Larned prison names Deacon Gil Rael
‘Volunteer of the Year’
Deacon Gilbert Rael of Great Bend has been named by the Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility (LCMHF) as Volunteer of the Year for 2011.
Deacon Rael, who on May 9 will celebrate 30 years since his deaconal ordination, will be honored at a gathering in Topeka, the date of which has not yet been determined.
“I was quite pleased and surprised,” said Deacon Rael, who began working as a deacon at the LCMHF soon after he and his wife, Jo, moved here from Colorado a few years ago. After his ordination, while working as a parole officer in Colorado, Deacon Gil began jail ministry and six years later he became a Catholic Chaplain for the Adams County Sheriff’s Department north of Denver, where he served as chaplain for 22 years.
With his history in law enforcement, Deacon Gil found it a natural fit to serve at the prison in Larned. The facility is composed of the main prison and the West Unit. He admits that work in the main, mental facility can be more of a challenge than the West Unit which houses the higher functioning inmates. Although the Larned State Hospital where Deacon Rael also ministers is located on the same grounds as the prison, both are different entities requiring different identification badges.
Each Tuesday he provides communion services at the correctional mental health facility and the State Hospital, and every Saturday he provides his services at the West Unit. In a Letter to the Editor printed in the March 13 issue of the SKR, inmates at the correctional facility wrote, “He never shows any form of doubt when speaking about the Gospel. He is always aware that every word that he speaks is important to the lives of the men around him. You see, Gil celebrates Catholic Eucharistic worship services here at the Larned Correctional Facility. Every Saturday morning he comes to be with us. We are men who are in need of spiritual assistance.”
When asked what rewards he’s received from his work at the facility, he replied, “It’s the same that I’ve experienced my whole life in working with parolees, the people who are most difficult because of prior probation failure and recidivism: it’s the knowledge that I’ve worked successfully through a few. They have no way out except for someone who has hope for them.”
Deacon Rael wished to acknowledge Sister Virginia Pearl, CSJ, whom he looks to as a supervisor, and who has been “extremely helpful. She’s a nun who has great rapport with inmates and patients.” He also is grateful to Father Bernard Felix, who also ministers with Mass at both facilities. The inmates honored Father Bernard with a letter in the last issue of the SKR.
“The residents in this facility are all from different backgrounds,” they wrote of Deacon Rael, “yet Gil overlooks all of our faults and differences. Gil only looks for the good in every person, and treats each like family.
“We here at Larned will always love and respect Gil as our brother in Christ. We will always be grateful to God for having sent Gil to lead us down the path to ‘Him’. We pray that God will bless Gill with a long and healthy life.”