Jail & Prison Worship Services

Hello Everyone,

I am rather new to the forums, but after searching for an answer to my question and not finding anything definitive, I thought I’d go ahead and ask.

I am a lay Catholic man who is getting ready to start a Jail Ministry at the local jail, and after submitting the application to the jail chaplain (Good News Jail and Prison Ministry - Calvinist I believe) he informed me that there were two slots I could help with, both were “worship” services for the men in the evenings.

It seems that it would be up to me to coordinate the services, and to select what would be done for the allotted time slot. It would be for ALL Christians in the jail section, so not just Catholics.

I have ideas on what I can do, but wanted to make sure I was not breaking any Canon Law or Liturgical norms by participating in these worship services.

What I envision the current format to be is music, bible readings, and prayer. I don’t believe there is any communion, and I don’t believe there is any required prayers that violate Catholic teaching. Probably the Our Father, and prayer intentions.

I will be Catholic when I lead, and my only fear is I believe I am required to speak on the primary Bible Verse at the worship service, and I don’t want to be giving a homily or being confused for a priest or deacon. I know KAIROS and local laymen do similar things, but just because someone does something doesn’t make it right.

My question is, what liturgical norms or Canon law speaks on what I am allowed to, as a lay Catholic, lead as far as a worship service or meeting, and what can i absolutely not do or should avoid (I know I can’t pretend to be a priest or deacon, i mean specifically what prayers to avoid, actions, blessing, etc.).

Also, any good jail ministry resources would be appreciated :thumbsup:



Have you contacted the Diocese of Richmond to speak with whomever is in charge of prison ministry? I don’t know if there is anything specific that needs to be done, but that would be my first step if I were trying to start a prison ministry. I wish you much success in your endeavors and hope you are able to plant the seeds of hope, faith and love wherever you go!

I was a prison chaplain for a few years, and there wasn’t much out here for Catholics then.

Contact the Diocesan Office and see if they have anyone, or any resources that could help you.

You are right most services will be a song, a prayer, a scripture passage, and maybe some “sharing.”

Most guys will just go for the coffee, so make sure it’s hot and strong!

A word of caution: Most of the protestants/evangelicals will eye you with suspicion.

The Protestant Chaplain where I worked was virulently anti-Catholic when I started work at the Prison. That, and the fact that his Church paid him 4 times more than mine did (with his free car and house and pension plan) left a sour taste in my mouth at first.

However, we became very good friends over time because I did not argue with him about our Faith, but just got on with my job and let him see what I did.

Good luck with this ministry - it can be scary and difficult at first, but also truly rewarding - and YOU will change!:thumbsup:

Hey guys,

Thanks for the responses, they are helpful.
juno24, I’ve contacted the Prison Ministry guy at the Richmond office a few times with no response yet. My guess is he is only one man helping over 100 jails and prisons. I did receive guidelines from the diocese in PDF format, but they were essentially “talk to the Chaplin at the individual institution” and " don’t bring in packages"’

triumphguy, thanks for the pointers. I know most Protestant and Evangelicals will see me as all but an idol worshiper, but maybe, like you did by spreading the love of Christ, will help bring about a better understanding of the Church overall. What was that Fulton Sheen quote again ;). Thanks for wishing me luck. Unrelated, I ride a Vulcan.


P.s. could use prayers, especially for the jail administration and Chaplin. Gotta be a tough job.

Good luck and keep the shiny side up!

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