Bishop Henning celebrates Easter Mass for inmates at ACI


CRANSTON — “The Lord is truly risen. Alleluia.”
It was with these words that Bishop Richard G. Henning began Easter morning Mass for two dozen inmates at the Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institute in Cranston.
Bishop Henning celebrated Mass with Father Lazarus Onuh and Father Robert Gaudreau. Father Onuh, who serves as the administrator of Holy Name Parish in Providence, also serves as the Coordinator of Catholic Chaplains for the Rhode Island Department of Corrections. Father Gaudreau, a native of Pawtucket, serves as a chaplain for a prison in Massachusetts but also regularly celebrates Sunday Mass at the ACI.
“We are an Easter people here. So, we welcome you to join us,” Father Gaudreau said to those present when introducing Bishop Henning.
Bishop Henning’s homily focused on the paradox of the Christian faith. He recalled the second reading, recited during the Easter Vigil Mass, taken from the story of the sacrifice of Isaac.
“It’s a reminder that what you see on the surface is only part of the picture,” Bishop Henning noted. “For the man or woman who opens their heart to the grace of God, they see a deeper meaning to the Word of God.”
While most people interpret the text as an implicit Biblical rejection of human sacrifice, Bishop Henning noted that “there is a deeper meaning beneath the surface.”
“We don’t always have the trust and love that God has for us in bringing us back to heaven… We consistently, generation after generation, chose to do our will instead of trust in divine Providence,” going on to note that the only thing that can counteract sin is love, which reaches its most powerful expression in Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross and His Resurrection, something foreshadowed in the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac.
“This prophecy is fulfilled in our presence today. Jesus is that blessing,” who “reveals the face of the living God” and “an image of who we are meant to be. He doesn’t just see our mistakes, but also the light He has placed within us:
“The only true power in the universe is the power of love. That is the only power that can conquer sin and death. And we all know that if we’ve ever loved or been loved. … No matter what pain we are going through, we can sing our Alleluia.”
Those in attendance were spiritually and emotionally moved by the bishop’s presence and his words of hope. One inmate, Michael, told Rhode Island Catholic, “It was an honor to have the bishop here today, to take time out of his day to be here with us, which is an honor in itself.”
“The Mass was very powerful,” said Roosevelt, another inmate. “My prayers go out to everyone here and their families, especially my beloved mother. I know that God is real.”
Josh, an inmate serving at the ACI, said it was an uplifting experience to meet the new bishop.
“It’s an honor to have him here, to fulfill one of the corporal works of mercy, which is itself an honor for those like us.”
Bishop Henning also expressed gratitude at celebrating Mass and being afforded the opportunity to share the Church’s message of hope and life.
“I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to celebrate this Mass with you today,” Bishop Henning said. “I will pray for you. I ask that you keep me in your prayers.”