October 20, 2017

Be Our Guest / Ronald Bohannon

More volunteers needed to bring light of Christ into prison ministry, inmate says

First, I would like to say thanks be to God and to his son, Jesus Christ. Praise and glory belong to them.

This is the first time I’ve ever written a column for a newspaper. I feel as though I were called to enlighten those who have never been to prison—or know someone in prison—about the importance of evangelization in prison ministry.

Pope Francis has stated that there is a great need for evangelization in prison ministry. And here recently, there has been a task force put together by our previous Archbishop (Joseph W.) Tobin—now Cardinal Tobin—laypersons, and priests, and continued forward by our new Archbishop (Charles C.) Thompson for a re-entry program designed for people coming out of prison.

This is where prison evangelization takes on its role because re-entry doesn’t start once the prisoner gets released, but while they’re still incarcerated. The task force is working toward the goal of being able to help men and women feel welcomed back into society and their local parishes.

This re-entry program is also an opportunity for the layperson to help a brother or sister get the help we need in obtaining a mentor, find employment or just needing someone to attend a Bible study class with.

In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus talks about the goats and sheep being separated, and he says, “My good and faithful servants, when I was thirsty, you gave me drink, when I was hungry, you gave me food, when I was naked, you clothed me, when I was sick, you took care of me, and when I was in prison, you visited me. The sheep respond, ‘When did we do this for you?’ Jesus answers, ‘When you have done this for the least, you have done this for me.’ ” This is my paraphrasing of this Gospel.

There is so much spiritual, emotional and physical darkness in prison. There are all types in this dark place, and the devil is able to feed off of this darkness and ruin souls. The biggest challenge in prison is not being able to get away from this darkness. This is where Jesus Christ comes in. He gave a commandment to love our neighbor, not judge others and in the Lord’s Prayer “to forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Jesus also calls us to be the light of the world, and the only way to destroy darkness is to bring the light of Christ into the prisons through volunteers.

As Catholics, we are taught not just to keep the word of God but to act out the word of God in our daily lives. I know when we are told to go evangelize, we become frightened by the prospect of having to go someplace where we’re not comfortable. However, Jesus never said that we should follow him because life would become comfortable or easy.

Jesus said that there would be tests, trials and tribulations. But through prayer and the love of neighbor, all things become possible through God and his son Jesus Christ. I want to invite all Catholics to consider being a part of prison ministry and to bring the light of Christ to those who are sick and in need of Jesus, the greatest physician known to man.

(Ronald Bohannon is an inmate at the Putnamville Correctional Facility in Putnam County.)

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