PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Holy Thursday is one of the three holiest days in the Catholic Church, leading up to Easter.
Masses were celebrated in churches throughout the region, and a special one was also celebrated at the Allegheny County Jail.
Bishop David Zubik presided over that mass for inmates.
He also performed a special ritual. He told inmates it was to help ease their memories of pain.
Zubik began his Holy Thursday homily by recounting a story from his own childhood where he was made to feel unwanted and unloved.
“They really know what it feels like when somebody says you don’t count, you’re not important, you don’t deserve mercy, and that’s where the rubber hits the road as far as the message of Jesus,” Zubik said.
It was a sentiment many in the room say they do relate to, but Thursday’s special mass helped and touched their hearts.
“I have two children at home,” Clyde Elliott, an inmate at the Allegheny County Jail, said. “Beginning of a new life, going forward and to let go of the past.”
“I needed to be here. The life I was living out there wasn’t right,” inmate Vincent Daniele said. “I became addicted to drugs and it’s an epidemic. It’s taken over everybody, and I needed that time. I should be dead.”
The mass included Holy Communion and a special ritual in which the Bishop not only washed the feet of 12 inmates, but kissed them, reminiscent of Jesus washing the feet of the 12 disciples.
The Bishop hopes the reenactment of love will help those incarcerated reverse the sentiment that they don’t matter.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing for me, probably. The service is great, but the washing of feet that’s… that’s an honor,” inmate Walter Amman told KDKA News.
“You always start off with your right foot, and it’s our future, and we’re going into our future and walking to our future, so we are being blessed. We are going to do better,” Elliott said.
“I try to pray for everybody and keep faith and helps me get through it,” inmate Raphael Caruso said.
“The mass at the Cathedral is beautiful, you know, all of the people coming together, but this is it,” Zubik said.
The Bishop adds whether he is meeting the faithful at the jail or at St. Paul’s Cathedral, the message of the Holy Thursday mass is to let every sinner know they are washed clean.
He says for the men at the jail, he hopes it strengthens their faith and increases their reasons for joy.