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Bishop celebrates Mass with detained men in Arizona

Bishop Gerald Kicanas of the Diocese of Tucson greets a detained man during Mass; Sr. Lynn Allvin, the Chaplain at the Florence Federal Detention Center, is behind the Bishop. (DHS)
Monday, November 03, 2014

(Florence, Ariz.) Nov. 3, 2014 — Bishop Gerald Kicanas of the Diocese of Tucson visited the Florence Federal Detention Center to celebrate Mass with 105 men on Friday, October 10. Accompanying the Bishop was Mike Gutierrez, coordinator of the Detention Ministry Program of Catholic Community Services in the Diocese of Tucson.

The men in detention who joined the celebration of Mass with the Bishop in the recreation yard are primarily from Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras. There were also a few men in attendance from Nigeria, Brazil, Ecuador and Peru.

A group of men who meet weekly to choose and practice the music for the Saturday Communion Service was especially eager to lead the music for this Mass with the Bishop.  Volunteers also came forward earlier in the week to prepare to serve as lectors for the Mass. They all noted they felt honored to participate. 

I believe giving the men a chance to serve in this way gives them a sense of community. The Eucharist is the one place where it doesn’t matter what color uniform you are wearing or where you are from. When the guitar is strummed, tambourines are shaken and familiar religious songs ring forth from the grupo de coro, I sense a unity among the men that is very powerful. Their pain and their joy are expressed through the prayer of their singing; their faith is reinforced by a common bond with the God who never forgets them.

In a place where the men are known only by last name and "alien" number, an identifying number detainees are assigned when they enter the facility, the Bishop’s kind demeanor was something they needed and appreciated deeply.

Before leaving after the Mass, Bishop Kicanas shook each man’s hand, and looked them in the eye asking them their first name and where they were from. I believe the gift of the dignity and respect he showed them is something they will always treasure.

By Sr. Lynn Allvin, JRS Chaplain
Florence Federal Detention Center

Learn more about the Jesuit Refugee Service Detention Chaplaincy Program here.