By Mike DeNardo

CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) –It was a rare Holy Thursday mass today, behind prison walls, at the Camden County Correctional Facility.

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Three dozen inmates were permitted to attend Holy Thursday mass in the seventh-floor gymnasium.  This only happens three times a year — around Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas — so it was a welcome opportunity for inmate Albert Hunt to be spiritually centered behind bars.

“It’s a blessing, due to the fact that we’re incarcerated and they allow us to come up and get the Word from an outside pastor,” he said afterward. “And also, it’s uplifting because a lot of people go through various things once in the jail, and it kind of cleanses you and gets a weight off your shoulders.”

The celebrant, Father Dennis Bajkowski, of Sacred Heart Church in Camden, used a basin of water and towels to wash the feet of the inmates attending — symbolizing Jesus’ washing the feet of his disciples before the Last Supper.

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After each washing, Father Bajkowski said to the inmate, “God loves you and so do we.”

Those were comforting words for inmate Jose Guadaloupe.

“At least you’re around people that don’t judge you — they just see you as a human being,” he said.

For Guadaloupe, it provided a shared experience with his family attending mass on the outside:

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“To get together with my family again, even though they’re not here — but it allowed me to be together at least in my spirit and in my soul.  I mean, through God it will allow me to be together with my mom.  So it’s a beautiful sensation.”