HNP Ministers to Latino Prisoners

Charley Miller Features

The friars of Holy Name Province are well known for their long and dedicated service to prisoners, and the Cephas Program is one expression of that. Now, they are discovering that there is an increasing need for Spanish-speaking ministry in the prisons ministered to by the friars. Ray Selker and Bill McConville now have a weekly Eucharist in Spanish at the Central Prison in North Carolina.

In Albany, Gonzalo Torres notes that Matt Conlin‘s “excellent command of the Spanish language enables him to put together good homilies in Spanish and to counsel Latinos” (at Mount McGregor Correctional Facility and at Albany and Rensselaer county jails where the regular chaplain does not speak Spanish).

Matt Conlin writes: “Four years ago (and 26 years after going to Puerto Rico), I began ministry at a state prison and found myself in a situation where Spanish was essential. I finally gave up studying on my own and have been taking a course in Spanish Literature and conversation. It has helped but has come too late in life. If any friar is interested in parish, inner-city or prison ministry in the modern church, it is imperative that he study Spanish, not on his own as I tried to do, but by going to a Spanish-speaking country.”

At Ganderhill Prison in Delaware, Chris Posch and Erick Lopez carry out a ministry to the many Spanish prisoners. Chris has organized a Spanish-speaking team of deacons and volunteers who visit the Latino prisoners.

Erick Lopez writes: “We meet in a group and converse, tell stories, read the Bible, pray, laugh, cry and drink chocolate. Other times, I meet with individuals, if they wish a private conversation. There are always those who have encountered a deeper faith, because prison has opened their eyes, and they want to follow Christ more seriously. For them we have started RCIA classes.”

Chris baptized a young Dominican man, and Erick was the godfather. As a result of that baptism, there is now a list of American and Latino prisoners wanting to participate in the sacraments.

Erick adds: “A serious problem for the Latinos is that they arrive in prison for minor crimes but, because they are undocumented, the situation gets complicated. Sometimes, they are there for months before they even have an idea of what is happening with their case, and what they can do about it.”