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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

An Interview with Deacon Dr. Roy Forsythe

Gordon: When and why did you join St. John the Baptist Catholic Church?

Deacon Dr. Roy: I joined the Catholic Church at Easter in 1987.  After a divorce couple of years earlier I was looking for meaning in my life. I was a non-practicing Methodist and was dating a Catholic women so I attended church with her and almost immediately felt the Catholic Church was what I had been looking for all of my life. I entered RCIA and during that program I knew I was where I belon-ged. Just before Easter we had to have documentation of our baptism, so I called my mother and asked her where I was baptized and she told me St. Mary's Catholic Church in Derby, Conn. At age 50 I learned I was a cradle Catholic.

What was next? In September of 1987 I was invited to, and attended a Cursillo (a short course in Christianity for members of the Church) On that Cursillo weekend I committed my life to Christ in a new and more vibrant way. I joined the RCIA team, and joined the Cursillo team and began a new life of service. As a result of my divorce I knew that a mens Ministry was vital for marriages and for the Church. My son was living in Anaheim, Ca. and without any relationship to God. I learned that a new men's ministry called Promise Keepers was filling football stadiums with men praising God. In addition I learned their next stadium event was to be held in Anaheim, Ca. I invited my son to attend and I traveled to California to join him. On that weekend he committed  his life to Christ and ultimately became an ordained minister in Calvary Chapel Church. He and his wife now lead a ministry called "Run to Rescue" to help young women who have been trapped in the sex trade.

When I returned to my Church in Edmond Oklahoma I tad my pastor about Promise Keepers and he had been reading about. The purpose of Promise Keepers( P.K.) was to prepare men to return to their church and start a mens ministry. The next PK stadium event was scheduled in Fort Worth at the Dallas Cowboys football stadium. My pastor gave me some names of men in the church to invite and so about 12 men attended and we were all blessed and encouraged so we began a Bible study in my office and started meeting every Saturday.

Eventually we moved our group to the Church and added a few more men. A year later we took 77 men in 3 buses to the next PK event in Fort Worth. Seven weeks later a friend in Tulsa called me and asked if I knew anyone who would like to host a Catholic Mens Conference. I told him I certainly did. I met with Deacon Bill Bawden and together we presented it to FR. Petusky. He got the Archbishops approval and 8 weeks later we had our first Catholic Mens Conference at St.John the Baptist Catholic Church in Edmond, Oklahoma and 500 men attended. On April 1, 2017 we will hosted our 21st Catholic Mens conference called "In the Fathers Footsteps ".

Gordon: What initially interested you in serving as a deacon and  where did you complete your studies?

Deacon Dr. Roy: Being a leader in RCIA and Cursillo, and Men's Bible Study and my pastors encouragement led me to consider becoming a Deacon. I began taking Pastoral Ministry classes offered in Oklahoma City by Kansas Newman University. I applied to and entered into the deacon formation program at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Ministry Center here in Oklahoma City.

Gordon: What training is required to serve as a prison minister?

Deacon Dr. Roy: I see it as on the job training. Jesus said "I was in prison and you visited me" (Mat.26:36) It is the visit that is important. Listening to the inmate and praying with them. Providing them with a bible, and a guide to daily reading (Magnificat, The Word Among Us, etc.) Training for the new minister Is Daily reading of God's Word, and daily prayer asking for God's help(Mat.7:7,8). V\lhen I have a new volunteer, I have them sit in with me until they feel comfortable visiting with inmates alone (usually 3 to 5 visits

Gordon:Your service as a prison minister was beautifully detailed in Paul  Benz’s article in The Sunday Visitor titled Deacons see prison ministry as blessing behind bars  What impact did his article have on your ministry at The Oklahoma County Detention Center

Deacon Dr. Roy: I had a few people comment in a positive way having read the article but it didn't result in any new recruits.

Gordon: If someone was interested in serving as a prison minister, what advice would you give them?

Deacon Dr. Roy: Find someone who is already involved. If no one is providing that ministry be bold. Go to the local County Jail or nearby prison and visit with the Chaplain. Even if the facility chaplain is not Catholic they usually welcome volunteers and they can facilitate your entry into the facility.

Gordon: I understand that you have a very limited time with the inmates that you serve. How do you present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to an inmate in 10 minutes or less?

Deacon Dr. Roy: Over the past 10 years I have developed a presentation of the Gospel that has been useful at helping an inmate commit his life to Christ

Gordon: What insights into God’s mercy has your experience as a prison minister given you?

Deacon Dr. Roy: It is available to all and when an inmate says yes to Jesus invitation it can be lifesaving and life changing. I can't tell you how often I see depression turn into joy in just a week of reading God's word. I recall one inmate telling me that after reading the Bible daily for one week he could honestly tell me this is happiest he has been in his entire life

Gordon: Based on your experience, what are the primary factors leading to prison recidivism and  what cab be done to reduce them?

Deacon Dr. Roy: Availability of rehab for drug addiction, a place to live, and a job

Gordon: Thank you for your insights into the needs of those incarcerated and how we can assisted them upon their release. There are only two primary commandments - to love God and love our neighbor. You have demonstrated what truly love of our neighbor means.


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