Sr Camille D'Arienzo speaks to Jesuit Fr George Williams, 56, who is death row chaplain at San Quentin State Prison in California.
- NCR Online
Jesuits are admired for their intelligence, learning and leadership qualities. Some readers might wonder if you're wasting your time, your life, ministering to men on San Quentin's death row.
Williams: I've been asked that question many times by colleagues who are correction officers. Two groups have never asked me that: Jesuits and my friends who know me well. Jesuits know that St Ignatius spent time ministering to prisoners and other outcasts, and he even mentioned prisoners in the founding documents of the Society of Jesus.
In the Formula of the Institute, which defines what Jesuits are, Ignatius wrote: 'Moreover, he should show himself ready to reconcile the estranged, compassionately assist and serve those who are in prisons or hospitals, and indeed, to perform any other works of charity, according to what will seem expedient for the glory of God and the common good.'
Ignatius' vision of what it means to be a Jesuit included serving those in prisons. The educational institutions came later.
My closest friends have always seemed to grasp the value of a life of service to others. I remember that when I began to talk about entering the Society of Jesus while still a captain in the Air Force 30 years ago, my Air Force colleagues for the most part thought I had lost my mind. One Air Force friend who was Jewish got it, though. He said, "I get it, you are trying to answer a higher calling."
What attracted me most to the Society of Jesus were men who were not afraid to "waste their lives" for the ideals of our Christian faith. By the standards of "the world" -- our culture, our social standards -- religious life probably seems crazy to those who measure their value in money and power.
But Jesuits are called to a different standard -- the banner of Christ.
FULL STORY US Death Row chaplain says revenge ruins lives (NCR Online)