When We Visit Jesus in Prison is an extensive guide for Catholic prison ministry by “Brother Dale” (as he is known to the inmates he serves), a current Catholic Correctional Chaplain for Florida’s Death Row. This comprehensive resource combines Catholic Church teaching, the best in current sociological and psychological thinking on incarceration, and the reflections and stories of a trained and certified Catholic lay chaplain who has been doing prison ministry for over twenty years.
The book is arranged in four sections: The Framework for Prison Ministry, The General Pastoral Needs, Specific Pastoral Needs, Constraints that Affect Restorative Justice.
Topics addressed include:
- Catholic Prison Ministry as Evangelization
- Spiritual, Communal, and Individual Practices to Avoid Burn-out
- Current Theories on Why People Commit Crime
- Characteristics of Criminal Thinking
- Pastoral Needs of Inmates
- Pastoral Needs of Staff and Families of Inmates
- Pastoral Needs of Inmates in Confinement
- Special Pastoral Needs of Women in Prison and of Inmates with Children
The book also includes articles and stories from Chaplain Recinella’s challenging, heart-breaking, transformative, and life-giving encounters with those he has served. While When We Visit Jesus in Prison is an essential guide for those entrusted with this ministry, it is also invaluable for the ordinary Catholic striving to understand the needs of incarcerated men and women and to have a deeper appreciation for the Works of Mercy.
As more and more Catholics begin to explore prison ministry as volunteers and professional ministers, they need solid resources and training in order to enter into a world that is vastly different from life on “the outside.” Prison ministry is an intense yet vastly rewarding ministry that cannot be undertaken lightly. Any Catholic hoping to bring Christ’s light into the darkness of prison life and to witness Christ who is already present there must know the basics of the current sociological and psychological understanding of incarceration, as well as a foundation of credible and responsible practices for prison ministry. Layman Dale Recinella provides just that in his new book When We Visit Jesus in Prison. A former Wall Street finance lawyer, Recinella found himself called to prison ministry more than 20 years ago and his life has never been the same since. His book combines systematic Catholic theological background with real-life tales of prisoners and prison staff members whom he has encountered over the years of his ministry behind prison walls.
Historically Protestant churches have had a stronger presence in prison ministry and there are a multitude of helpful resources available from a Protestant perspective. Now Recinella’s book combines the wisdom and experience of prison chaplains from many traditions within a specifically Catholic framework, attuned to common questions and scenarios Catholic chaplains and volunteers will encounter on the cell blocks or at Catholic services behind the walls.
Part I of the book systematically presents social justice, ecclesial, and pastoral frameworks for ministry, addresses Catholic prison ministry as evangelization, and discusses spiritual, communal, and individual practices for ministers to avoid burnout. Part II address the general pastoral needs of inmates, staff, and the families of inmates, and presents current theories on why people commit crime and characteristics of criminal thinking. Part III considers the specific needs of particular prison populations, for example women prisoners, newly arrived inmates, and those facing life sentences. Part IV wraps up with a discussion of constraints that affect restorative justice. For anyone considering ministering to an incarcerated population, volunteers who are beginning their journey, or experienced prison ministers who continue to seek out Jesus in prison, this book will be a valuable, challenging, and ultimately hopeful resource.
Chaplain Dale S. Recinella is a current Catholic Correctional Chaplain for Florida’s Death Row. He is also responsible for ministry to long-term solitary confinement prisoners on behalf of the Catholic bishops of Florida at Florida State Prison (Starke, Florida) and Union Correctional Institution (Raiford, Florida). Recinella is the recipient of the Holy Cross – Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice from Pope Francis, the highest papal honor a lay person can receive in the Catholic Church, presented to him by the Catholic Bishops of Florida (USA) in 2016.
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