Correctional facilities depend on volunteers!
Volunteers can help inmates in their desire to become productive members of society. Inmates who receive religious training in prison are far less likely to return to prison. Recidivism drops by 60% for those who receive spiritual support and education.
Volunteers “are the branches and He is the vine…” they can often influence inmates in ways correctional employees can’t. Volunteers can help the inmate change this behavior by being positive role models.
As we call upon the Lord to help us in our ministry, we learn that by allowing the Holy Spirit to work though us, the incarcerated we serve see the miracle of Faith and “the light within each of us which must shine before all so that they may see the goodness in your acts and give praise to your heavenly Father” (Mt 5:14-16) Effective volunteers need to be able to see beyond the crime to the basic value of the individual as a child of God, and believe in a person’s ability to change, while realizing that a lifetime of dysfunction does not change.
Working in an environment where freedom is restrained is challenging, but also rewarding! The hunger for God’s Word is evident. The work of the prison ministry volunteer is to help spread the Good News of Jesus Christ; His forgiveness and promise of salvation and above all, His love. Volunteers are in a unique position to offer, through the witness of their lives, their gifts of time, talent and service, Christ’s redeeming promise and presence among us.
Here are a few REFLECTION QUESTIONS to get the discussion started:
How do we respond to these questions, as individual Catholics or as members of our local parish and diocese?
Where and when do we see Jesus in prison?
What jails and prisons are in our neighborhood or within the boundaries of our parish and diocese?
Can we identify and list them?
Is anyone going there to visit the imprisoned Catholics and bring them the sacraments?
As a sacramental faith community how does Catholic prison outreach differ from non-Catholic outreach?
How do we go about training for prison outreach?
Does our parish and diocese give prominent place in their literature and websites to this work of mercy-prison ministry?
If not, are the other works of mercy recognized but not visiting Christ in the imprisoned?
Why does it seem to be the forgotten work of mercy? At least in the Catholic community?
Why are non-Catholics “light years” ahead of us in prison outreach with available printed resources and numbers of volunteers?
Why are the Catholic shelves often empty in prison chapel libraries?
How do we get started with creating a prison outreach in our area?
Does our parish or diocese have training available?
Are any Catholic prison outreach resources available?