Interview by Sr. Camille D’Arienzo, NCR
Sr. Camille: Jesuits are admired for their intelligence, learning and leadership qualities. Some readers might wonder if you’re wasting your time, your life, ministering to men on San Quentin’s death row.
Fr. George Williams: I’ve been asked that question many times by colleagues who are correction officers. Two groups have never asked me that: Jesuits and my friends who know me well. Jesuits know that St. Ignatius spent time ministering to prisoners and other outcasts, and he even mentioned prisoners in the founding documents of the Society of Jesus.
In the “Formula of the Institute,” which defines what Jesuits are, Ignatius wrote: “Moreover, he should show himself ready to reconcile the estranged, compassionately assist and serve those who are in prisons or hospitals, and indeed, to perform any other works of charity, according to what will seem expedient for the glory of God and the common good.”
Ignatius’ vision of what it means to be a Jesuit included serving those in prisons. The educational institutions came later…