By Emily Drooby
The Catholic faith has always been part of Mary Stiles’s life, including now while she’s incarcerated at Rikers Island Prison Complex.
Stiles, explained, “I wasn’t allowed out on Sunday if I didn’t go to church. I did get back connected with God again when I came here.”
Stiles’s brought a rosary with her to prison and found a special cross necklace under a bench while in central booking; during a time when she really needed God. Now, both of those items have been blessed by Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
Stiles said, “Being incarcerated is really tough and to have someone like the Cardinal come and share the experience with, was fantastic. I have always wanted to meet him.”
Cardinal Dolan was part of the “Ash Wednesday” mass on Rikers Island. He distributed the blessed ashes and offered communion. During his homily, the Cardinal hit home with an important message: “We’re all in prison. We are given a sentence of death we are handcuffed by our sins. We are locked into the cell of selfishness. We are desperate for release, we crave freedom.”
He added that Jesus is our savior, he wants to release us and free us for all eternity. His homily had special meaning for those in attendance, including Stiles, who said, “That we are all incarcerated in one way or another, that according to Jesus we are all suffering. At least we are not alone.”
Cardinal Dolan calls visits, like this one to Rikers, a sacred responsibility for him: “I’m trying to obey what my faith. What my Catholic faith teaches, is the mandate of Jesus to visit those who are in prison, to feed those who are poor, to welcome those who are immigrants.”
One he enjoys doing because of the strong faith and love for God he sees when he does.
Cardinal Dolan said, “They say, hey, I need help, yeah I need help from family, and friends and lawyers, but I really need help from God, because there are certain things only he can heal. So when you see that, that’s the best posture, the posture of humility for prayer, so I love being here because we are all praying pretty hard.”
Cardinal Dolan told the inmates he wants to come back for another visit, he also encouraged them to see him at St. Patrick’s Cathedral when they leave prison.