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ISSUE 115 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/8/2002

Father talks forgiveness

By Anonymous
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 8, 2002

Father Greg Skrypek, chaplain at the Minnesota Correctional Facilities in Stillwater, spoke during chapel Feb. 26 on the importance of teaching, learning, and forgiving.

Skrypek opened his address with a message from the Gospel of Matthew, emphasizing Jesus’ commitment to education. Jesus was the best kind of instructor because "he was willing to give up his life in order to teach," said Skrypek. He also highlighted Jesus’ ability to instruct through stories of love and understanding.

After 25 years of working in prisons, Skrypek has learned "to seek out the story, and let that story be transformed into grace."

Hearing the personal accounts of inmates without casting judgment has been a vital part of Skrypek’s job. While mistakes may be made, "It’s always better to err on the side of compassion," said Skrypek.

Skrypek expressed his pleasure to speak in chapel on the second Tuesday of Lent, but he came to St. Olaf for a different reason: "I’m here because of my friendship with [Associate Professor of English] Jim Heynen," said Skrypek.

Skrypek and Heynen have been friends for over ten years. They met through a group that hunts for mushrooms in the spring. In addition to his chapel talk, Skrypek spoke to a number of first-year students in Heynen’s General Education 111 class, "Writing to Change the World." Heynen invited Skrypek to speak to his students to give them a first-hand account for their assignment on problems in American prisons.

"This is the first time I've actually assigned this topic. I assigned it because incarceration rates have soared to over two million in this country and signal a host of problems that are invisible to most people," said Heynen. "Many of the problems related to crime and imprisonment are at the root of deep societal problems. Any person who wants to change the world necessarily must confront the problems of crime and imprisonment."

According to Heynen, students are enjoying the new insights their getting on this issue. Skrypek’s visit "made the problems seem very real, and also made the need for solutions seem urgent and possible," Heynen said.

Heynen said Skrypek’s gentle authority and personal involvement in correctional facilities opened students’ eyes and encouraged their efforts for change.

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