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Extending the Year of Mercy Inside a Prison

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Lapeer — When Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron prayed the consecration, it did not feel like a half-empty gymnasium.

When men prayed the Lord’s Prayer together, they did not feel like prisoners.

When the bread and wine were turned into the Body and Blood of Christ, it did not seem like a prison.

When the faithful lined up, ready to receive the Blessed Sacrament, they were not prisoners; they were brothers in Christ, sharing in the same ritual as many of their brothers and sisters across the Archdiocese of Detroit and the world that day.

On Feb. 28, Archbishop Vigneron celebrated Mass with convicts at the Thumb Correctional Facility in Lapeer, where he was “their guest” with the honor to celebrate Mass at their place of worship.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to be with you, to come here as your guest,” Archbishop Vigneron said before the Mass. “Pope Francis wants us to be ambassadors of mercy. The pope went to a prison, and we’ve been instructed to imitate the pope. So by you allowing me to come here, you allow me to experience this grace of being here with you.”

The archbishop visited the prison as part of the Year of Mercy and the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Unleash the Gospel initiative, doing active works of mercy and evangelization.

During his homily, Archbishop Vigneron related Jesus’ parable of the gardener and the fig tree to the prisoners and their time at Thumb Correctional Facility.

“Jesus tells a simple story, about a gardener having patience with a fig tree,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “The gardener said to be patient, you’ll get figs really soon. The gardener plants manure, cultivates the tree, does what it takes to get fruit from the tree.

“It’s a parable: God isn’t demanding, but He just has high expectations for us. He looks for all of us to be fruit. But He doesn’t just expect it, He helps us. God hasn’t given up on you, He expect you to live like His sons, no matter where you are planted.”

An estimated 40 prisoners attended the Mass, along with people from the Thumb Correctional Facility prison ministry team, who helped organized the Mass.

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