“God loves you and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Auxiliary Bishop emeritus Roger Gries told a group of incarcerated men and women during the annual Christmas liturgy at the Cuyahoga County Jail on Dec. 14.
About 75 prisoners, corrections officers and jail ministry volunteers participated in the special Mass celebrated by Bishop Gries.
He told the group that God is always with every one of us, “even when we feel all alone — and you can feel very lonely in a place like this, even though there are a couple thousand people here.”
The bishop said God has a way of planning things. “Your time here is temporary. You will go home someday, and when you get out, will you be a better person?”
He shared a story of using a global positioning system, known as GPS, to help guide him to events around the eight-county Diocese of Cleveland. God has one, too, he said. “It’s called God’s positioning system. The Holy Spirit is trying to get us home.”
Bishop Gries said we need to listen to God and be the best person we can be. “The spirit is always with you,” he added.
“God loves you very much and there’s nothing you can do about it. He’s asking you to follow his direction: to love people, to be kind and to smile. St. Mother Teresa said the biggest gift you can give someone is to smile because when you smile, you give a part of yourself.” He told the prisoners that they are not forgotten, pointing out the prison ministry members and volunteers are here “because they love you. Remember you’ve got GPS, so listen to the spirit that is guiding you.”
Sister Rita Mary Harwood, who heads the diocesan prison ministry, spoke after Mass, thanking those who planned and attended the liturgy. She encouraged the prisoners to follow Bishop Gries’ advice, to be kind to each other and to smile. She also suggested that they read the booklets used at the Mass, which included the readings for Christmas Day and the poem called “Footprints,” and she reminded them that the diocese has a support program for family members and friends of the incarcerated.
As they left, each prisoner was given a book with reflections about the 12 days of Christmas and Sister said each will receive a candy bar and two Christmas cards with stamps, so they can share a special holiday message with someone they love.