Order of Malta

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Being the Pencil to the Hand of God

05/25/2021 

Deacon Clifford Calanni Brings Bibles and Prayer Books to the Incarcerated

You’ve heard the expression, “Mortals plan; God laughs”?

Twenty years ago, Clifford C. Calanni had been invited by a friend to attend a Residents Encounter Christ (REC) weekend retreat in New York. The retreat is for the incarcerated and focuses on forgiveness, the meaning of being Christian and how to act as a Christian. He attended out of respect for the person who had invited him; but, he had planned to stay just one day.

Apparently, the Holy Spirit had something else in mind. “It was like I was knocked off my horse, like Saul was,” he said. “That was it for me.” Ever since that REC retreat, he has been involved in Prison Ministry. “I realized that the men who were incarcerated had stories, that they were fathers and that they were uncles and brothers and sons.”

Today, Clifford is a deacon and a board-certified chaplain. He was ordained at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan in 2010. Deacon Clifford currently works at two NY State Correctional Facilities. One of the many services that he provides is sourcing Order of Malta Bibles and Prayer Books. However, finding donated Catholic Bibles wasn’t always easy. Most of the donations were the Protestant King James Bible. That is, until he ran into a classmate he’d been ordained with, Deacon Jack Shea, a member of the Order of Malta, American Association. Deacon Jack told him about the Order of Malta Bibles and Prayer Books Program and even went so far as to order the first case of books for him.

“They were an instant hit here at the prison,” Deacon Clifford said. While making his rounds, he would notice women reading their Bibles and often stop to answer questions. “For a lot of them, it’s the beginning of a relationship with God.”

Deacon Clifford doesn’t look at his service as anything extraordinary. He said he is reminded of Mother Theresa’s saying that we are just simple pencils and that it is the hand of God that is doing all the work. “If all it takes is for me to be present, to be a good listener, to try my best to answer the questions that they have, that’s making a difference.”

Order of Malta, American Association, U.S.A.

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