From the website of the California Catholic Conference, a fascinating article on the recent visit by nine bishops (including mine!) to California’s “Death Row”. The article (excerpted here) is a great look at the Bishops’ pastoral interaction with inmates:
Just past the canteen, down a small alley enveloped in shadow and behind two sets of huge metal doors is California’s Death Row. In this old, dank, dimly lit place, more than 700 men, stacked in tiers of cells and surrounded by guards, await execution.
San Quentin State Prison sits on prime real estate overlooking the northern portions of the San Francisco Bay. Notorious because of Death Row, in reality the prison is the state’s oldest. It was founded in 1852 after California’s first prison – a ship anchored in the Bay – became overcrowded.
It is a study in contradiction – a fortress-like complex set in a place of natural beauty; the state’s most infamous prisoners housed near some who are models of rehabilitation; the bland, eerie death chamber in a facility that has more programs for prisoners than most others.
Nine California Bishops – accompanied by Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ, the noted advocate to abolish the death penalty – made a pastoral visit to the men on Death Row this week. But in another of those contradictions, they also engaged with a lively, hope-filled Catholic community of prisoners and fostered relationships with Corrections’ administrators and guards.
A question for you: Is your parish or diocese actively engaged in Prison Ministry?