Order of Malta


But for the Grace of God!


Discovering Our Shared Humanity in a Long Island, NY Jail

Raymond Nardo, KM, recognizes that not everyone understands why people would choose to attend Mass along with inmates in jail. “This is a population you’re conditioned to wag your finger at, to say they made bad choices, they need punishment,” he said. “But then when you get in there, you think, there but for the grace of God go I.”

Invested in the Order of Malta in 2010, Ray, KM, and his wife, Kim, DM, are Area Co-Chairs of the Nassau/Suffolk New York Area. He said he was drawn to the Order for its commitment to service and spirituality. Ray’s commitment to service, despite some COVID restrictions, takes place in the Nassau County Correctional Center, where he and other members of the Order participate in prison ministry. That includes attending one of the four Masses held on Saturday mornings for the men and women of the facility, one of which is in Spanish. They assist clergy in preparing the altar and worship space as well as putting everything away after Mass. There is also time for conversation and fellowship with inmates.

“The inmates are not that different from you, from me, from anyone else,” Ray said. Acknowledging that most people get their impressions of life in a prison or jail from television, he said it’s not like that at all. “One thing that really surprised me was the cordial and beneficial relationship between the guards and the prisoners.”

Asked how he sees the Holy Spirit at work when they gather for Mass, Ray responded, “For one, it’s just the fact that they’re there.” Not only are they at Mass, but they are fully participating, listening to the Word of God, praying together, receiving Holy Communion, and volunteering to proclaim the readings. “We can only hope that the Holy Spirit will have some positive influence on them, during that time and when they get out.”

Ray knows the Holy Spirit moves in his own heart when he is with the inmates. “It’s very spiritual, and it’s very intense,” he said. Contrasting his interaction with how people not involved in prison ministry might view this population, he added, “Being with them at Mass, you can communicate with them, you can respect them and they can respect you. It’s a moving experience.”

If you would like to learn more about the American Association’s Prison Ministry programs, please email Craig Gibson, Chair of the Prison Ministry Committee at cbgibson@comcast.net.



Order of Malta

American Association, U.S.A
St. Patrick’s Cathedral Parish House
14 E 51st Street
New York, NY 10022
(212) 371-1522