By Gordon Nary
Gordon: When and why did you join Transfiguration of Jesus Catholic Church?
Deacon Mike: When I retired in 1996 we moved into a golf community, River Landing, in Wallace, NC. Transfiguration is the Catholic Church in Wallace. It was a deciding factor for our move to this community. It was a small Parish where we could get to know everyone.
Gordon: When and why did you decide to become a Deacon?
Deacon Mike: When I retired my best friend, who was a Deacon, encouraged me to start the formation program. I looked into the program for the Diocese of Raleigh. I was pretty sure that I would not get accepted based on age and only being in the area less than 2 years. At least I could say that I tried. The Holy Spirit had other ideas! Without a doubt the Holy Spirit made it happen.
Gordon: What interested you in serving in the prison ministry?
Deacon Mike: When we lived in Massachusetts we went into the women’s prison once a month to sing in the choir for Mass. I saw how our coming there to be with the women made a big difference in their lives. They could see that their Church still loved them. They were not forgotten.
When I got to Transfiguration of Jesus our Deacon, Bob Price, was leading a team at a local prison. I was looking for a ministry where I could serve the marginalized. I knew from my previous experience that I could work in prisons. I joined Deacon Bob’s team. After that I found we didn’t have any ministry in several of the prisons in our area so I started programs in them.
I think prison ministry is what the new evangelization is all about. It’s a way that Catholics can bring Christ alive in our world.
Gordon You have a powerful video on prison ministry.
What are some of the challenges in interesting more people to volunteer in the prison ministry?
Deacon Mike: Of course there is some fear of going into a prison! That will stop a lot of people from considering the ministry. I always tell them they are safer in there than they are on the streets.
Mostly you need to make people aware of the prison in their area. They don’t think about it as being part of their Parish. The men and women in the prisons are invisible to them.
Also, many people don’t think they are qualified to be an evangelist. They’re not ordained or they haven’t studied theology. They are unsure of their ability to lead Bible studies and discussions on the Catholic faith. You need to make them aware that their presence with the men and women is more powerful than anything they might say. When they walk into a prison service they are the face of Christ.
Gordon: What can parishes do to interest more of their members to volunteer In a prison ministry?
Deacon Mike: In our Diocese I, or another volunteer, contact the local Pastor to get his support for recruiting in the Parish. We run bulletin inserts to get recruits. Often myself, or another Deacon, are invited to attend the weekend Masses and give the Homily with a focus on evangelization in the prisons. After the Masses we are available to answer questions and get the contact information of those who are interested. Finally, we meet with the team to provide training. Like every ministry, you have to ask people to get involved.
Gordon: What can Catholics in North Carolina do to help end the death penalty?
Deacon Mike: They have to contact their local State Representatives and be a voice for life.
Gordon: In closing, could you comment on the Bill Lord Memorial Golf Tournament and whom it supports?
Deacon Mike: LAMB (Least Among My Brethren) is a Knights of Columbus program that supports mentally challenged special needs children and adults. For example, at the State level the foundation supports Special Olympics. Most Councils run Tootsie Roll drives to raise funds. They stand outside the local stores soliciting donations and handing out Tootsie Rolls. One of our Council members, Bill Lord, thought a LAMB golf tournament would be a good way to raise funds for special needs children in our Duplin County schools. Shortly after the first tournament, Bill passed away from pancreatic cancer. Our Council has kept the tournament going and named it after Bill in his memory.
Gordon: Thank you for sharing your important insights into the prison ministry and your exceptional service.