A Tribute to Bishop Frank Costantino
It is still hard for me to realize
Bishop Frank Costantino
is no longer here with us. I wasn't very close personally with him though we met numerous times.
However, he was the first positive Christian role model I ever had and I
always felt a special bond with him.
I remember standing in a
Christian book store over 29 years ago searching out books to help me figure out what happened to me after I accepted Jesus Christ into my life as my Lord and Savior. I was "born again" but didn't understand what that meant. All I knew
was that I was one way one day and completely turned around... facing the opposite way the next day.
Bishop Frank Costantino -
author - "Holes in Time:
Autobiography of a Gangster"
"What happened to
me?" I screamed at the book store clerk. "I use to crave drugs
and alcohol. I am facing time in prison. I need help. For some
reason my life is changed and I just don't know why or how or what or...
or... or. I just don't understand." The surprised clerk
didn't quite know how to answer me.
"God has changed you,
brother." That was about all he could give me. "But I need more!"
I cried. "Is there a book I can read to help explain what
happened to me?" So he reached under the counter and pulled out a book entitled:
Time: The Autobiography Of A Gangster." The author was Frank Costantino. "Here," the clerk
said. "Read this. It is all about a guy who sounds similar to you. The same thing happened to him and he wrote this book
about it." That was my very first contact with Frank Costantino.
And I thank God it wasn't the last.
I read "Holes in
Time" so fast I think it took all of 30 minutes to get through it. That
was how hungry and thirsty I was for answers. I could relate to what Frank was saying. He spoke my kind of language. The story wasn't about religion... but about
life! And that is what I needed to hear at that point in my conversion to
Christianity. I didn't need to hear it from a priest or minister... though Frank actually was both.
I just didn't know that at the time. He didn't sound like all the ones I had met in my past.
Frank never lost his "convict" roots. He stayed close to
He never tried to hid the fact that "once I was lost but now I am found." He was bad
to the bone at one time, but through Jesus he was a changed man... a new man!
And he knew that fact way down deep in his soul and wasn't afraid to
tell anyone about it.
Bishop Frank Costantino -
founder - Coalition of Prison Evangelists (COPE)
- Photo by Serge
We will never forget Bishop Frank. He touched so many lives while he walked this earth that I am sure he will be surprised when he sees all of us up in heaven with him someday. He ministered to those out of where he came from. And that says it
all! He was and still is an inspiration to any prison inmate or substance abuser who ever
turns to Jesus for help.
Frank owed his life to God... and the wonderful thing about it is...
he knew it! He was thankful and happy to help anyone who
needed to get from where he once was.
Frank Costantino and
Marty Angelo - 1988 - Lake Arrowhead, CA
I am so thankful our paths crossed
years ago in that small Christian book store in Buffalo, New York. I
knew I met my match... to say the least. And I am sure there are
many out there today who can say the same thing about Frank. We can only
hope we can fill just one quarter of Frank's shoes. I pray his mantle falls on all of us in a mighty way and we can pick up what Frank started and... "go for
One thing that stands out clear in my mind that
Bishop Frank told me along the way and that was: "Be real, Marty." Thanks Frank. I will
forever be indebted to you for being that to me.
Bishop Frank Costantino
(12/01/1939 - 04/02/2006 ) Photo by Serge Taran
Obituary - published in the Orlando Sentinel on 4/4/2006.
Bishop, Charismatic Episcopal Church
Founder, Christian Prison Ministries & Bridges of America, Inc.
Dies at age 66 -
December 1, 1939 - April 2, 2006.
COSTANTINO, BISHOP FRANK JOSEPH, December 1, 1939 - April 2, 2006. Frank Joseph Costantino was born in Boston, Massachusetts to Frank and Enita Costantino on December 1, 1939. Frank was the middle child of three children. On December 7, 1962 Frank married Cheryl "Bunny" Avedisian, who was from Whitinsville, Massachusetts. During their 43-year marriage and love affair, they had six children, four daughters and two sons, and were blessed with twelve grandchildren. Bishop Frank, as he liked to be called, was a former inmate turned inspired visionary and tireless soldier of God. He was called to the prison ministry shortly after he accepted Christ as his Savior on October 21, 1969, in Belle Glade Prison while serving a 22 1/2- year prison sentence.
