And would you have some advice on what to expect? I’m still discerning, and would appreciate some input. Thanks!
I did it very briefly in college. I thought it was an interesting experience, but I remember being chilled by how the state inmates watched my fellow female students, and I didn’t much care for the way those heavy doors (one after another) clanged shut behind you as you entered deeper and deeper into the prison. One of the things that was hammered into us by the prison officials was never to divulge any private information to the inmates–especially for the women who came along. All in all, not a very happy experience, but I have great respect for someone who has the courage to enter this field. It’s certainly a field needing people to spread the Good News; I just know that this isn’t where I am to go. My only suggestion would be to pray and talk to your priest. It should also be possible for you to explore this calling without making a firm commitment.
Thanks. I wondered about the wisdom of sending a female into a male facility. I know why many of them are in prison, and it is scary. And it’s really impossible to know if any of them ever really change. I know God can work miracles, but how do you know if they’re telling you the truth when they speak of their conversion?
Right… It’s truly one environment where you never can let your guard down.
Jesus asks “Why are you afraid, O men of little faith”. (Mt 8:26)
Pray for the strength to do what Jesus is calling you to do.
If you could help spread the Catholic faith to even just one prisoner, no matter how uncomfortable you feel, you would be following Jesus command.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” (Mt 25:35-36)
“TRULY I SAY TO YOU, AS YOU DID IT TO ONE OF THE LEAST OF MY BRETHREN, YOU DID IT TO ME.” (Mt 25:40)
If a men’s facility is not for you, there is also a need in women’s facilities.
I can tell you from firsthand experience, as someone who was in prison, that these men and women are truly gifts from God. The local priest could only come for Mass once a month. Without the other volunteers who were Eucharistic Ministers, especially 2 incredible ladies, we would not have received Holy Communion for 4 to 5 weeks at a time. They also witnessed to many men and were an inspirational example of the loving, self sacrificing beauty God created when He created women.
One lady brought me Magnificat magazines every month and apologetics material so I could read the daily Mass readings and other inspirational articles. I was able to grow in my faith and to witness to numerous other men, many who had never heard a Catholic who could defend their faith.
Sancta Maria, Ora Pro Nobis Peccatoribus!
To bring good news to captives is one of the corporal acts of mercy.
I have helped out with a group that assisted at the prison mass at my local prison. We’d do the readings, provide worship music, etc. and it is a really uplifting experience, although a harrowing one at the same time. We didn’t get too much time to talk to the prisoners but it was enough for them to know that people on the outside care about them.
If you do it as part of an organised program with experienced leaders or priests, you really shouldn’t have too much to worry about. If you’re a woman going into a male facility, dress VERY modestly, for the sake of the inmates’ souls as much as your own safety.
What’s really important is the support these people receive when they are being released. Support programs are few and far between - friends, family, a job, a house and a purpose are the main things that prevent ex-prisoners from re-offending!
Thanks for the input everyone. As I prayed about it, the thing that kept going through my head was that God’s mercy is for everyone…even the guys on death row. And while I’m still not sure I’m the right person for the job, I think about Noah who, when he was told to go see Pharoh, asked God to send his brother instead. I can relate to that!!
I guess, when the time comes He’ll provide me with what I need to do His work. It’s just a little unnerving…I’m WAY outside my comfort zone here.
Well, I obviously didn’t get enough sleep last night. That would be MOSES, not Noah.
no not here, the hoops I have to jump through to qualify are too onerous. have taken the state required training 3 times, but there are always added restrictions, so I leave that to people who obviously have been called to the ministry, and assume I have not been called, until the Holy Spirit opens up other avenues for me.
I haven’t ‘done’ it, but I’ve witnessed a lot of it as a felony probation officer. Prison religion is huge. Convicts naturally gravitate toward religion, and get really *gung-ho *about it. The problem is that it wears off after they’re released.
Maybe you are the right person to write letters to a seriously locked down prison (the kind where they don’t get visitors, like, almost never, and they live in their cell all the time, they might get one hour of exercise - alone, it is called supermax). It is hard to even get drawing supplies to these people.
gentleman of my aquaintance who is retired from this position is now in prison ministry, specifically as a catechist for RCIA and Confirmation, and has gotten two priests involved who had not been visiting regularly before. Since prisons are a major industry in this town, the need is huge. he is highly qualified, since he has no illusions about those whom he serves.
Can I just congratulate everyone on an uplifting thread about how best to do the work of the Lord - no backbiting, no politics, no judging, just how best to carry out this wonderful ministry!
Why can’t the whole forum be like this?
Mea culpa - I’ve been guilty of all of the above in the past.
I did prison ministry when I was an evangelical. I had the opportunity to be the In-Prison Seminar Coordinator in my state for Prison Fellowship (Chuck Colson’s ministry) and also taught a weekly Bible study in the men’s Maximum Security unit.
Not everyone is cut out for prison ministry but it can be a very rewarding thing to do. You have to be prepared to go through metal detectors, be searched and then hear many very heavy metal doors slam loudly behind you. (We had a woman in our group one time who had to excuse herself and remove her underwire bra in order to make it through the detector.)
To get to the classroom area in Maximum we had to walk through two cellblocks and be among the population. You had to sort of ignore the “wall art” in the individual cells and the guards tried to shield the guys taking showers in the open shower area when we had women with us. (The guards and general inmates felt that you are intruding on their turf so you take what you get. Hopefully your experience will be better but that’s the reality of it.) The women did great and were able to see past all the nastiness in order to bring the Gospel to those for whom Christ died. Once in the general prison area there were approximately 100 inmates at a time we were mingling with and a couple of guards. The odds were not in our favor and since there were 7 or so heavily guarded doors between us and the parking lot, you have to have a certain mindset.
In all likelihood the facility you would work in probably has better entrances into the classroom areas where the “visuals” are less disquieting than what we had to do.
If you go through with it I believe you will have a very rewarding and meaningful experience. You have to think a bit differently though. I was teaching one Thursday night and an inmate raised his to ask a question. I was excited about him being engaged and interested. He`said “is that a Rolex?” I was wearing a gold Seiko actually and he was so distracted by it that his focus was not on what I was saying but what I was wearing.
You also have to remember where
you are. It is very easy to be relieved and smitten by the fact that you can actually do this and be comfortable. It is necessary to remember where you are and be careful about getting too attached and revealing personal information, etc.
Anyway, good luck with your decision and I will pray for you.
I was in a hurry when I posted the above. I just want to stress that prison ministry is an immensely rewarding experience and I hope you get a chance participate. Again, I will pray for you.
Thank you, everyone, for your responses. This is something I’ve felt drawn to in the past, but never pursued. It would seem the time is now right for moving forward with it. Please do pray that I can get out of the way, and let the Holy Spirit do the work.