Annual Gathering for Prison Ministry Volunteers on June 4

The Second Annual Gathering for Prison Ministry Volunteers will be held on June 4 at the former Sacred Heart School in Vineland.

Although designed primarily for Prison Ministry volunteers, the day is open to all interested parties. And many people would be interested in hearing the day’s guest speaker: a man who is both a priest and a grandfather, a prison chaplain and retired law school dean.

In a recent interview with Catholic News Service, the speaker, Father David Link of the Diocese of Gary, Indiana, said when he began prison ministry — on a dare from his late, beloved wife — he found himself in a room with 65 murderers and “fell in love with these guys.”

“Sure, I preach at Masses in prisons. But what turns people around is the one-on-one relationships, That’s how the Holy Spirit works,” said the priest, who holds four doctorates.

Father Link’s career path took many turns: private law practice; longtime dean of the University of Notre Dame’s Law School; founding president of Notre Dame’s campus in Perth, Australia; founding dean of the law school at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis-St. Paul; and the deputy vice chancellor and provost of the University of St. Augustine in South Africa.

When his wife Barbara died in 2003, Bishop Dale J. Melczek of Gary prodded the widower to consider the priesthood as the most effective way of living out what had become his driving passion, prison ministry.

Now one of his goals is to persuade more individual Catholics, as well as parishes and dioceses, to take up the challenges of his Crime Peace Plan, and “truly talk about rehabilitation” as Pope Francis has suggested.

While he recognizes that there are some genuine psychopaths among them, “most people in prison are not bad people,” he said. “They’re maybe sick people, and we ought to find out how to heal them.”

In addition to Father Link’s presentation, a “returning citizen” will share her story of the challenges and successes of reentry into society.

Bishop Dennis Sullivan will join the gathering at some point during the day. Over the past two years, Bishop Sullivan has made pastoral visits to the nine correctional facilities within the Diocese. He, also, was the first Bishop in the Diocese to administer the sacraments of First Eucharist and Confirmation to inmates at South Woods State Prison during Holy Week.

If you go: The Third Annual Gathering for Prison Ministry Volunteers will take place on June 4, from 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at the former Sacred Heart School, East Landis Ave., Vineland. A free-will offering will be accepted. Registration deadline is May 20. For more information or to register, contact Sister Mary Lou Lafferty, OSF, Prison Ministry Coordinator, at MaryLou.Lafferty@camdendiocese.org or 856-342-4106.

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