OSSINING, N.Y. — Inside a cool, rugged chapel of tan brick and brown benches, the Rev. Tom Ahearn read a passage about repentance from the Gospel of St. Mark. “A voice of one that cries in the desert,” Father Ahearn said. “Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.”
The congregants nodded in recognition. The reading was anything but abstract: The men in the pews were convicted felons serving time at Sing Sing prison. Inside the chapel — fittingly named for Our Lady of Hope — their voices were strong, rising above the laughter of men joking after dinner or the rumble of Metro-North trains speeding past, just outside the thick walls ringed with coils of razor wire.
The faithful gather there for Mass and Bible study. Yet this particular service, during the Advent season of hope for a weary world, was extra special. A drawing by one of the inmates had been presented to Pope Francis who, in turn, sent a rosary, blessed holy cards and a promise to keep them in his prayers.