Visiting Prisoners: A Ministry to Consider Assisting in or Supporting
I asked a prisoner at one of the correctional facilities within our diocese to give a witness. I told him that the basic framework of the answer should be: “I was, Jesus did, and now I am”. That’s a framework within which we should each be able to share our story. The specific question I asked of him was: What does having Catholic clergy and lay people visit him in prison for worship and religious education mean to him? Below is his response:
First allow me to briefly describe myself and just how I got here. I was a dysfunctional man for many years. I maintained an image for the world to see (father/provider, real estate investor/businessman, academic), but in my spare time I ran and rode with outlaws and forced myself through drugs, sex, and illusions to feel comfortable.
God never allowed my heart to be comfortable with my actions and as a result my spirit was always fighting my flesh. Even in the darkest of days something always told me I was beautiful, special, good, and had a reason for living for God. But, although I hated living a lie, I simply could not quit.
I had fallen away from the Catholic Church, the church of my youth, and completely stopped listening to reason. Now, through guidance, forgiveness, faith, and wisdom I am becoming closer to what I now know is the Holy Spirit. Today I receive messages of great warmth that I wish to share with you.
The two priests, a deacon, and several lay people who visit bring inspiration and wisdom into this prison world of an otherwise uninspired existence. They understand that many of us did not like who we had become, so through scripture, the Holy Spirit, and the gift of their time, they help me (us) cultivate some of the dignity that I (we) lost as a result of my godless lifestyle.
Catholic clergy and lay people bring us Godly wisdom. I will never forget one of the priests quotes to me during a personal visit. He said, “We will respect those who have made a positive difference in our lives.” At the time, he and I were having a conversation concerning decision making. One does not need to be in prison to understand what a profit and help clergy and people who care are.
So it is that I find myself being welcomed home. I am more spiritually aware, and more joyful -- even in prison-- as a result of the Catholic clergy and lay people’s influences here in this prison.
Thank you for the visits of worship, material (rosaries) and religious educational material. I will not forget. May God continue to bless the Catholic Church with special blessings on those devout brothers of whom I speak who visit me (us) regularly. May the joy of the Lord God be with all of you who read these words. Amen!
Okay, this is Deacon Mark again. Our diocesan prison ministry could sure use some help. First and foremost, can you remember those incarcerated in your prayers? These are men and women -- like you and me – are children of God. They’ve made mistakes, serious mistakes. Yet, except for the grace of God, maybe you and I could find ourselves in the same circumstances.
Secondly, we could use more lay prison ministers. I suggest finding a friend and tag teaming this ministry. Jesus sent the apostles out in pairs!
Lastly, we who help in this ministry could use a number of “tools” like Catholic bibles, sacramentals, catechisms, religious books, subscriptions to monthly devotionals, subscriptions to the Register, etc., to help catechize these prisoners. You can contact Fr. Steve Heina for information at 785-472-3136.
Most of these inmates will ultimately be released. Let’s help them heal in Christ first.