“I was in prison and you visited me”

For the last several years, the Diocese of St. Augustine has participated in the Cities for Life movement to protest Florida’s death penalty. Currently, there are 341 inmates on Death Row in the state.

This year’s Cities for Life event, which will be held at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Downtown Jacksonville on Saturday, November 30th, will feature several speakers. One of them, Dale Recinella, has served as a lay Catholic correctional chaplain for Death Row prisoners for the past 21 years. 

Once a well-off financial lawyer, Recinella’s second career has made him an expert on faith-based prison ministry, a strong critic of Florida’s death penalty, and a trusted counselor to hundreds of men at the extreme margins of society.

“What I try to do — prayerfully, and with the strength of the Eucharist, is [ask]: ‘Lord, have you Holy Spirit bring me the words, thoughts, and questions that will make it possible for me to help this man get closer to you today, to bring his walk closer to your perfect will for his life — today.’  As far as I can tell, God has always shown up with the prayer.”

During his years of working with inmates, Recinella has served as a confirmation sponsor for numerous men, and even arranged the baptism of an inmate on the day of his execution.

In addition to Recinella, the event will feature a talk by Kate and Andy Grosmaire, whose 19-year-old daughter Ann was murdered by her fiancé in 2010. Driven by their Catholic faith, the couple chose to forgive their daughter’s killer. In the years since, Andy (who is a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee) and Kate have spoken publicly about the power of restorative justice and forgiveness in the criminal justice system.

Also speaking at the event will be Ingrid Delgado, the Associate Director for Social Concerns and Respect Life for the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops. Her speech will address the current legal status of capital punishment in Florida, as well as explaining how to advocate for an end to the death penalty.

“In this politically fragmented time, it is a privilege to represent our faith, which transcends partisan politics, in the democratic process and invite all elected officials to work together in seeking the common good.”’