Jesus in a Clear Tupperware Container

In addition to my assignment here at St. Peter’s, I am also responsible for the corrections ministry in Washington County. This includes Stillwater and Oak Park Heights Prisons and the Washington County Jail. From time to time, I would like to share with you a bit about what I do on the corrections side of my ministry.

On the third Monday of each month, I make the trip to Stillwater Prison to offer a Word and Communion Service. Correctional facilities need to be safe places for those who are incarcerated, those responsible for guarding them and for people like me who visit the facility. There is a very common sense rule that governs all people coming into the facility. The rule is “nothing in, nothing out.” All correctional facilities have a little museum of weapons, fashioned out of common objects, that are intercepted from the offenders. For this reason, the prison holds tight control over anyone coming into the facility. That is why I bring Jesus to Stillwater Prison in a clear Tupperware container. I know that it’s Jesus I’m bringing in, but the guards need to be able to see that it is Jesus, too.

Shortly before I leave, I go to the tabernacle and reverently place the requisite number of consecrated hosts into the small, clear Tupperware container that allows me to bring the consecrated species into the correctional facility. It feels a bit strange to have our Blessed Savior riding in my car in a clear Tupperware container, but this is what must be done in order to meet the rules of the facility. I have a beautiful covered gold ciborium that becomes Jesus’ resting place once we are safely inside.

One month after my initiation with Father Stan, a wise and seasoned veteran of corrections ministry, I found myself offering my first Word and Communion Service to 15 men. So there I was, a baby deacon, stumbling through my first Word and Communion Service in front of 15 men, all with serious criminal pasts. Some of the men had the hardened look of years behind bars. Others looked a lot like the person who sits next to you in church on Sunday. The reality is they are all here because they have committed serious offenses. Corrections ministry offers a great opportunity to shine Christ’s mercy in a place that holds a lot of darkness and despair. Most of us can’t imagine what it would be like to lose our freedom. Some of these offenders will never see the outside of these walls again.

Jesus and I walked into Stillwater Prison together last Monday night. The guards ran me through the metal detector, and Jesus could be clearly seen through the clear Tupperware container in which He traveled. I was a little nervous, but I knew I wasn’t alone. I had my Lord and Savior with me. He stayed the whole time, and even tolerated a little disrespect from gang members, who were there for other reasons. The men thanked me, and we shook hands as we parted company. I walked out of the facility a free man, while they went back to their cells to spend the evening with the rest of prison population. But for those precious 45 minutes, we each got to see how the other half lives, and it was beautiful!

Something happens to me every time I minister in a jail or a prison—I get changed. The Holy Spirit comes over me, and I am renewed, refreshed and changed. Jesus liked to hang around with those that society frowned upon. The people I meet have nothing to offer but their brokenness and pain. Jesus comes into that pain, and together we bring hope. It has literally changed my life.

There are 34 correctional facilities in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. I am assigned to three of them. I work with wonderful, dedicated volunteers who give generously of their time and talent to bring Christ to those whom society has forgotten. I ask you to remember the offenders, the staff and our ministers in your prayers. We try to bring light into the darkness, and we always bring Jesus in a clear Tupperware container. That’s just the way it is.

Wishing you God’s Perfect Peace!

Deacon Tim

 

One Response to “Jesus in a Clear Tupperware Container”

  1. Richard says:

    To Deacon Tim,

    Let us remember the people whom the prisoners hurt on their way to crime and incarceration. It is all well and good that you deliver communion to them, but don’t get so wrapped up in their stories that you believe they are all “good” people who took a wrong path. Remember they are criminals and pray for the victims.

Leave a Reply

Archives