Good Friday message resonates inside walls of prison
Father Bernie Campbell walks to the state prison entrance in Concord on Good Friday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)
And that Easter message can be even more powerful inside the brick walls and concertina wire of the New Hampshire State Prison, say those who bring it there.
As the only full-time, paid chaplain, Daly coordinates about 800 volunteers who come to the prison for various activities, including about three dozen members of the clergy from a surprising number of religious traditions.
One of his volunteers is the Rev. Bernie Campbell, O.F.M., Cap. He says Mass every Sunday for about 40 inmates, and teaches a Friday class exploring the fundamentals of Catholicism.
This morning's Easter homily will have a simple but profound theme. "Basically, I want them to understand that God loves them," Campbell said.
"That's very hard for them to understand. They prefer to think that God is punishing them."
Daly isn't naive about the men he ministers to in prison. He said most of them grew up without role models and never lost their adolescent self-centeredness.
And he said, "There is evil in this place. And there are some people here that are just evil. You sense it. You just know.
The truth is that Easter is a bittersweet day for these men, Daly said. "This is one of those major celebrations in the year that reminds them, 'I'm not home. I'm not with my family.'
Another volunteer is Denis Frediani of Nashua, the 65-year-old pastor of Evangelical Congregational Church in Tyngsboro, Mass. He visits the prison twice a week, counseling inmates, leading Bible study and praying with them.
Frediani said the Easter message is especially powerful for prisoners. "It says to us that you are not defined by your past or your past actions," he said. "Because the message of redemption is God can redeem us from the past and give us a different future."
But, he said, "people that are genuinely broken, genuinely repentant and go through the program, the chances of them re-offending are profoundly small."
He joined the Air Force and was about to be booted out when he met some fellow airmen on Okinawa who invited him to their church.
When the pastor spoke, he said, "It was like he peeled my heart open."
"I can be loved by the creator of the universe. That's powerful."
The words Jesus spoke from his cross resonate deeply with these men, he said: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
"People who come here really do feel very much forsaken," he said. "I say Jesus was forsaken so we never have to be."
And because the story doesn't end on Good Friday.
Frediani reminds the inmates about Jesus' disciples, devastated after the crucifixion. "There'll be times when you're going to be very, very discouraged, and you'll feel like there's no hope," Frediani tells the inmates.
And that's what he reminds them about their own lives: "It may be Friday. But Sunday's coming."
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