Posts Tagged ‘Jesuit Father George Williams’

Jesuit Prison Chaplain Sees Jesus in Inmates

Jesuit Father George Williams

Lt. Sam Robinson/San Quentin State Prison

Jesuit Father George Williams recently became the new Catholic chaplain of San Quentin State Prison in California and said of his new job, “God jumps out at you when you least expect it.”

Fr. Williams, who served 15 years in prison ministries in Massachusetts before being appointed to his “dream job” at California’s oldest penitentiary, sees Christ in the Hell’s Angel shouting a greeting, “Hey, from one angel to another, how’s it going?”

He sees Christ in the lifers who are studying theology and said the inmates sometimes stump him with their insightful questions and surprise him with their knowledge of church teaching.

The facility houses nearly 6,000 prisoners, and about a quarter of them are Catholic.

Williams is in charge of a full sacramental calendar: baptisms at Easter; confirmations; confessions, which are significant for their healing and forgiving; the Eucharist; and anointing of the sick.

Although taken aback by San Quentin’s harsh conditions — he wears a bulletproof vest to work — he was pleasantly surprised by the plethora of programs, beautiful Catholic chapel and hordes of volunteers who bring “a humanness here I didn’t expect.”

“You see the Gospel in a totally different light in prison,” Williams said. “The early Christians were no strangers to prison and execution, including Jesus.”

As a Jesuit priest, his mission is to go where the need is greatest, Williams said.

“Nowhere is there a greater need than in the prison system that holds more than 2 million mostly poor and often disenfranchised people,” he said. “I feel a call to respond to that need.”

Read more about Williams at Catholic San Francisco.

Jesuit Ministers to Inmates at San Quentin

Jesuit Father George Williams

Jesuit Father George Williams, a member of the New England Province, has made prison ministry his calling for the past 15 years. He owes his priestly ministry to inmates — he began his work as a Jesuit brother, but inmates pleaded with him to offer the sacraments.

Fr. Williams served as chaplain at a medium-security state prison in Concord, Mass., and recently began work at San Quentin Prison in California.

“We are dealing with the most despised people in our country,” he said of his ministry.

Williams doesn’t expect to perform miracles, but does hope to have an impact at San Quentin, which has more than 5,000 inmates, including a death row.

He said that it’s easy to slip into cynicism or compassion fatigue. He also doesn’t expect that his preaching or counsel will transform the life of a convict. “I can’t fix people,” Williams  said. “Measuring success is sometimes to go to the funeral of a person you have confirmed and baptized. You can’t make them be happy or be free.”

Read more about Williams and other Jesuits engaged in prison ministry.