'Welcome to Rikers Island, Mother Teresa!'
NYC Above is an image of the headline, photo, and text of the October 1985 Fairfield County Catholic story by forner NYC Correction Department chaplain Fr. Charles Repole about his association with the Missionaries of Charity and his friendship with its founder, Mother Teresa.

At the conclusion of the requiem mass for former NYC DOC chaplain Father Charles Repole -- concelebrated Oct. 21, 2011 at the Monastery Church of the Sacred Heart, Yonkers by his brother Capuchin Franciscan Friars of the Province of St. Mary --
Niece Maryanne Turvin of Coram and her husband, Jack, in the funeral procession walk from the church to nearby burial ground.
one of his 11 nieces, Maryanne Turvin, gave expression to Repole family sentiments and memories.

One of the reminisces about "Uncle Danny" (his name within the family) that Mrs. Turvin recounted in her eulogy concerned his friendship with Mother Teresa who founded the Missionaries of Charity, two of whose nuns were in attendance at his requiem mass:

"He told me he wanted to write a story about the day he 'kidnapped' Mother Teresa.

"Just as any good friend would, she went with him as they visited relatives in his usual adventurous way.

"After she died, he prayed to her religiously.

"One of her sisters told me this morning that he died the day before the anniversary of Mother Teresa's Beautification as a saint.

"A friend of mine suggested, she came to 'kidnap' him this time."

In response to the CorrectionHistory.Org webmaster's request, Maryanne -- upon returning home on Long Island -- searched through her collection of "Uncle Danny" memorabilia and snail-mailed to our web site a copy of the story that he did write about his association with the Missionaries of Charity and his friendship with the order's initiator.

Nuns from Rose Hill in Westchester and Mother Teresa's mission in the Bronx, to both of which Fr. Repole had rendered chaplaincy service, walk in his funeral procession to the monastery's graveyard.

Click image above to access the Fr. Repole funeral web page featuring the photo from which the is was derived. The page thus accessed is one of 16 featuing photos of his funeral. Use browser's "back" button to return.

The New York Correction History Society (NYCHS) appreciates Mrs. Turvin looking for the article and sharing it with us.

The story written by Fr. Repole was originally printed on Page 5 of the October 1985 issue of the Fairfield County Catholic and is reproduced here with permission generously granted by that Connecticut diocesan newspaper.

After serving as a Correction Department chaplain at the women's jail from 1966 to 1979, first in Greenwich Village and later on Rikers Island, "Fr. Charlie" (as his colleagues often called him) began a preaching ministry to Hispanic people and took up residence at Sacred Heart Friary in Yonkers.

From 1984 to 1995, he was based in the Bridgeport Diocese and then returned to Yonkers.

Throughout his preaching ministry, he assisted at local parishes, all the while maintaining close ties with his Correction friends and associates, especially the DOC-affiliated Columbian Association with which he served as chaplain emeritus.

The Fairfield County Catholic headline and story text read:

I was the Catholic chaplain at the House of Detention for Women in New York City for 14 years. For many years this prison was situated in Greenwich Village and later relocated in a new facility built on Rikers Island, not far from LaGuardia Airport.

Sister Andrea Bonk, the first non-Indian to join the Missionaries of Charity, had been a medical doctor in her native county, Germany. She worked with Mother Teresa many years before heading up the Bronx convent. She and another sister from it regularly assisted Fr. Repole with his chaplaincy duties on Rikers Island.

Click image above to access web page of photos by Verity Worthington on http://www.motherteresa.org/ The above image is derived from one of them. Use browser's "back" button to return.

This was a full-time position, filled at times with many remarkable and tense experiences. The majority of women incarcerated were prostitutes and drug users or dealers.

One day I received a phone call from Sister Andrea, superior of the Missionaries of Charity, the religious congregation founded by the world-known Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The congregation’s first house founded in the United States was in the South Bronx, New York, in a section known as Fort Apache.

Sister Andrea told me that her sisters wanted to minister in the prison apostolate and asked whether I would accept their assistance. I realized that they were a gift from God.

I had been alone in my work for quite a while until some law volunteers offered their assistance, but I had no religious assisting me on a permanent basis. I was elated and privileged to have these sisters as my co-workers. It indeed was the Hand of God showing His providential care for the women in prison.

