SMYRNA – In each of six years as the leader of Delaware’s Catholics, Bishop Malooly’s first Christmas Mass has been at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, home to some 2,500 inmates.
On Dec. 21, several hundred gathered for spiritual nourishment and fellowship in the chapel inside the prison fence in Smyrna.
“How many of you have been here all six years?” the bishop asked. A few dozen hands went up.
The prisoners, clad in white Department of Correction shirts and sweatpants, were a mix of ages and races. An inmate choir led the music; the singing was loud and spirited. As the inmates arrived at the chapel, Bishop Malooly and Msgr. Charles Brown, a chaplain at the correctional center, greeted each of them. They were joined by Deacons Mike Truman, coordinator of prison ministry for the diocese, and Vincent Pisano. The congregation also included several correctional officers and Rob Coupe, the commissioner of the state Department of Corrections.
In his homily, Bishop Malooly said the two readings and the Gospel are the series generally used at the midnight Mass. The first reading, from Isaiah, is a forecast. Paul, in his letter to Titus, continues the story, and the Gospel “is the fulfillment of longing and praying,” the bishop said.
Isaiah forecasts the birth of Christ, and the prophet says “the people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light.” He reminded the inmates to be like Pope Francis, a man who is always smiling, a great light for the world’s Catholics.
“I think it is a great reminder for us,” he said. “We need to bring that light to others.”
The birth of Christ is an invitation to us to be Christ’s light wherever we are, Bishop Malooly said. Pope Francis sets an example for us. He is always smiling, a great light for all Catholics, and he prefers to spend his time with the poor. On his birthday earlier this month, the pontiff ate lunch with four homeless people brought into the Vatican.
“I think (his example) is a great reminder for us. We need to bring that light to others,” he said.
The Eucharist, the bishop said, is God’s way to be present to us, as we are present to others. “God wants to draw each of you closer. He won’t move from you. He wants each of you to move closer to him.”