Twenty-six voices echoed the Lord’s Prayer in the gym of the Beaver County Jail as Bishop David Zubik delivered Mass Wednesday night.
“I think it’s just so important to put ourselves in the shoes of another person,” Zubik said of visiting the inmates.
Although Wednesday’s service was his first at the Beaver County Jail, Zubik — an Ambridge native whose 65th birthday is Thursday — performs Mass at the Allegheny County Jail every Holy Thursday and has visited a correctional facility in Greene County as well.
The Rev. Dennis Ugoletti, Beaver County Jail chaplain, helped to organize the bishop’s visit when he noticed an interest in Catholicism by the inmates. A priest now visits about once per month to perform Mass and confession, Ugoletti said. The jail also offers weekly Bible studies and visits from local deacons.
Because male and female inmates cannot intermingle during activities, the Mass was offered only to men who signed up in advance. But before beginning the Mass, Zubik visited the women’s section of the jail to speak with anyone who was interested in meeting him.
Seven women surrounded the bishop, full of questions about his garb, the Catholic Church and the importance of religion. Only about four of the women said they identified as Catholics, but all of them were seeking his guidance.
Zubik in turn asked the women questions pertaining to their needs and upcoming court proceedings.
To one inmate, her promised to pray in a special way as she awaited a hearing.
For another woman, Zubik signed her Bible. And when he was asked to teach something, he asked the women to gather in a circle and join hands, and he assisted them in reciting a Hail Mary prayer.
He spoke of a new beginning for all of them as they look forward to life outside of the jail. He suggested they contact Catholic Charities for any guidance or help they might need in transitioning back to their lives.
He shook all of their hands, provided a blessing and promised to pray that they get their lives back on track. Zubik said he hoped his words to the women could become an “anchor to hold on to.”
To begin the Mass for the men, he said it was an honor to be with them and posed a few questions.
“What do you think heaven looks like? What do you think heaven feels like?” he asked.