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The Florida Catholic

Prisoners drew closer to Jesus through retreat

SOUTH BAY  |  The first weekend Rescate retreat was recently conducted by the Prison Ministry of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Palm Beach at the South Bay Correctional Facility near Belle Glade. Volunteers are being sought for a second retreat in November.

During the retreat in April, 46 male, Spanish-speaking inmates participated in the Catholic program to draw closer to Jesus. Many of the men seized the opportunity to receive the sacrament of penance from Father George Nursey, dean of pastoral formation at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary, who accompanied the retreat leaders and presided over the closing Mass. Following the retreat, the number of Spanish-speaking inmates attending weekly Catholic services at the prison doubled, according to the Prison Ministry.

The Rescate retreat in the Diocese of Palm Beach marked the beginning of a new chapter in the long history of Rescate because it was the first time the group ministered outside of the Archdiocese of Miami. The event at the South Bay Correctional Facility was the 101st Rescate retreat for men. There have been 24 for women in the Miami area. 

Founded by a group of Hispanic Cursillistas in the Archdiocese of Miami under the spiritual guidance of then-Msgr. Agustín Román (later auxiliary bishop of Miami), Rescate Catholic Prison Ministry has been ministering in south Florida detention centers since 1987. The goal of the Rescate Catholic Prison Ministry is to present the retreat in English or Spanish as a conversion experience patterned after the Cursillo de Cristiandad but tailored for men and women in detention. 

At its founding, Rescate took its name from Mk 10:45, the New Testament passage in which Jesus makes it clear that he did not come to be served but to serve and give his life in ransom for many. Rescate started as a Hispanic ministry, and the Spanish word rescate carries the double meaning of “ransom” and “rescue,” which is what the ministry aims to do for God: to rescue and ransom inmates for love and in service to the Lord, who brings us all out of bondage. 

The Prison Ministry of Catholic Charities, under the direction of Deacon Gregory Quinn, attends to the spiritual and pastoral needs of thousands of incarcerated men and women across 15 prisons, jails and juvenile detention centers in the diocese.

Rescate 101 was led by a team of 19 Catholic volunteers — six from Palm Beach and 13 from Miami. With much love, prayer and dedication over a six-week period, the combined team prepared for the weekend by meeting weekly via Zoom. 

A second Rescate retreat in the Diocese of Palm Beach is scheduled for mid-November 2023, and the team is seeking local volunteers. Rescate and Palm Beach Catholic Prison Ministry need women and men volunteers to help serve better and reach farther. Anyone who feels called by the Lord to serve in this ministry is urged to contact the Catholic Charities Office of Prison Ministry at 561-360-3326 or email