Bishop Dell’Oro confirms 19 in prison for the first time since COVID-19

November 8, 2022

(Photo courtesy of the Office of Correctional Ministries)

HUNTSVILLE — On Sunday, Oct. 16, Auxiliary Bishop Italo Dell’Oro, CRS, confirmed 19 men at the TDCJ Wynne Prison Unit, some of whom have been waiting for Confirmation since before March 2020, when all TDCJ units were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paperwork and approval delays also hampered efforts to confirm the men. Between the Office of Worship, the bishop’s office and Robert Sarlay, certified volunteer chaplain assistant at the Wynne unit, the event was able to be rescheduled.

According to Sarlay, the men spent two years in preparatory study to learn what the Sacrament of Confirmation was about and what their responsibilities would be as confirmed men in the faith. Bishop Dell’Oro was accompanied by three deacons of the Archdiocese: Deacon Alvin Lovelady, who is the director of Correctional Ministries; Deacon Dennis Hayes; and Deacon Richard Lopez.

Inside the chapel were 161 of their brothers in faith, men in white at the Wynne Unit, to show their support and pray with the candidates. In addition to the clergy and participants, eight civilian visitors showed their support for the men being confirmed.

The Wynne Catholic Choir provided the lead in the singing and chant responses of the whole congregation. After the proclamation of the Gospel by Deacon Hayes, the bishop addressed the candidates and gave further instructions about Confirmation and going forward with faith and hope. He then called forward each candidate, accompanied by the candidate’s sponsor to receive the sacred chrism, thereby receiving the fullness of the Holy Spirit and being confirmed in their faith.

In his homily, Bishop Dell’Oro told the men he was humbled to be there with Christ in prison, his gratitude to them and all involved in helping him be there for this first Confirmation as a bishop in a prison.

Bishop Dell’Oro later said before leaving the prison, “I want to do more of these.”

Sarlay said, “The Mass offered by Bishop Italo was especially spiritual with full chanting, responses by the men in attendance, incense and Holy Communion given to the congregation at large.”

Deacon Lovelady added, “His homily to the men was so humbling and sincere, his gratitude to them and all involved in helping him be there for this first Confirmation as a bishop in a prison was... let’s just say I’m glad for my job and the fact that I get to witness these great moments when men and the Holy Spirit work together to bring us and others closer to Christ.”

For Deacon Lovelady, it was “Mission Accomplished” in the sense that it had taken so long to get this completed.

“Everyone has worked around and through all the obstacles that have popped up over this long time of preparation and by the grace of God we were able to get Bishop Italo there. It was divine intervention to say the least,” he said. “For the men it was a dream come true. Many of them had decided it was not meant for them to complete their journey they had set out on seemingly so long ago.”

Deacon Lovelady said some of the men had completed RCIA just prior to the pandemic and were waiting then on being confirmed. Some had transferred during the pandemic to the unit and were also waiting on Confirmation.

“It was all truly the hard work of many people coming together for a just cause,” he said. “I do believe everything happened the way it did because Bishop Italo Dell’Oro was supposed to be the one who confirmed these men.

I think if you ask him, he will say it was all in God’s hands and he was just happy to be part of God’s work.”