Voices raised in familiar Christian hymns “Amazing Grace” and “How Great Thou Art” filled the Camden County Correctional Facility gymnasium on Nov. 25, as several dozen inmates celebrated the beginning of the Thanksgiving holiday with Bishop Dennis Sullivan.
The Thanksgiving Mass for inmates is hosted by the correctional facility and sponsored by the prison ministry program of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Camden and the prison ministry volunteer group of Sacred Heart Parish in Camden.
The Mass’ attendees included Warden David S. Owens Jr., members of the Camden County Freeholder Board, Mayor of Gloucester Township David Mayer, Camden County Juvenile Detention Center Administrator Edward Fanelle, Captains of the Camden County Corrections force, jail administrators, and staff from the jail’s Second Chance program, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program.
“We try to expose our inmate population, sometimes for the first time in their lives, to faith, all faiths, and I think that makes for a better person,” said Warden David Owens Jr., who said he sees a connection between those inmates who participate in religious activities in jail and lower rates of recidivism. “We try to introduce them to a different side of their lives.”
During his homily, Bishop Sullivan encouraged attendees to remember the national holiday as a time for giving thanks to God and loved ones. “Keep in your mind and heart a person for whom you are grateful. Hold that person in your memory as we pray this morning.”
“This Mass was really special to me,” said an inmate afterward. “It was inspiring. It felt good to see important members of the staff here, taking this seriously. It made us feel like people, not just inmates.”