Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Marshall Pickard

10/13/2010 (4 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

He needs the help of faithful Catholics and other concerned individuals to help bring his appeal to a happy conclusion

Russell Ford has won more converts to the Catholic faith than most of us could ever imagine. He has helped convert more than 100 persons and has served as godfather for 77 of them. He has written a Catholic catechism and founded a catechetical apostolate that have reached thousands more, all from within an Alabama penitentiary. New evidence proves he is innocent.

Russell Ford. His case will soon be heard in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals; if necessary, the case will be petitioned before the United States Supreme Court. If the Court of Appeals rules in his favor, Ford will be exonerated and set free.

Russell Ford. His case will soon be heard in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals; if necessary, the case will be petitioned before the United States Supreme Court. If the Court of Appeals rules in his favor, Ford will be exonerated and set free.

Highlights

By Marshall Pickard

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

10/13/2010 (4 years ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Russford, prisonministry, criminal, catechetics, jail, courts


MONTGOMERY, AL (Catholic Online) - Russell Ford has won more converts to the Catholic faith than most of us could ever imagine. By his own count, he has helped convert more than 100 persons and has served as godfather for 77 of them. He has also written a Catholic catechism and founded a catechetical apostolate that have reached thousands more.

While those are impressive figures, there is something about Ford that is even more remarkable: He has done all of this from within the confines of an Alabama penitentiary.

Now, after serving 23 years of his 25-year sentence, Ford presently is appealing his conviction because new evidence proves he is innocent of the crime for which he was convicted - but he needs the help of faithful Catholics and other concerned individuals to help bring his appeal to a happy conclusion.

Although innocent of the crime, Ford admits that he was not a good man when he arrested, convicted, and locked away in prison back in 1987. He was a self-proclaimed atheist who lived the wild life to the fullest and was not a particularly nice guy to be around. That all changed about a year after his incarceration, when a fellow prisoner, himself a new convert, began speaking to Ford about the Catholic faith and earned his rapt attention. He became an eager student of Church doctrine and avidly learned all he could about his newfound faith.

Ford was baptized in 1989, but even before that the prison's priest-chaplain gave him a catechism and instructed him to teach it to other inmates. He resisted at first, but before long he was conducting catechism classes of his own and gaining new souls for Christ and his Church.

From that initial effort, Ford founded and developed First-Century Christian Ministries (FCCM), an outreach to inmates in his own penitentiary and other prisons across the nation. His first convert was his cellmate; many more were to follow. He also wrote articles and was published widely in Catholic journals such as This Rock and the National Catholic Register. His book, "The Missionary's Catechism," is beloved by many and is still in print.

Criminals can be a tough audience, so Ford had to learn sound apologetics methods in order to penetrate the exterior resistance of inmates and reach their hearts and souls. Prison officials have often made the apostolate more difficult for Ford by confiscating his Bibles and catechetical materials and ordering him not to teach the faith. Despite being described as a model prisoner, he was denied parole in 1995 after his priest-chaplain honored the seal of confession and refused to divulge to the parole board what Ford had said to him in the Sacrament of Penance.

Two years ago, Ford began a quest for exoneration based on new evidence that has come to light. His appeal is complicated by the fact that Alabama's justice system destroyed all DNA evidence from the trial, but it appears his case is progressing favorably. Supported by advocates led by Catholic laity, Ford and his legal team have been negotiating the daunting technical hurdles and challenges of the legal system and remedies that he has to navigate and overcome. He has just been granted an extraordinary ruling in federal court granting him a "certificate of appealability" acknowledging that he has presented substantial evidence that his constitutional rights were violated with respect to his claims related to newly discovered evidence and alleged destruction of evidence.

His case will soon be heard in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals; if necessary, the case will be petitioned before the United States Supreme Court. If the Court of Appeals rules in his favor, Ford will be exonerated and set free.

The financial cost of such appeals is very high, often reaching into six figures. Ford presently is receiving pro-bono legal representation, but there are heavy and essential costs involving court fees, procurement of evidence, and other necessities for mounting a credible appeal. He has no money for such expenses, but his close and longtime Catholic friends have established a legal fund to provide these costs. He desperately needs more concerned people to render monetary assistance so that he may present his case to the courts and win his vindication and freedom.

