Dolan celebrates Mass at Bedford Hills prison; his ‘sacred responsibility’

Just back from Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, where Archbishop Dolan celebrated Mass for about 150 female inmates.

He told them that he had wanted to visit a prison during his first week or so in New York.

Jesus won’t judge him, he said, based on his visits to Yankee Stadium or even to St. Patrick’s Cathedral: “He is going to say, ‘When I was hungry, you fed me. When I was in prison, you came to see me.’ ”

Dolan smiled while he distributed Holy Communion at the only maximum security prison for women in New York State.

He told the women that they should never feel alone, as if they have been forsaken. Jesus received “capital punishment,” he said, and knows exactly what they’re going through.

After Mass, Dolan stood outside the chapel and greeted each woman individually. He embraced most and said at least a few words.He happily chatted with those who had a comment or question.

He asked many women to pray for him. Several of the inmates asked to be blessed by the new archbishop and one remarked “You are so cute.”

Afterward, Dolan took a couple of questions and told me that visiting inmates and others in need is his sacred responsibility.

“They do more for me than I do for them,” he said.

After the Mass, Dolan was going to visit with long-term patients in the prison’s hospital. Then he was heading to the nursery, where babies born to pregnant inmates can live for up to a year.

The media were not allowed to go on these two stops.

Security, as you would expect, is tight at Bedford Hills. The media had to go through several checkpoints before we made it to the chapel.

Through a couple of windows in doors, I did see the archbishop go through security himself.

Dolan promised the inmates that he would return, especially around holiday times.

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.