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Norfolk inmates seek Christ in Lay Dominican chapter


Ruth Raichle and Sister Kathleen Denevan OSF open a meeting of the Lay Fraternities of St. Dominic in Norfolk State Prison Feb. 4. Pilot photo/Christine Williams

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NORFOLK -- They wake each morning to pray the Liturgy of the Hours and chant it again before they go to sleep. They pray the rosary, spend time in contemplative prayer and gather each Sunday to discuss the Gospel. In almost every way they are like the members of other chapters of the Lay Fraternities of St. Dominic, except they are incarcerated.

The chapter, located at Norfolk State Prison, has about 35 members, 17 of whom have made their final profession in the Dominican order. It is the only Dominican chapter in a prison.

Ruth Raichle, the Catholic chaplain at Norfolk, said the men are, in many ways, quite similar to cloistered religious. Through their prayers, they are saving souls, and through their witness they are encouraging others in the prison to seek Christ, she said.

“I always call them the real missionaries because they bring other men to the Church,” she said.

Raichle, along with seven volunteers, runs the weekly Sunday meetings. The men gather in a circle of brown folding chairs on the stage in the auditorium of the prison’s Community Services Division Building. They begin each meeting by chanting the Liturgy of the Hours and singing hymns such as “This is the Day.”

“This is the day that the Lord has made, and I will rejoice and be glad in it. A new life is what we have been given by the Lord,” they sang on Feb. 4.

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