Upon his release from prison in 1972, Frank experienced the difficulties an ex-offender faces in reentering the society he has offended. The odyssey and experiences of those years laid the groundwork for an impassioned life that was dedicated to helping thousands of substance abusers, both in and out of prison, to conquer their addictions and become new persons with changed lifestyles and brighter futures. God blessed Bishop Frank with a long and distinguished career of service to his fellow man. In 1972, he formed two organizations,
Christian Prison Ministries and
America. His accomplishments during the ensuing years were numerous. As
President and Chief Executive Officer of Bridges of America, he provided the leadership that resulted in establishing in- prison substance abuse treatment programs, community- based residential drug treatment centers, work release programs, and aftercare transitional living programs all across the State of Florida and beyond.
Additionally, Bishop Frank was President of the Coalition of Prison
Evangelists, a worldwide organization that consists of 550 ministry members and President of Christian Prison Ministries with offices in the United States, England, Scotland, Estonia, Egypt, Uganda, Holland, and Switzerland.
Bishop Frank's dedication and expertise did not go unnoticed as was attested to by the recognition he received over the years. Frank had the honor of serving on Governor Ruben Askew's Advisory Council for the Department of Corrections from 1974 to 1978 and the distinction of serving with Governor Bob Graham on the Governor's Executive Review Committee in 1978, and Governor's Advisory Committee from 1979 to 1986.
In 1980, Frank received a full pardon from the State of Florida. In acknowledgement of his many accomplishments and good works, Bishop Frank received numerous awards including a Resolution by Florida Governor Bob Graham for the outstanding work accomplished by Bridges of America in 1985, and a like Resolution by Governor Lawton Chiles, in 1998. On September 23, 1985 Orlando Mayor Bill Frederick proclaimed it to be "Frank Costantino Day." In 1989, Bishop Frank was recipient of the Billy Graham Center's "Prison Minister of the Year" award which was presented to him at Wheaton College.
Through it all, Bishop Frank never wavered from what he knew to be God's purpose for his life: addressing the body, mind and spiritual needs of desperate men and women whose lives had been ravaged by substance abuse and the crimes it wrought. In order to meet each of these clients where their spiritual journeys began, of necessity, his spiritual work with them was primarily nondenominational. However, his own spiritual journey was very specific and began in the Episcopal Church where he was ordained as a Deacon in 1979. He received a Doctorate of Christian Ethical Theology from Calvary Bible Seminary in 1993. He was ordained Priest of the Charismatic Episcopal Church in 1996 and ordained Bishop in 1999. In 2001, he was awarded the Doctorate of Divinity from St. Michael's Seminary in San Clemente, California.
Bishop Frank wrote his autobiography "Holes in Time" in 1979. As he liked to describe it, this story of his life tells how a taker who was a loser, through Christ became a winner. Over 500,000 copies of
"Holes in Time" have been distributed in four languages to prisoners worldwide through International Prison Ministries. His autobiography was followed in 1983 by "More Than A Miracle - The Ministry of Aftercare" in which he shared the experiences that shaped his life and his ministry after he was released from prison. Bishop Frank was charismatic, charming, powerful and unforgettable but, more importantly, he was a loving husband and father and an inspiration for countless numbers of inmates and ex-felons. He made a positive difference in their lives and in that of their families and communities, not to mention so many others that knew and worked for and with him. His personal testimony and the legacy of his work will long continue to shine as a beacon of hope. And say we all, To God Be The Glory!
Frank was laid to rest at
Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery in Orlando, Florida on Thursday, April 6,
Jack Murphy, Bob
Erler, Frank Costantino, Marty Angelo and Mark Maciel - 1988