The following comes from an Oct. 21 story by Audry L. Lynch in the Valley Catholic.
On September 5 at St. Thomas of Canterbury Church, Father John Farao officiated at a Mass dedicated to Mother Teresa on her Feast Day. Afterwards he delivered a riveting description of his two fields of work; as a prison chaplain at the Men’s Correctional Colony at Pismo Beach which houses 4500 men and his part time work as an exorcist in the Monterey and Fresno dioceses and assisting other exorcists such as Father Gary Thomas of Sacred Heart Church.
How does he maintain his optimism in a depressing environment like prison? “Even after reading the records of some heinous crimes, I have to remind myself, that the man before me is someone’s son, someone’s father, someone’s uncle,” he answers. “They are still God’s children.”
“I’m always available to listen and I can offer them confidentiality,” he continues. “Very few come to services but sometimes when they get bad news from home, they need someone to talk to and I am there for them.”
As for his work as an exorcist he says,” Despite its popularity in the media, exorcism is really rare,” explains Father Farao. “I’ve only been involved in about twenty of them but, when it does happen, it’s a very powerful experience.”
How does Father Farao try to turn hardened criminals and people possessed by demons into other directions? “The sad facts” says Father Farao, “is that 80% of the prison population has no desire to change. They come from criminal families or they belong to gangs which act as their families. About 80% of their crimes are alcohol or drug-related. Prison is the name for adult time-out.”
In spite of this negative atmosphere, Father Farao has started some programs which he feels has promoted some growth among the prisoners. He explains that now the church pays buses to bring sons in to visit their fathers. “Boys need their dads and to know that dads matter to their lives,” he says. This program has made some men realize they need to be better men and better dads.” I remember one boy telling his dad he was getting bad grades and the man showed him his own good grades in prison classes as an incentive to his son.”
There are some other in-prison programs that promote growth and change among the men. There is a “buddy program” where one man will become a “buddy” to a man who is mentally ill or has mental deficiencies. Taking care of someone else helps them to grow. Finally, some men volunteer to help dying patients in the hospice program. “Sometimes I’ve noticed older prisoners take new prisoners under their wing to advise them how to stay out of trouble,” says Father Farao….
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