Christmas Mass a ‘Blessing’ for Inmates
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
January 11, 2018
ROCKFORD—“A lot of people forget about us in here,” said Robert, an inmate at the Winnebago County Jail who came for 9 a.m. Mass and sat alone for an hour before the Mass helpers arrived for the 10 a.m. Mass.
Even so, Robert called this sixth Christmas Mass celebrated by Bishop David Malloy at the jail, “such a blessing.”
Sitting next to him was David, who said several of them had come the day before, on Christmas Eve, only to discover the Mass was to be held on Christmas day. That has been the case since the bishop began coming to the jail in 2012. 
The miscommunication didn’t dampen David’s appreciation of the celebration. He was one of several men who asked the bishop to sign their Bibles before the Mass.
A third inmate, Sal, expressed his appreciation for the Catholic Mass at the jail and the other helpful programs provided. 
“We are glad to be remembered,” he said. “I’m in 10 recovery classes every week in here. They’ve restored and renewed me. I got myself in here (and now) God is molding and shaping me.”
Seventeen inmates filled up a much smaller room for this year’s Christmas Mass. Instead of worshipping in the middle of an empty cell block, the group gathered in a classroom. 
On the walls were posters about mathematic formulas but even so, the stark setting melted away for a moment, allowing the Christmas spirit in as everyone sang “Silent Night,” accompanied by a few sniffles and moist eyes.
Bishop Malloy began his homily with the thought of common Christmas memories.
“We think of lights,” he said, “presents, cold, snow … and families.” 
Some inmates “even here see a little bit of joy,” he said.
“Memories, if not joined to the birth of Jesus Christ the Son of God,” he said, “all those memories only of this world (will be) empty. But if joined to Christ, they give us hope (and) the strength of faith.”
Quoting from the Gospel, Bishop Malloy said, “‘to those who did accept Him, He gave power to become children of God.’ ” 
Pausing a moment, he added, “That’s not been taken away from you.”
As in the past, the bishop recalled a statement from Pope Francis, who said that inmates should use their time in prison “for your salvation.” 
Noting that the angels came to shepherds who were “not always the best behaved,” Bishop Malloy emphasized to the men that Jesus “didn’t reach out to the best behaved. He reached out to shepherds … Our place today is to be like (those) shepherds, to see ourselves as those called in a special way.”
Less staff at the jail over the past several months has led to a lot of additional lock-down time for the inmates. With those times in mind, the bishop suggested that the men kneel down and re-read the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke, praying it with their bodily posture. 
Whether kneeling or sitting, “read the story of Jesus,” Bishop Malloy said. “It’s true. He came. He came not just for a short time, He has stayed with us. He’s closer to us than we know.
“Accept Him. Choose Him. Change your lives. Pray each day … for yourself, for others, your families, for the guards” … and for anyone they dislike.
“Pray like one who kneels before Him,” the bishop said before he offered additional thoughts in Spanish. 
In conclusion, Bishop Malloy said to those gathered, “He’s called you. He’s come to be born for you.”
A number of soft “Amen’s” could be heard after his very last remark: “To all of you, a very blessed Christmas.”