Cardinal Timothy Dolan visits inmates at Rikers for Ash Wednesday

RIKERS ISLAND -- Cardinal Timothy Dolan was on Rikers Island today for an Ash Wednesday Mass with female inmates.

“There’s really not much to look for when you’re in jail, and having God come back into your life when you’re here, is something that happens to a lot of women," said 53-year old Mary Stiles, who's doing time for a drug charge.

The mother of three was among dozens of female inmates who prayed, sang hymns and listened to religious readings from the bible at the mass.

After the spiritual service, each woman met with Cardinal Dolan and received ashes from him.

“We have to think about these young women who are here, yeah they made a mistake but boy they have a life ahead of them and it's time for renewal so they could return us,” Cardinal Dolan said.

“I always wanted to meet him up close and personal, it was amazing and a blessing," Stiles said.

Department of Correction staff and officers took part too.

“It was a blessing to start lent with him here," said Officer Yvette Hamilton, who is the President of Correction Officer’s for Christ.

According to DOC's head chaplain, it's important to have religious services and programs for people in custody.

“I think it makes people feel strong and connected and be able to see themselves in a spiritual light," said Chaplain Justin VonBujdoss.

Cardinal Dolan says it was important for him to be at Rikers too, on the first day of Lent.

“Jesus said you’re not going to get to heaven unless you feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome strangers, gave drink to the thirsty, visit those in prison, and help those who are sick.”

The last time Cardinal Dolan was on Rikers Island was for a Christmas Mass back in 2013.

He says this Ash Wednesday was the perfect time to go back and pray with and for the inmates.

The Department of Correction plans on having more prayer services on the island - not just for inmates who are Catholic, but for those of all faiths.

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