Free Russ Ford: Catholic Apostle Behind Bars Seeks Help Overturning Conviction
both in his own education and development, and in his remarkable contribution to the common good," Steichen said in support of his appeal. "There can be no question that he has brought the light of Christ into the brutal darkness of prison, and led countless fellow prisoners into new lives. It seems unarguable that he deserves freedom in which to continue his work."
Dr. Joseph Strada is a former aeronautical engineer who first learned of Ford's story in a 1992 issue of This Rock magazine. Not long after their initial contact via mail, Ford asked Strada to serve as president of the prison apostolate he had founded, First-Century Christian Ministries (FCCM), a role he continues to fill today. He also testified on behalf of Ford at a parole board hearing.
Ford's conversion story in This Rock "was a powerful account that affected me deeply," Strada said. "Here was a man in a hostile, anti Catholic, prison environment who was winning more converts to the Holy Faith than I could hope to do in the free world."
Strada said he was "stunned" when the parole board's chairperson demanded that the prison priest-chaplain divulge details of Ford's sacramental confessions. He refused on the basis of the seal of confession, and as a result the chairperson blocked Ford's chance of parole.
"And now, 21 years after Russell's conversion, I continue to receive letters, emails and phone calls from those who have listened to his story or read one his many articles in Catholic periodicals," he said. Through the organization founded by Ford behind bars, Catholic literature and catechetical materials are provided to dozens of prisons across the nation, and Catholic volunteers live the spiritual works of mercy by visiting prisoners and corresponding with them.
Boston College philosophy professor Peter Kreeft has corresponded with Ford and has read some of what he has written. "Russell Ford, in his writings, both private letters to me and public prison catechetical publications, has struck me as a genuinely ethical and honest person, psychologically mature [and] accepting justice and legal authority without resentment," Kreeft said, adding that he believes Ford is "psychologically worthy" of release from prison.
William E. May, professor of theology at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies in Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C., said he has known Ford for more than 20 years. They first met when Ford was writing his book,"The Missionary's Catechism" and contacted May to get clarification on some questions of faith and morals. The book developed from the classes on Catholicism that Ford was offering his fellow inmates and has become a modern classic of apologetics.
May continued to advise Ford from time to time, answering difficult moral questions raised by inmates and lending support to the prison apostolate wherever possible. He said he was always impressed with the volume of reading in sound Catholic theology that Ford had accomplished while in prison.
May is even more impressed with Ford's character.
"Several times in the past two decades, Russ appealed for parole, and I sent letters on his behalf to the parole boards concerned," said May. "With others, I was appalled when those boards did not parole Russ. But I was even more impressed by his reaction. He was never bitter, never angry at the board, never angry that God allowed him to continue bearing his cross. He was a model Christian, a man who fully believed in Christ, who daily would take up his cross and offer any suffering it caused him to God.
"Like Christ, he forgave his enemies and prayed for them. He continues to do so," he added. "With many, many others I hope that the court of appeals will at long last recognize that this courageous man must be set free of the prison to which he was sentenced many years ago."
Fully aware of the current difficult economic times, Russ' advocates and friends are seeking financial contributions to his legal fund. Your monetary gifts will be used solely for the necessary expenses of his appeal. If the appeal is ultimately successful, donors will be blessed in knowing that their contributions helped exonerate and emancipate an innocent man, a man who is on fire with the Catholic faith and is determined to invite as many people as possible, both within and outside prison walls, to embrace the Catholic Church.
Tax-deductible contributions can be made payable to First Century Christian Ministries, Inc., P.O. Box 70697, Montgomery, AL 36107. Please write "Ford Legal Fund" in the memo portion of your check. Above all, please keep Russell Ford and his appeal for release in your daily prayers and intercessions.
Direct questions to Marshall Pickard at (334) 514-1109. Russ Ford's book, "The Missionary's Catechism," can be ordered at Amazon.com or through your local bookstore.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Russford, prisonministry, criminal, catechetics, jail, courts
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