Two Jail Masses Welcome Men, Women at Easter
Bishop David Malloy continues his Easter custom at the Winnebago County Jail
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
April 25, 2019
ROCKFORD—On April 21, Bishop David Malloy continued his tradition of celebrating Mass at the Winnebago County Jail on Easter Sunday morning.
This year, he was pleased to be allowed to provide a second Mass for four women inmates right after an earlier Mass one floor below that welcomed about two dozen men to a classroom “church.” Deacon Steven Pulkrabek of St. Mary Parish in Durand, assisted the bishop for both services.
The groups included Catholics and non-Catholics. Several of the inmates followed Bishop Malloy’s instructions in English and Spanish, coming forward for a blessing during the distribution of Communion.
In his homily, the bishop preached the importance of using time in jail to connect with God and grow in faith and goodness.
His before-Mass chat with the four women unearthed the information that holidays of any kind are “celebrated” at the jail with just a bit of culinary decoration.
Holidays, Bishop Malloy said in his homily, “all become days when we get a little something special at lunch or sprinkles on the cake.”
But Easter should have special significance,” he said, “because it tells us who we are. It tells us what God made us to be, and that is not just to be just part of this limited (and aging) body. God has made us to be something else. And it’s so important that we really take that to heart.”
Jesus’ resurrection is the key to our own rebirth.
“Let’s imagine,” he said, “what would it mean to come forth after death from the tomb — not dead forever, but glorified. And not only just to be glorified ... but I’m united to Christ in a way that I’m fulfilled. Everything I was ever made for — and I can’t have (fulfillment) here and I can’t have it now.”
That fulfillment is what Easter is all about, the bishop said. “Christ coming forth from the tomb is to overcome for us the sins that we’ve committed. So we’ve got to admit that we have sins. And we’ve got to take them to heart; we’ve got to own them.
“We are in a world right now that seeks to excuse everything. ... (but) at a certain point, before God, there are no excuses. I did what I did, and I need to ask for forgiveness.”
That naturally leads to the question of “Will God forgive me?” Bishop Malloy said.
He shared about an inmate from a past year who told him the story of his messy life and who wondered, “Do you think God would forgive even that?”
Everyone has good parts of their life and stuff that was “not good at all,” the bishop said. “Easter tells us that God will always forgive ... Christ died not for the sins of the world only, but for your sins and for mine.” However, he added, “forgiveness is not to be imposed on us ... we have got to ask for and accept the forgiveness. That’s all a part of this.”
Jesus, he insisted, “wants us to be with him in friendship and in love.”
Pondering such a friendship, Bishop Malloy spoke first of earthly friendships, including those found in a jail setting.
“Friendship is something that you offer, and then it has to be received and then continually offered back,” he said. “It’s not a one-moment thing.
“That’s how Christ is with us. He is offering us that love, offering that forgiveness, but we have got to accept it and then give it back.
“That’s the relationship that we have to have with Christ. And that’s what the resurrection is.”
Don’t waste your time here, Bishop Malloy said – a theme he often shares at his jail Masses.
“You can and you must do it here,” he said, listing actions they could take, including “a healthy and holy loving of yourself,” and “respecting other people ... forgiving people who’ve offended you, maybe on the outside, maybe on the inside.”
The bishop mentioned also the guards and administrators as people with families and problems, saying, “They need your prayers.”
The efforts they will make to grow in goodness during this time is “all Easter,” the bishop said.
“It’s all related to coming forth from the tomb, to giving that accounting to Christ at the end ...
“That’s what we’re all about here.”
With both of his little Easter congregations, Bishop Malloy visited with each person individually after the Mass. He also provided Communion to four of the Catholic guards at the jail who were working this Easter.