High Desert State Prison (HDSP) Chaplain Joseph McLachlan recently attended The Mass of Beatification of Pope John Paul I at the Vatican. He also presented letters and artwork created by the Facility D incarcerated population.
McLachlan was born in Scotland and moved to Los Angeles in February 1981, where he joined the Missionaries of Charity, founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta. He was with the group until 2009, briefly living in Guatemala. From 2009-2014, he worked with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Los Angeles.
In July 2014, he accepted the Catholic Chaplain position at HDSP, where he plays a vital role in religious programming. He provides guidance and support to the inmate population and staff on a daily basis. Additionally, McLachlan oversees religious programs and provides pastoral care to incarcerated men of all ages. He is active in special programs for staff and the incarcerated.
Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with the States at the Vatican, invited McLachlan to The Mass of Beatification of Pope John Paul I. Gallagher and McLachlan met in 2009 in Guatemala.
At the time, Archbishop Gallagher was the Vatican Ambassador to Guatemala. The two have remained friends ever since.
While in Rome, McLachlan met with Gallagher on three different occasions. Following the Mass, he had lunch with Gallagher and two of his friends, Archbishop Sommertag and Cardinal Roche.
When asked about his time in Rome and the Vatican, McLachlan said it was very different from his everyday life.
“I’m from a town in the West of Scotland and I now live in a town in Northern California, so being in that company was rather surreal,” McLachlan said.
Prior to the chaplain’s departure, the Facility D incarcerated population said they wanted to do something to express their gratitude.
With approval of Warden (A) R. St. Andre, the population donated two pieces of artwork accompanied by two letters to Pope Francis and Archbishop Gallagher.
The Archbishop accepted the donation in the Vatican office. The population agreed the image of a lion would be the best way to express themselves.
Joseph Buttelo, a chapel clerk at HDSP, said the lion seemed to be the perfect choice.
“Our goal was to represent the strength and resilience that we are lucky enough to see from many of the men here day in and day out. Our hope is that these humble gifts will serve to shine a light on the creativity, the kind hearts, and the unwavering determination to have a positive impact on the world that is present within most of the men here,” he said. “We also hope the art is able to express our gratitude for the role Chaplain Joseph McLachlan, and the Catholic Church through him, has had in instilling many of these traits within us.”
Pope Francis responded with a letter to the men at the prison.
“Thank you very much for your letter and your warm greetings. Thank you also for the accompanying drawings. I am grateful for the closeness and the affection that they represent.
Time in prison is clearly difficult. But I am sure that in many ways you can feel that God does not abandon you but, on the contrary, he always has his hand outstretched to lift us up. In the same way, just as we have found a hand that helps us get up, we must also do it with others. I pray for you that you always feel the hand of Jesus close to you,” according to the letter.
Learn more about CDCR chaplains.
By Lt. Jon Sieberg
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