As Father Steve Gulino finishes hearing several confessions, the altar is prepared and the congregation files in. As the seats are filled, volunteers are assigned the readings and the responsorial psalm. Holy Mass is set to begin.
This image might represent the celebration of Mass in any of the parishes within the Diocese of Norwich, though this Mass is not being celebrated in one of those churches. This Mass is being celebrated in one of six correctional facilities within the Diocese of Norwich. Father Steve Gulino is a volunteer and the congregation are inmates from the facility. As the Mass progresses the inmates are attentive and prayerful. Upon receiving our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist, the inmates kneel in silent prayer and thanksgiving.
At Catholic Bible Study on Wednesday morning, a group of inmates share aloud the readings for the day, and a discussion ensues about the meaning of the Scripture that was read and how that Scripture applies to our daily lives. This Catholic program, as well as the Legion of Mary program and the Catholic Alpha program allow inmates to grow in their faith and in their relationship with God. Many have not been practicing their Catholic faith for years and have come to understand that a relationship with God is a critical piece to a successful life after prison. These programs, led by a Catholic chaplain or one of the more than 30 dedicated Catholic volunteers, are offered to Catholic inmates in all six facilities within the diocese.
The Office Of Prison Ministry, funded by generous donations to the Annual Catholic Appeal, promotes the witness of Catholic chaplains and volunteers to prisoners in Eastern Connecticut through education, evangelization and the presence of the Church; offers training and support for volunteers; disburses funds for program materials for the educational programs and evangelization programs; acts as liaison between the Diocese of Norwich and the Department of Corrections; provides referrals, resources, and fellowship in the community for former prisoners and for victims and families affected by crime; encourages healing through reconciliation and constructive approaches in criminal justice.
Although all religious services programs within the Department of Correction are currently suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, the mission of the Office of Prison Ministry continues through its support of the Catholic chaplains within the six facilities in the diocese. The Church is still present through the personal contact between Catholic chaplains and the Catholic inmates. With your continued prayers and continued donations to the Catholic Appeal, the mission of the Office of Prison Ministry will continue to bear witness to our Catholic faith and will continue to encourage and support Catholic inmates in their journeys toward a lifelong and fruitful relationship with God.
By Deacon Christopher Deskus
If you are interested in becoming a prison ministry volunteer or would like more information about the Diocesan Office of Prison Ministry, please contact Deacon Chris Deskus by phone at 860-490-1539 or by email at email@example.com.