in peace.”
On the morning of April 18, 2012, Hummer went to the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville, home of Ohio’s execution chamber, about 40 miles south of Chillicothe.
As several guards stood nearby, Hummer sat separated from Wiles by bars and prayed the rosary. He quietly heard Wiles’ confession. For penance, he told Wiles to pray, “Jesus, my God, have mercy on me” as he was led to his death. About an hour later, Hummer anointed him and gave him communion.
“This was very emotional for me. I anoint people all the time that are near death, but never for an execution,” Hummer said.