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Archbishop Schnurr Welcomes Four Into the Catholic Church at Lebanon Correctional

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by Jennifer Schack

At Christmas Masses around the archdiocese, churches filled with bustling families and friends snuggled tightly into pews to celebrate the birth of our Lord. Lights, trees and wreaths filled churches to accompany the joy of the beautiful feast day. But there was at least one Christmas Mass celebrated where no manger was visible, no choir echoed the joy of the faithful and only adult men came to worship the Christ child. What the scene lacked in the familiar, it made up for it in the hearts of men searching for God.

At Lebanon Correctional Facility on Dec. 26, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr celebrated Christmas Mass with nearly 50 inmates. Accompanied by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s Prison Ministry team who minister weekly to inmates, the men gathered to celebrate Mass and to witness the Sacraments of Initiation that welcomed four new members into the Catholic Church.

After Mass, a small Christmas party took place, during which Archbishop Schnurr spent time with the inmates and listened to the men’s stories.

“I don’t know a better way to help inmates realize their intrinsic value in the eyes of God than to go out and celebrate Mass with them. These are people who find God in prison. The situation gives them time to reflect on their life and time to recognize that there is more to life than the way that it has been lived,” said Archbishop Schnurr.

Skyler Fritz has been at the Correctional Facility since 2017. He’s been attending the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) instruction and Mass at the prison for many months in preparation for his First Communion. He also worked towards praying the rosary every day in his cell, until his rosary broke. He received a new one as a gift at the Christmas party and plans to start praying the rosary again.

“If there is something in your heart telling you to go for the Lord…go,” said Fritz. “I think me becoming Catholic was something He had planned for me.”

Each of the four men welcomed into the Catholic Church at the Christmas Mass were proud and excited to join. Their responses to the day reflected their emotions: “Today was awesome;” “It means a lot to not be forgotten;” and “This has been amazing.” One of the initiated inmates added, “For the archbishop to come here, it means a lot. It tells me that the Catholic Church is serious about the call to serve all people.”

Celebrating Mass with inmates is not new to Archbishop Schnurr. While he was the Bishop of Duluth, he spent nearly every Christmas and Easter with inmates, and this opportunity to be with the men at Lebanon Correctional allowed him to once again take part in a Corporal Work of Mercy that has historically been an important part of his ministry.

The Mass for inmates was a treasured opportunity for Archbishop Schnurr and one he hopes to repeat again. “It is always wonderful to celebrate the sacraments and celebrate Mass with all of those who are in the archdiocese, and that includes those who are in prison. Just to experience the gratitude of the inmates, that they are not forgotten, to see the gratitude of them being able to embrace the faith more fully is great. It was the highlight of my Christmas season.”

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