From death to life: joining a parish gives meaning to men on death row

From CNS:

Some of the newest members of Holy Family Parish will never attend Mass at their church.

They will never talk with fellow parishioners over coffee and doughnuts after Mass, join the church choir or volunteer for a mission trip.

They are inmates on death row at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville. Some have been at Riverbend for decades, with few visitors and limited contact with the outside world.

Parishioner and prison minister James Booth said welcoming them to join Holy Family “gives them a sense that their faith is not in isolation, even though they are.” It sends the message that “whatever evil they’ve done, they are forgiven and accepted,” he added.

After some of the prisoners requested church membership this winter, Booth approached the parish council and Father Joe McMahon, the pastor, who granted approval. About a dozen Riverbend prisoners — from death row and another side of the prison — are now officially registered as Holy Family parishioners.

“For all the men at RMSI this is a huge deal and a remarkable event,” death-row inmate Bill Stevens wrote in an open letter to Holy Family parishioners.

For prisoners like Stevens, who have been abandoned by their families and have no outside support network, weekly visits from Catholic volunteers are a welcome break in their routine existence. According to the prisoners, to feel a sense of belonging at a parish is a true blessing.

The blessing, though, is balanced by the anxiety of the death-row inmates, as the state pushes to execute 10 people in the next 18 months.

Read it all.  And pray for these men.


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