SANTA ROSA, N.M. (AP) -- A former principal serving a life sentence for killing his school superintendent has taken his vows to join the priesthood of a liberal Catholic church.
Osman Charles Fero, 60, was ordained a priest of the Catholic Apostolic Church of Antioch, which is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. The ceremony was performed Tuesday at a chapel in the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility, where Fero is serving his sentence.
"Every ordination is special for a priest, but to do this here and under these conditions -- him being in prison -- is special," Archbishop Richard Gundrey said before the ceremony.
Gundrey, whose diocese covers much of the Southwest, said he had no doubts about ordaining Fero and encouraging his ministry behind bars.
Fero, who is married, joins 68 other clergy ordained by the Catholic Apostolic Church of Antioch nationwide -- although he is the only one is prison.
Fero will conduct masses and baptisms, distribute communion, hear confession and provide informal spiritual counseling.
Fero was ordained a deacon in August 2001, after completing seminary studies through correspondence courses. He has since been assisting the Rev. Dennis Bryan, the prison chaplain, with communion and other services.
Deputy Warden Tim Hatch said the prison tries to provide all the needed religious and mental health services to the inmates, but that model inmates like Fero also have an impact.
"It's good to have mentors out there -- inmates that other inmates can look to," he said.
Fero is confident his becoming a priest will help others.
"If it can happen in prison and men can be forgiven and be loved and change, then there is no reason the rest of society can't love and be changed," Fero said.
In 1985, Fero, a well-liked high school principal, shot his superintendent, Paul Hanson, at a job evaluation during which he was asked to resign. A jury sentenced him to life imprisonment.
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