Every Saturday, Sister Andrea, who was a medical doctor in Germany before she entered the convent, came with another sister. They prepared the prisoners for confession and first holy communion, taught Christian doctrine, counseled, comforted, and showed that someone cared for them.

The sisters were always faithful. Rain or shine, snow or ice, they always came.

The above compressed image of a light moment between Mother Teresa and Fr. Repole is derived from a photo in an album posted on Flickr by the Capuchin Franciscans of the Province of St. Mary. Clicking image accesses a larger, uncompressed view on Flickr. Use browser's "back" button to return to page.
One Saturday, they didn’t arrive at the usual hour. I was concerned about them since it was getting late. I telephone the convent and I was told the sisters had left for the prison some time before I called.

I drove out to the main building of the prison compound (there are about six prisons on the island with about 8,000 prisoners) and asked the correctional officers at the main gate if they had seen the sisters. I was told that no sisters had arrived as yet.

I lingered at the main gate for a while, quite apprehensive as to what could have happened to them. All of a sudden, I observed a police car approaching the main building. It stopped and who walks out but Sister Andrea and her companion sister. I asked what had happened. Here was the story:

As they were coming to the prison, they had an accident with their panel truck (a gift of the Kennedy family). The panel truck turned over with the two sisters inside. After all the action was over -- towing the panel truck away, taking of information by police, resuming of traffic, dispersal of the crowd -- the sisters asked the police to take them to Rikers Island, and here they were.

The above is a graphic pen sketch of an archived Stamford Advocate Aug. 16, 1986 photo of Fr. Roderick Brennan in front of Our Lady of Montserrat Church later torn down to make room for a housing complex. He joined Fr. Repole on the summer-of-1985 trip with Mother Teresa. The longtime missionary in Nicaragua and Honduras died at St. Luke's Hospital in Newburgh, N.Y., Oct. 1, 2000, at age 80.

Click image above to access archived the Stamford Advocate Aug. 16, 1986 photo.
Use browser's "back" button to return.

I insisted that they see a doctor, but Sister Andrea said it wasn’t necessary. I couldn’t convince them to return to the convent; instead , they went about their work with the prisoners. What dedication!

Indeed, I was blessed (as was the prison also) by the presence of these true disciples of Christ.

A real spiritual friendship grew between us, and I offered my service to them in case they ever needed help.

I said Mass for them in their convent from time to time, and also obtained sacred vessels and vestments for them.

One of the blessings for me and the prisoners was Mother Teresa’s visit one Saturday with the other sisters.

What a great day that was! What joy filled the hearts of the prisoners and the staff!

My friendship with Mother Teresa began with that visit. I was privileged to have several private talks and visits with her and drove her on a number of occasions to visit several convents.

My latest visit with her was last summer around the time she was scheduled to come to Connecticut to deliver a talk.

I contacted her and asked to visit with her.

Former Connecticut State Representative Christel H. Truglia, above, contacted by this web site, confirmed Fr. Repole's 1985 published assessment that the summer get-together with Sister Teresa had been a beautiful experience. At the time, Christel's husband, Anthony, was a State Senator. He died in a 1987 auto accident. She was elected State Representative in 1988 and retired after two decades in that House.
I invited Father Roderick Brennan, O.F. M. Cap/, pastor of Our Lady of Montserrat Parish in Stamford, State Senator and Mrs. Anthony Truglia, and Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Kazanski (he is the Senator’s press agent) to accompany me. What a beautiful visit we had!

We were elated to have been given the privilege of a private visit. Indeed, Mother Teresa is a charismatic person, a true imitator of Christ’s love for the poor, the abandoned, the forgotten, the orphaned, the dying.

Anyone who speaks to her, listens to her, is awed, enchanted and impressed by this servant of God.

Her life can be gauged by words she wrote to me some years ago.

“Dear Fr. Charles:
“Let Jesus use you without consulting you.
“Pray for me that I keep on saying yes to Jesus.

“Yours in Jesus,
“Mother Teresa.”

* * * * * * * * *

-- To 16 'Farewell, Fr. Charlie' photos. --

-- To web version of 16-image NY Correction History Facebook photo album 2 Rikers Friars: Repole & MacDonald. --

-- To Oct. 12, 2011 Salute to Father Charles Repole --

-- To NYCHS home page --

-- To NYC DOC History Menu --