I am involved in the prison ministry.
Recently, a prisoner requested that he wants to become a Catholic.
My pastor and several priests whose parish is near the prison refused to help.
Even a formal meeting with the Bishop led nowhere.
In fact, the Bishop was hesistant in hearing my case. He kept on brushing me off
by telling me he had another meeting to go to.
What should I do? What can I do?
I am involved in the prison ministry.
God bless the prisoner!
A priest shouldn’t be reluctant to provide catechesis to a prisoner, and receive them into the Church. Try to find a priest. If no one will help, including the prisoner, contact the St. Joseph Foundation.
Thank you so much for your quick response.
I am familiar with the St Joseph Foundation.
I didn’t know they would also help in situations like this.
God bless you.
I have found the prison ministry to be rewarding,
hopefully more people will find time to help our brothers
and sisters that are in prison.
If you story is true, without some misunderstanding, I would say involvement by parish priests and the bishop is exactly what Pope Francis is expecting of the clergy.
I would seek complete clarification from the priests and the bishop (in writing), and if there is not some mitigating circumstance for their decision, elevate it to the next higher appropriate office within the church.
Who is your supervisor in this ministry? In most diocese, there is a chancery office that oversees the prison ministry and provides resources, including answering questions such as this. That should be your first stop rather than your parish priest. They are the ones who are familiar with such things as prison rules regarding material, how to administer the Sacraments in prison, etc.
Consider the woman demanding justice from the judge, or
the man who late at night persisted in asking his sleeping
friend some bread for guests (Parables by Jesus).
If nothing else, I’m sure that he’s baptized already, through Baptism by Desire.
See also Acts 10, see if that helps any.
While it is possible for someone to be falsely convicted, and it is possible that some inmates could have a conversion experience, there are many reasons why prisoners may go to a Catholic service or may want to become Catholic, and not all of the reasons are good ones. There is a reason why most of them are in prison and some of them can be very good at deceiving. So I would not just brush off what your pastor and bishop have said. But being in prison ministry, there are ways for you to teach about the Catholic religion. I showed a series of videos by Fr. Benedict Groschel on the Creed. After showing the videos, I had men come up to me and admit that they really did not have an interest in learning about the Catholic Faith before the came, and said they really didn’t know why they came. but they found the videos quite interesting and learned a lot and they thanked me for showing them. If after reading, and studying and learning all about the Catholic Faith and they are really desiring to be a Catholic then let them pursue it.
Maybe the Bishop and priests think you are being connned and doubt the sincerety of the prisoner. What has this person done to show he wants to be Catholic? Has he studied the faith, taken RCIA. What are his reasons? Is just saying “I want to be a catholic enough”?
I’m sure the priests and bishop may have some well founded reservations if they are being cautious.
Indeed there’s always the possibility of a “jailhouse conversion”, and perhaps the priest and bishop know this particular prisoner from a previous encounter.
I fear we simply don’t have enough information to either be indignant of the priest and bishop, or congratulatory for their caution.
For instance, how much experience does the OP have in prison ministry and recognizing genuine conversion requests? Is some supervision being provided? What is the mission of this particular prison ministry? Is it to seek converts, or simply to provide a friendly non-threatening ear to prisoners and their many problems, to just help them cope with their day-to-day issues?
I suspect that there may be some confusion between providing kindness and practical advice to prisoners, and providing them with spiritual direction leading to conversion; the latter, it would seem, would require considerable training.
Does the prison not have a chaplain or chaplains of all major faiths/denominations to minister to prisoners’ needs?
Sending my prayers to the prisoner and all those involved! If he truly desires to become Catholic or at least exploring the church, all the power towards him.
Others have given some excellent advice. I also wish to commend you for volunteering to preform prison evangelism and ministry work. Few uphold Paul’s example. That being said, always be careful… Maintain professional boundaries, do not befriend them. Prison ministry program volunteers are the ripest fruit to exploit by certain inmates.
No. It’s not required for U.S. prisons to have chaplains, pastors, or priests of every religion. Most maintain one chaplain on staff who oversees all of the religious functions of the facility, coordinates the outside volunteers and the inmates who are priests/ministers of various religions. Most larger prisons have dozens of faiths being practiced, wouldn’t be feasible to keep one of each on staff.
What country is that?
I find it interesting that the priest and bishop have refused to even meet with the prisoner (assuming I understand what you’ve said correctly, if they have met with the person then this is a different situation). After all how could they expect to know if the conversion is genuine if they won’t even speak with the person? With that said we don’t have enough information to really know why/what is going on in this situation. My advice is to keep praying for both the prisoner and the clergy involved.