Winnebago Jail Again Setting For ‘Heartfelt’ Easter Mass
Bishop David Malloy prepares a make-shift altar for Easter Mass in a classroom at the Winnebago County Jail in Rockford. (Observer photos/Amanda Hudson)
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
April 5, 2018
ROCKFORD—Calling it a “heartfelt privilege,” Bishop David Malloy again this year celebrated Mass for inmates at the Winnebago County Jail on Easter Sunday. It has become a spring tradition since he became bishop of the Rockford Diocese in May of 2012.
This year the Mass was held in a classroom with about 17 inmates and two Catholic guards in attendance.
“We hear constantly Jesus’ invitation to everyone to share in the resurrection,” the bishop said in his homily. 
“Everyone receives the offer. ... He’s not going to force us to share in the resurrection (which) means to share life with Him eternally,” he continued.
“This limited, human, aging body ... limited by so many things ... if we join Him in the resurrection ... we suddenly become everything that we were made to be ...
“Christ offers it whether we are on the outside, whether we are on the inside, whether we are young, whether we are old. But it would not be free, it would not be freedom on our part if we did not have the choice to say ‘yes’ or tragically ‘no.’ The reason why I come here is because I want you to say ‘yes.’ I want you, on behalf of Christ, to say ‘Yes I want the resurrection.’”
The bishop spoke of the “somewhat mysterious” messages in the Gospels about the resurrection, and how the writers all knew beyond doubt that Jesus had died, but then could say they had seen Him alive.
“You feel the people are trying to stammer and explain something that’s beyond what we can completely put into words,” Bishop Malloy said. “But that’s not bad, because that is where this nature that you and I share is going to become something fuller and better that we don’t know yet — except it’s out there, except it is what Jesus already showed the faithful. Christ offers that to you.
“It will require that we change our hearts, every one of us, that we change our hearts radically.”
He shared how an inmate at a women’s prison in Chile spoke to Pope Francis recently. She asked forgiveness on all their behalf for the things they had done. 
The pope went right to that, Bishop Malloy said. Pope Francis said, “That is the first thing, isn’t it? That we need to change our hearts.”
The bishop recalled that the pope noted also that “we must be careful that the institution does not deprive you of your dignity.” And added that “You must be careful that you do not deprive yourselves of your dignity.”
“That’s also part of the conversion,” Bishop Malloy said, describing how “if we are doing everything for ourselves, we damage our own dignity.”
Christ, he said, “is offering you life with Him, even here.
“Yes, believe it; yes, accept it, but then go that next step. ... the more that we act like the model person, like a follower of Jesus, the more even here we recognize the dignity that we have.
“This is Easter, this is a moment for us to be grateful to Christ.”
Read the stories of Jesus’ resurrection, and imagine yourself there, he said. “Christ is calling you in here to be with Him.” 
The bishop concluded his homily simply, by wishing them in English and Spanish, “a very happy and blessed Easter.”