Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"Camerado, I Give You My Hand" Book Review

“Camerado, I Give You My Hand" by Maura Poston Zagrans, is an inspiring example of a man whose life was a series of callings. Father Dave’s response to those callings not only served others, but made a difference and inspired others to serve too.

I am not one who generally reads biographies, but I was intrigued by Father Dave. I wanted to know what leads a man to become a Catholic priest at an age when priests typically retire.

The book is more than a biography of an extraordinary individual, and Father Dave, is extraordinary. It is also a history lesson on civil rights and social justice and a reminder of what the law is meant to do. Father Dave approached his teaching, his service and his profession from the belief that “law is a noble profession, here to resolve, not create conflict" (pg. 97). Father Dave inspired Notre Dame Law School while serving the oppressed and homeless.

Father Dave’s story demonstrates what it means to answer God’s call so serve his people. Working in a homeless shelter, serving meals was not enough for this South Bend, Indiana lawyer, professor and family man. He envisioned a place where the homeless could receive not only a meal and a bed for the night, but help in breaking the cycle of homelessness. This vision was realized in the founding of the Center for Homeless in South Bend, Indiana.

Not satisfied with serving the homeless, Father Dave began serving the prison population and in so doing, earned the respect and admiration of hardened criminals. Father Dave, did not see these men as a prison population, instead he saw them as individuals who were prisoners. His approach allowed him to see these men on a deeper and spiritual level.

The Ms. Zagrans also met with and interviewed many of the people Father Dave helped and shared their stories in the book. The voices of some of the prisoners influenced by Father Dave will touch you and inspire you. You will see how any one of us could have, given the right set of circumstances, ended up in a prison too.

His work in the prison system inspired Father Dave to write a “Crime Peace Plan” to address the many flaws in the criminal justice system. Given his record of service and his experience working with a prison population, and in light of the overpopulation of prisons and jails, we would do well as a society to heed his advice.

Father Dave has done more in one life than would have ever been expected. "After reaching some pinnacle of achievement, Dave would be filled with a sense of restlessness and would pick up the banner of a new cause" (page 6). Most of us when we get restless, eat out of boredom, or shop or just sit in front of the TV, clicking through the channels, trying to figure out what to do. Instead Father Dave became a priest at 71 years of age, but was a servant of God long before he was ordained.

He developed the Crime peace plan to “save money, restore lives, and rescue the criminal justice system by turning it ‘home’ to its original purpose, which is not to punish but to heal” (page xiii).

A wonderful, well-written book, I can’t recommend it enough. Ms. Zagran shares Father Dave’s story and educates the readers on the deeper issues of homelessness and prisons in a positive and hopeful manner without watering the issues down. I especially enjoyed reading the stories and poems by some of the prisoners impacted by Father Dave’s ministry. So often when we read about people sentenced to prison, we think of them as criminals who deserve the punishment and stop seeing them as people who have their own stories. They might deserve the punishment but that does not stop making them human.
Want to be inspired in your own life and in serving others? Then read “Camerado, I Give You My Hand by Maura Poston Zagrans.”