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Inmates welcome Lavoie as special guest

By Thelma Pelletier


INNISFAIL, Alta. — Recently at the Bowden Institution in Innisfail, Alta., Catholic chaplains Thema Pelletier, Brent Walker, volunteers and inmates welcomed Archbishop Sylvain Lavoie, OMI, to the prison chapel. His purpose was twofold: baptize and confirm inmate Thomas Grabon and confirm inmate Jonathan Leduc.

A chaplain’s journey sometimes extends beyond the normal call of duty, and such was the case in preparing these two inmates for confirmation. While participating in Pelletier’s Grief Recovery Program at the prison, Grabon and Leduc expressed a strong desire to enter into the Catholic faith. Integrated into the program were Lavoie’s videos “Images of Hope: the Spirituality of Recovery,” based on the journey of addiction and the 12-step healing process. Once these men completed the Grief Program, it was evident that the videos had had an impact on their healing journey.

The celebration would not have been possible without the work of Millie Hoffos, a Catholic volunteer for the chapel. Following the RCIA program (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults), Hoffos worked with Grabon and Leduc on a weekly basis to ready them for confirmation.

Lavoie graciously accepted an invitation to baptize and confirm inmates Grabon and Leduc earlier this summer. In true adventurous spirit, the archbishop travelled to Bowden relying on his GPS navigation system. It turned out the inaccuracy of the device allowed the archbishop a tour of the countryside. His eventual arrival at the prison was met with gratitude and appreciation by the chaplains, guests and inmates.

Lavoie’s example of “love and mercy” to the marginalized of our society was appreciated, especially during this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy introduced by Pope Francis.

Pelletier is chaplain at the Bowden Institution, Innisfail, Alta.

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