1988 Sept 5 – 25th Sun Ord Time (Prison Writings)
Mk 9, 30 – 37
“IF ANYONE WISHES TO RANK FIRST THEY MUST REMAIN THE LAST ONE OF ALL AND THE SERVANT OF ALL” MARK 9/35
Sometimes in my studying of the weekend readings a single verse will catch my eye and demand my full attention. The above verse from Mark’ s Gospel is a good example.
As long as I can remember, I have been in leadership roles. As early as my first years in grade school I demonstrated leadership qualities. I was bigger and stronger than most kids my age. Physical strength is always the first criteria for leadership on a grade school playground. A well-established pecking order is maintained on every elementary schools playground and everyone knows the order. If you don’t believe me just ask any third or fourth grade boy and they will tell you.
I could hold my own with anyone in my class and most anyone in the class above me. I had plenty of opportunities to become a school bully having met the challenge several times. I chose not to. I rose in leadership positions within accepted structures; athletic teams, school clubs and organizations.
I remember my father pulling me aside one day and talking to me about the responsibility of being a leader. He told me that each one of us is responsible for our own selves. He told me I must make up my own mind; make my own, decisions and be ready to live with the consequences. However, if you are a leader, you’re not only responsible for yourself you are also responsible for those you lead. This is a great trust and a great burden; one a person should never take advantage of for personal gain.
Jesus chose the twelve Apostles to be the first to witness the Reign of God. Upon their leadership the early church was built. The directive ‘if you want to be first, you must be last and the servant of all’ was meant for them and any who would follow in their footsteps. It is exactly the opposite kind of leadership exercised in the world. In Jesus’ directive no leader would ask anything of another they wouldn’t’ t do themselves. No leader would use force or violence either in chain of command or dictate of law to get something done. They would simply lead by example, not by command. Leadership by service not by the served. Aware of the great trust and burden of their calling, such leaders live their lives responsible for themselves first and foremost and then for all others. It is not an easy calling to live; yet when done well it is the strongest witness of Christ in the world today.
88 09 05
I’M FREE! I’M FREE! I ‘M FREE AT LAST: –
Monday, September 12th I was released from Marion Prison Camp. Many people were involved in getting me an early release and I want to thank each and every one! It began when Joyce Olen was released from the Federal Prison in Lexington, Kentucky, at the end of August. A number of people with an attorney started to complain about the unfairness of her early release. While Kevin McGuire,
Rich Koeppen and myself remained in prison. Joyce’s prison is in the Eastern Region of the federal system. They decided to tabulate her sentence under the old guidelines, which gave her six weeks of good time. The North Central Region in which Kevin, Rich and l were held decided to tabulate our sentences under the new Federal sentencing guidelines which did away with all good time for sentences of a year or less.
The day Joyce was freed Kevin McGuire started a water fast demanding fair treatment be given to the three of us who remained imprisoned. Sometime last week the authorities at the Chicago prison where Kevin was being held turned off the water in his cell. They said they wanted to monitor his water intake. In essence Kevin would have to beg for the water he needed. Kevin refused to beg and started to dehydrate very quickly. By Friday afternoon he was in need of medical attention. As this was happening pressure was brought to bear on the prison authorities by Kevin’s friends and the press to do something. The Warden in Chicago had had enough and was looking for a way to get rid of Kevin. Friends in Omaha got Judge Kopf to call the prison in Chicago to release Kevin immediately. The Warden welcomed the call and freed Kevin that afternoon. Kopf also signed an immediate release form for me on Friday that reached Marion Monday morning.
“HAIL MARY: TICKET TO FREEDOM”: I took a taxi to the Marion Airport from the Prison. A plane ticket was waiting for me at the airport purchased by friends in Logan. Since I did not have a proper I.D. I picked up my ticket with the code words “HAILMARY.” Kathryn Epperson and Karl Fisher from the St. Anthony’ s Shelter in Omaha met me at the airport in Kansas City. We stopped at the Red Lobster Restaurant in St. Joseph, Missouri, for my first meal out. I had lobster, of course.
FREE RICH KOEPPEN: As I write Rich Koeppen remains imprisoned in Duluth, Minnesota. Many of you would remember Rich because he has been here to share about the ministry at St. Anthony’ s Shelter in Omaha. Judge Peck sentenced Rich. We are pleading with Judge Peck to do the right thing and sign the necessary papers to get Rich released immediately. What we need to remind ourselves is that such things happen all the time in the Federal Prison system. People are unfairly treated routinely. The only difference is we have people on the outside who are willing to go to bat for us. My motto is never go to jail alone. Make sure someone on the outside is watching out for you because you never know what will happen to you once you are locked away.
It is great to be home! I feel like there are a hundred people I want to see and a thousand things I want to do all at the same time. Please give me a little time to get back into the groove before life returns to normal, whatever that means.