WASHINGTON, D.C. — If you’re looking to get into the Christmas spirit, a Jesuit chaplain serving in California’s San Quentin State Prison hopes you’ll click on Apple’s iTunes store to pick up a tune.
This year, the San Quentin Catholic Chapel Choir released four Christmastime tunes, available for purchase for 99 cents each on Apple’s music service. They can be found by searching for “Christmas at San Quentin by George T. Williams” and include “O Holy Night,” “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear,” and “What Child Is This?”
Jesuit Father George Williams promoted the music and the work of the choir in a December interview with KOIT radio in San Francisco.
“A lot of these guys wanna give back. They realize they’ve taken and it’s one way of giving society a gift, a way of asking for forgiveness and healing,” said Williams, chaplain at San Quentin, during the interview aired in mid-December.
“I think celebrating Christmas is kind of a mixed blessing in prison,” he said in the radio interview. “It’s difficult in prison because you’re away from family and loved ones but at the same time, everything is stripped away. You get what Christmas is really all about and I hope that comes around in the beauty of the songs.”
Williams had previously worked as a chaplain at a state prison in Boston.
“I’ve always loved the work,” he said during the radio interview. “The Jesuits, we were founded to go the margins, where the church wasn’t being served. So, the prisons are definitely the margins in our society. I’ve always found it a beautiful experience of finding God’s presence and grace in the prisons.”
He said he hopes that through the choir’s music, people can recognize that prisoners, “they’re not their crime, they’re not what we label them as. They’re people on a journey. What I find is a blessing of walking with them in the journey.”