A major aspect of Prison Ministry is to serve the spiritual needs of Catholic inmates. It is a matter of faith and justice that these members of the Catholic community not be forgotten and deserve pastoral attention regardless of their wrongdoing.
Prison ministry is a challenging and rewarding ministry to become involved with. Those involved in prison ministry in the Archdiocese of Portland feel a true calling to this work. We are truly blessed to have a rich history of prison ministry in the diocese. The list below is an organic list created from conversations with those already working in state and federal facilities.
- This is the Holy Spirit’s work, not ours. We are the face of Christ to the incarcerated.
- Don’t be afraid.
- Be present to those to whom you minister and be consistent in your ministry.
- This ministry is about relationships. Your positive relationship with prison staff is vital to your success in ministry. They will determine your accessibility. Follow the rules always, be respectful and gracious. If you can develop a personal relationship with staff, your ministry will be enhanced.
- Allow yourself a time of discernment before making a commitment to prison ministry. It’s a call that is not heard by all people. You may wish to identify a mentor who is already doing this work.
- Each facility (jail, state, federal) has different requirements for ministry work.
- Learn about the facility you are interested in…you may wish to talk to some current prison ministry volunteer, check out the website of the facility, or call the facility to find out about requirements, etc., at the facility.
- Identify a community of prison ministry volunteers to share and discern with. This group will help you celebrate your successes and problem solve your challenges.
- Have realistic expectations and know that often this ministry is frustrating. It will also be the most rewarding ministry you ever do!
- Recognize that ministering to one person is valuable. So, if only one person shows up, that is God’s will.
- Be very patient.
- Be aware that some prison ministry staff members do not understand the Catholic Faith. If you run into issues, contact the Office of Life Peace and Justice for further guidance.
- Many facilities no longer have chaplains on staff. You will find yourself working with a myriad of different staff (superintendent, warden, guards, etc.) depending on the facility.
- Be aware that in some facilities no Spanish ministry is allowed. Clarify this with staff before working bilingually with inmates.
- The time it takes to get “approval” within a facility can be quite lengthy. Have patience!
- Always be respectful of different religions.
Please contact the Office for further guidance or for assistance in beginning the journey of becoming a prison minister!