Musings from a Grateful Convert: A Priest’s Impression of Prison
Recently, I had the privilege to interview Father Nikitas Theodosion, a Priest who visited a prison inmate in August of 2017. The following is the transcript of an excerpt from that interview.
Grateful Convert: Today we welcome Father Nikitas Theodosion, who has served for eight years as parish Priest at St. Elizabeth the Wonderworker Greek Orthodox Church in Gainesville, Florida. After serving as choir director for 27 years in various churches, the call to the Priesthood came at age 47, and he attended Holy Cross Theological Seminary, receiving what he said was an outstanding education. While at the seminary, he worked with numerous students and faculty. Thank you Father Nikitas for coming and being interviewed for the blog.
Fr. Nik: Thank you, it’s good to be here.
GC: Fr. Nikitas, You recently visited an inmate at Union Correctional Institution in Raiford, Florida. Was this your first encounter with the State System, and if so, would you please share with us your first impression?
Fr. Nik: Yes, it was my first time visiting a state prison, and I have to say I was disheartened for this one fellow we visited. He seemed much less violent than the way they were treating him and the way [the State system workers] approached him for us to be able to talk to him and to offer Communion to him.
GC: What can you say about the inmate you visited?
Fr. Nik: I think what I saw there as I was talking to him was that he had come to prison with a more hostile attitude. But through time, he changed and he learned to be more civil. The authorities seemed to think it would take him a lot more than the 10 years he had already served.
GC: Having received a good number of Orthodox Christian books and other materials, did this inmate indicate that he seems to be taking all of this to heart?
Fr. Nik: He certainly did, and I did not feel any threat as I was sitting there talking to him. He admitted he had made a lot of errors in his life, and he wanted to make sure that [kind of life] was not going to continue.
GC: Father Nikitas, has visiting this inmate affected your own perception of prison life in general and its affect on individuals living in it?
Fr. Nik: Absolutely. I never expected to see that much security being displayed, and as he talked with us, I was embarrassed to see him shackled to the point where he couldn’t move. I was a little sad. I would hope that one day we are approaching these offenders with an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves.
GC: In view of this visit and because of the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospels, what would you say to your own community about the question of visiting inmates or otherwise getting involved in prison ministry?
Fr. Nik: I would support that 100 percent. Inmates need to know that there are people behind them who feel that they are worthy of rehabilitation so they may do what they can to prevent themselves from ever coming back to this situation again.
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