Prison Ministry in the Diocese of Arlington is a pastoral care ministry whereby the Christian Community shares in the healing ministry of Christ. It is a ministry of presence and witness. Prison Ministry is facilitated through a network of parish-based volunteers from throughout the diocese who offer spiritual and emotional assistance to the imprisoned, including those who are being released, and to their victims and families.
By Bill Hall, Prison Ministry Volunteer
Early in advent I got a Christmas card from Tim, who is serving two life sentences in the Virginia state prison system. I always see Tim when I visit the state prison. As we enter and make our way to the gymnasium, we go down a long, narrow, gray hallway through several metal doors with big bars that clang into place behind us. Tim will come out of a side room and greet us with a big smile. “Thanks for coming to see me. May God bless you.” Tim’s card told me how knowing Christ and performing his ministry of writing to youth at risk led him closer to Christ and gave him joy in knowing that he was helping save teenagers from trouble with the law by showing them his Savior Jesus. He wished me the same joy in my prison ministry.
A few days before Christmas, I got a card from Mika. Mika teaches Catholic religious education at one of our state prisons. He thanked me for taking the time on my last visit to talk to one of his young confirmation students. Then he described the celebration of the confirmation Mass for the men who were recently confirmed. This is Mika’s 32nd year of incarceration.
I was starting to learn that true joy comes from knowing Christ and living in his kingdom, but I had one more visit to make and lesson to learn. About a year ago we started a new prison ministry at one of our local jails. Charlie was the only regular attendee at the services. Sometimes one or two others might show up with him. I had not been to a service at that jail for over a month. When I went at Epiphany, ten men were sitting around the table waiting to read scripture and talk about Christ. Charlie said he was waiting for me to return so that he could introduce me to the friends he’d brought with him. Sitting in that sterile room around a stark white table in molded plastic chairs, Christ showed me true joy can only be found by following Him.
Get Involved! Bill Hall is the Catholic Charities Coordinator of Prison Ministry. He can provide details regarding locations, times, opportunities, and the application process for volunteering inside the jails and prisons. Please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at (703) 841-3832.