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Becoming the Body of Christ

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

HAMILTON DEANERY — Seven inmates at Lebanon Correctional Institution (LCI) north of Cincinnati were welcomed into the Catholic Church on April 12, experiencing the joy and hope of the Easter season.

Coadjutor Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr celebrated an Easter Mass at the prison, during which the men received the sacraments of initiation. The inmates received into the Catholic faith are: Trevor Beekman, Alonzo Brown, Roan Coffey, Randolph Coffman, Roger Serrano and Joshua Wade. Jesuit Father Gene Carmichael concelebrated the Mass.

Coadjutor Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr and Jesuit Father Gene Carmichael, rear, with Catholic inmates at Lebanon Correctional Institution Sunday. The archbishop celebrated Easter Mass at the prison in Warren County. (CT/E.L. Hubbard)

Christine Shimrock, a prison chaplain, said the inmates had written letters to Archbishop Schnurr petitioning him to say an Easter Mass at the prison and confer the sacraments. They, along with their fellow inmates, volunteers, and LCI staff were thrilled to welcome the archbishop.

“They’re always humbled when someone takes the time to come into their church world,” Shimrock said. “They understand that their parish is a little unconventional, but they are the Body of Christ just like anybody from any other parish.

Archbishop Schnurr was “so affirming and welcoming and immediately made the men feel at ease,” Shimrock added. “He was very gracious and thanked them for letting him come. He stayed afterward for the reception and pictures with the inmates. It was really sweet of him.”

The Easter Mass, with its promise of new life, was the culmination of months of preparation for the inmates. They had been preparing to be received into the church since last fall, taking part in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), along with their sponsors, several of whom are fellow inmates welcomed into the Catholic faith last year.

“The men really do feel connected to their larger church family now,” Shimrock said. “They literally spend so much time in a vacuum in their faith and really do feel like their part of some something bigger now. That leads to so many other good things. They become Christ to the other inmates here and have a faith-filled approach as they re-enter society. I’m sure these men didn’t have that goal when they arrived. The change is palpable.”

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