Dear Editor: In the late 1990s Deacon Anthony Organ asked me to join him at the Lethbridge Correctional Centre to hold Saturday services. Before I (could) do that, I had to get (a) police check and was successful. I usually met Deacon Anthony in the parking lot, and we went in together.
We took the stairway to the second floor and (the) doors slammed behind us, as we walked through it to get to the chapel, where we waited for the prisoners to walk in. The guard segregated the men from the women and had them seated on each side of the room.
When the service began Deacon Anthony stood behind the podium and I sat beside him. I led the opening song and Deacon Anthony made the sign of the cross to begin the service. I did the readings, sang the Gospel Acclamation (Alleluia), and Deacon Anthony read the gospel and preached to the congregation. There was no musical accompaniment, so we sang a capella and, after a few services, even the prisoners joined in the singing. The attendees were unruly and would laugh at us when we sang or preached the word of God. We did not mind because this was our ministry and loved our work. After the service Deacon Anthony would take me to the El Rancho for breakfast, as a gesture of appreciation for helping him.
From this experience, I gained the confidence to sing in front of people that eventually helped me in many other ways. I used to read in our church during the week day masses; sometimes it took me 10 minutes to read the “Book of Daniel,” and one of our priests had a dim view over this, so I quit reading in church – but continued singing the Gospel Acclamation up until the pandemic put a stop to congregational singing to-date.
Lydia and I participate in the Salt and Light’s daily 1 p.m. mass. Fr. Ernie De Ciccio, the priest who speaks like JFK, asked in one of his sermons, “When you die, what will you tell God you are worthy to enter heaven?” I would say, “I visited the sick, and sang for the prisoners.”
Paul Jones, Coaldale