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First class of prison chaplains graduates in Cuba comment (0)

July 14, 2011

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — A total of 87 pastors and lay leaders made up the first graduating class of prison chaplains in Cuba on June 16. Co-sponsored by the Ecumenical Council of Churches in Cuba and the Ecumenical Seminary in Matanzas, the graduation took place at the Quaker Center in Gibara on Cuba’s northeast coast.

Most of the graduates, from 26 different denominational backgrounds, have done prison visitation for years. With the Cuban government’s easing of restrictions on church contact with inmates, Francisco Rodés, retired pastor of First Baptist Church in Matanzas, saw an opportunity to increase the Cuban churches’ ministry among inmates.

Each graduate completed 60 hours of training over eight months, held in four major cities in Eastern Cuba. The training team consisted of Rodés; Mark Siler, a prison chaplain from North Carolina; and Lazaro Ceballo, a Cuban church musician. Training topics included conflict transformation and restorative justice, spiritual formation, Bible study and pastoral counseling.

Rodés said the easing of restrictions on contact with inmates “is the result of the prison authorities’ recognition that chaplains are having a significant impact on the lives of inmates.”

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