Ford's friends and supporters already include many prominent Catholic men and women. Donna Steichen, author of "Ungodly Rage," learned of Ford's story and included him in her newly published collection of conversion stories titled "Chosen: How Christ Send Twenty-Three Surprised Converts to Replant His Vineyard" (Ignatius Press, 2009).

"No one acquainted with [Ford's] record could fail to be astonished by what he has achieved, 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. 

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2015
Universal:
That political responsibility may be lived at all levels as a high form of charity.
Evangelization: That, amid social inequalities, Latin American Christians may bear witness to love for the poor and contribute to a more fraternal society.



Comments


More U.S.

Mexican drug cartels fueling U.S. heroin epidemic Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The insidious Mexican drug cartels are having a massively detrimental effect on U.S. communities. The cartels have flooded the cities and suburbs with far more potent, less expensive heroin, sending overdose deaths skyrocketing. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading


African-American churches frequently targeted by arsonists Watch

Image of African American churches are targeted by arsons more than any other houses of worship. The ATF's results have been reported to a national database of church fires.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

There have been 29 cases of churches being torched by arsonists in the United States this year alone. Frequently, African-American churches are set alight by arsonists because of racism, religious intolerance, or vandalism. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "Anytime ... continue reading


Planned Parenthood threatened to be exposed with EIGHT MORE undercover videos Watch

Image of

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The series of unfortunate events will keep on rolling for Planned Parenthood as the founder of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), David Daleiden, shared with conservative radio host Sean Hannity that there are eight more undercover videos that will reveal Planned ... continue reading


Remains of four early leaders of America uncovered in Jamestown with Catholic artifacts Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Under the floor of a Jamestown church, four body remains of the earliest English colonial leaders in America were unearthed. One was identified as Captain John Smith's rival, who researchers speculate to be part of a secret Catholic cell because of some artifacts ... continue reading


Planned Parenthood caught in FOURTH VIDEO showing the horrific practices of selling aborted baby organs

Image of Dr. Savita Ginde, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains' Vice President and Medical Director, standing in the harvesting lab.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Another new Planned Parenthood expose video has been released, making this the second video this week and the fourth revealing hidden camera video in total. The Center for Medical Progress claims to have hours upon hours of footage exposing Planned Parenthood of ... continue reading


AMC movie theaters issue warning to moviegoers urging them to stay vigilant during visit Watch

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A unusual video message is being played at AMC Theaters in Central Florida, urging the audience to keep their eyes open to any bad agendas and malicious or suspicious actions within the establishment. The short film came to be after violent incidents inside movie ... continue reading


A massive 30,000 more immigrants expected to arrive to U.S. before year's end Watch

Image of Illegal immigrants continues to cross the U.S. border.q

By Linky C. (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The number of illegal immigrant children and teens in the United States continues to increase. The United Nations and other humanitarian groups predict that a total of 30,000 more are expected to reach the U.S. before the year ends. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic ... continue reading


The youngest convicted murders released from jail after 15 years Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

At just 12 and 13-years-old, two siblings confessed to killing their father's girlfriend and both were charged with first-degree murder as adults, despite evidence they were sexually abused by a family member. Yesterday, the two first faced the world they once knew. ... continue reading


Satanic statue secretly unveiled in Detroit, drawing Christian protest Watch

Image of Satanists secretly unveiled a nine-foot, one-ton statue of Baphomet, the horned devil god of satanic practice in an undisclosed location in Detroit this past weekend.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Satanists secretly unveiled a nine-foot, one-ton statue of Baphomet, the horned devil god of satanic practice in an undisclosed location in Detroit this past weekend. This has spurred on heavy protest from the city's Christian community. Hundreds gathered at Detroit's ... continue reading


Will Pope Francis be warmly welcomed in the United States? Watch

Image of Pope Francis will be in the United States in September.

By Hannah Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis will visit the United States for the first time ever in his lifetime during September. However, amid the excitement, the American populace may have lost some warmth towards the pontiff, who they once believed revived the Catholic Church in the country. ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Leviticus 23:1, 4-11, 15-16, 27, 34-37
1 Yahweh spoke to Moses and said:4 "These ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 81:3-4, 5-6, 10-11
3 blow the trumpet for the new month, for the full ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:54-58
54 and, coming to his home town, he taught the people ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 31st, 2015 Image

St. Ignatius Loyola
July 31: St. Ignatius was born in the family castle in Guipzcoa, Spain, ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter