By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer
PHILADELPHIA – Wednesday is the new Monday for ex-inmates who attend Adeodatus, a spiritual support group in South Philadelphia.
“To me, this is like the beginning of the week,” said 44-year-old Brian DiCesare Sr., an ex-inmate and group regular. “I truly look forward to Wednesdays.
Augustinian Father Paul F. Morrissey, a chaplain of the Philadelphia Prison System and Archdiocesan Prison Ministry Program, founded the group in December 2007. Adeodatus, Father Morrissey explains, is named after St. Augustine’s son, whom Augustine called “Gift of God.”
“It is truly amazing how God has sent these ‘gifts of God’ to us,” Father Morrissey said.
The group meets from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in a confidential location.
DiCesare appreciates the family setting that surrounds the support group. “We can basically talk about anything,” he said. “I share about what I go through during the week. I come here and I tell ‘my family’ what I’m learning, what I failed at, what I need to work on.”
He concedes some subjects are difficult to talk about. “I share my struggles, things I’m still holding onto. What’s amazed me is, I’ll come here with something I went through during the week, and somebody will be sharing about just what I went through.”
Confidentiality is assured at Adeodatus. “What’s said here, stays here,” he said.
DiCesare discovered a familiar face when he joined the group: Father Morrissey, who had been his prison chaplain. “When I was incarcerated, I used to make every service in the prison. I would come to the Catholic services on Saturdays and Sunday mornings. I used to sit in the front row – same seat every time. I’ve tasted freedom in Christ.”
Tasting that freedom again through Adeodatus has caused DiCesare to shed “tears of joy,” he said. “The Lord’s telling me He’s opening these doors for me.”
DiCesare was paroled April 1 from the House of Correction of the Philadelphia Prison System on State Road in Philadelphia. spanorced and the father of a 22-year-old son, DiCesare, who was baptized Catholic, is a technician and mechanic by trade.
Father Morrissey is moved but not surprised by the humility of those who attend Adeodatus. “It’s great seeing them on the outside,” he said.
DiCesare said that programs such as Adeodatus are needed on the outside because without such groups, inmates are likely to put their Bibles down once they are released from prison.
The sorrow and remorse that plague those who are incarcerated do not always fade after they have served their sentences, DiCesare added. However, he said he finds reassurance knowing “if we’re believers in Christ, we believe that Christ forgave us.”
Cindy Miller, one of five Adeodatus Catholic core members who assist Father Morrissey with the group said, “We really try to emphasize, God already forgave you – who are you not to forgive yourself?”
The beauty of Adeodatus is that it reminds all in attendance they are made in the image and likeness of God, Father Morrissey said. That spark of hope that he sees week after week is what propels the ex-inmates – and Adeodatus – forward.
And for Father Morrissey, Adeodatus is proving to be the glue of his priesthood. “I finally found the lost sheep I was ordained for 40 years ago.”
For more information about Adeodatus call (215) 331-3640.
CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at (215) 587-2468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.