Once bustling with activity and booming with voices, the San Quentin Catholic chapel stands stripped and silenced, a casualty of COVID-19.
Decrying the death, disease and deteriorating living conditions in the state’s oldest prison, recently retired longtime chaplain Jesuit Father George Williams and volunteers from throughout the San Francisco Archdiocese lament their lockout at a time the locked-in need them the most.
It is a time of fear, frustration and fatalism at the 168-year-old penitentiary in Marin County.
State data as of Aug. 12 showed 25 deceased and 2,232 infected at the prison, with only 32 new cases in the previous two weeks, The fatalities included a guard, Sergeant Gilbert Polanco, who died Aug. 9 of Covid-19 complications.
Since early March, authorities have canceled programs, banned visitors, prohibited group gatherings and created makeshift space for physical distancing, quarantine and isolation.
The chapel has been emptied of altar, pews, chairs, sacred objects and religious icons and closed to Mass celebrations, choral concerts, Scripture readings, Bible studies, life-skill debates and other spiritually supportive services.
“It will take a while to put things back together,” said Father Williams, who personally took down for safekeeping the Stations of the Cross crafted by a prisoner nearly 60 years ago.
Such extra care and attention marked his decade of mentoring and ministering to his San Quentin congregation.
When the viral eruption engulfed his seven-Masses-a-weekend schedule, the chaplain continued to make cell calls, carrying Communion, comfort, consolation and communication from the community to the 250 churchgoers, until he tested positive June 24.
“Since I left, they have had nothing,” said Father Williams, who recovered from his “summer-cold-like” symptoms of headache and fatigue and partially regained his taste and smell in time to move to his next assignment July 28….
The above comes from an Aug. 13 story in Catholic San Francisco.
Somebody likes alliteration?.
But on a more serious note, how sad for the inmates to be deprived of Father’s care.
George Williams, SJ, radical SJW and race-baiter: thinks prisons are evil, and the judicial system racist. He’s detrimental to the spiritual welfare of any prisoner. He’s also a close friend of James Martin, SJ. Quite telling.
Father Williams’ attitudes are deplorable. How could he possibly bring thoughts of hope and rehabilitation to inmates if he thinks the prison is “demonic” and “evil”. Such an attitude suggests he regards state prisoners as victims. That is a particularly outrageous perspective regarding the men on death row. Speaking as a career prosecutor (and proud of it) I can say categorically not one of the condemned men in San Quentin is a “victim” in any rational sense of the word. It is good he has been transferred from that assignment. Hopefully the church can bring in someone with a more responsible and balanced understanding of what prisons are and why we have them.
Father, I remember your first week in SQ, as well as my last, Thank you…. I have something that belongs to you, please contact me, Donald John
Father, I just read the comments prior to this , you teach truth and understanding , I believe this battle is ignorance, from incorrigible to socially accessible. Thank you, A true friend of life, Donald John