By Father Ilie Babota | Special to the Catholic Sun
It was with great joy and anticipation that the inmates of the Catholic community at Mohawk Correctional Facility welcomed His Excellency Bishop Douglas J. Lucia during his pastoral visit on February 18.
Mohawk Correctional Facility is a medium-security state prison for adult men in Rome, N.Y.
Despite the harsh winter conditions of that day, Bishop Lucia and the accompanying clergy — Father Nathan Brooks of the Diocese of Syracuse; Deacon Daniel Hurley, Catholic Chaplain at Mid State Correctional Facility; and Father Robert Weber, Ministerial Program Coordinator for DOCCS from Central Office in Albany — arrived safely at the facility where they were greeted by me and Imam Yehia, the fulltime Chaplains at Mohawk Correctional Facility.
A couple of our faithful volunteers, “Duffy” and Colleen, also joined us for this joyful and memorable event.
This was Bishop Lucia’s first pastoral visit to Mohawk Correctional Facility, and without a doubt, it was a true blessing and an honor to have Bishop Lucia in our midst.
The pastoral visit consisted of a welcoming meeting with the Executive Team of Mohawk Correctional Facility, Superintendent John Harper and the Deputy Superintendents for Programs, Security, Administration, and Health.
The meeting was followed by a solemn celebration of the Holy Mass in the Chapel of the facility, a place of refuge for the incarcerated men, where they find peace and an opportunity to strengthen their relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ and with one another every time they voluntarily come down to various religious “call outs” during their incarceration, whether it is the weekly Mass, the Catholic Bible Study led by volunteers, Catholic Faith Study Class led by the Chaplain, or even Christian Prayer Group, led by an approved inmate facilitator.
During the Holy Mass, Bishop Lucia administered the Sacrament of Baptism to two members of the community and the Sacrament of Confirmation to seven members of the community. May God grant them many years!
In his sermon, Bishop Lucia reminded us of the love of Christ for all of humanity and emphasized how important it is for each one of us to apply this sacrament of love, which is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, in our daily lives.
At the conclusion of the Holy Mass, some refreshments were provided for all those attending, and the incarcerated men had an opportunity to individually talk to Bishop Lucia, take pictures, and also receive a blessing.
On behalf of the Executive Team of Mohawk Correctional Facility and the Catholic community, we thank Bishop Lucia for finding the time to visit us, and more importantly for bringing with him and sharing with everyone the much-needed message of love. May God grant Bishop Lucia many years in the vineyard of Christ!
Father Babota is a Chaplain at Mohawk Correctional Facility.