“ . . . it causes me to tremble, tremble, . . .” These words from the well-known hymn for Good Friday could also be used to describe the experience of spending the Easter Triduum with the inmates at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre (SCC). Once again this year it was a moving experience to spend time with the gentlemen at SCC.
Holy Thursday brought out 19 inmates for the mass of the Lord’s Supper, 12 of whom had their feet washed by Rev. Mark Blom. These men were humbled by the mere fact that a priest would kneel down and wash their feet in such an act of service. Six of the men were due to have their yard time, which is limited and therefore precious to them, on Thursday evening, but they chose to stay in the chapel for mass instead of going outside for their yard time.
On Good Friday, despite the driving rain and chilling wind, 16 of the men and about 20 volunteers journeyed the way of the cross through the yard at SCC, with the inmates taking a turn reading a reflection for each station. With the different backgrounds and histories, and reasons for being incarcerated, the one thing all these men have in common is their love for Christ.
Each volunteer was asked to pair up with an inmate and journey together through the yard. Because we had more volunteers than inmates, I was the happy wanderer, milling around with everyone, which enabled me to observe. What I saw was touching: one gentleman kept holding open his jacket over his volunteer to help protect him from the wind and rain; another stepped aside from under the protection of an umbrella and invited another volunteer to take shelter there instead of him.
I wish all people could see the humanity within these inmates, instead of judging them by their actions, their mistakes. The Good Friday afternoon service with Rev. Mark Blom was an emotional experience, especially the veneration of the cross. The humility, respect and awe evident in their eyes, posture and attitude was overwhelming. I was reminded of the words of St. Anne’s pastor, Rev. Matthew Ramsay, who said, “. . . if you look with love, you will see someone worthy of love . . .” The key is to look with love, not judgment.
Easter morning brought 12 volunteers out to SCC to deliver a chocolate Easter bunny to each inmate. This is a wonderful opportunity to go out to all the units and greet each one individually. At 1 p.m. on Easter Sunday Rev. Graham Hill celebrated mass with 28 inmates and several volunteers. It was, once again, a meaningful celebration, with several inmates involved with the readings and intentions.
This will be my last year spending the Easter Triduum at SCC because of a move to Regina this summer, and I will miss this wonderful experience. If you have a compassionate heart and a love of people, I encourage you to get involved in this amazing ministry.
Kotyk is a member of St. Anne’s Parish in Saskatoon.