The North American Prison Ministry Apostolate’s Semi-Annual meeting, which took place in November in Hartford, Connecticut, focused on the two touchstones of the Apostolate’s strategic plan: providing re-entry assistance to prisoners returning to the outside world and increasing spirituality inside the prison walls.
Re-entry and Spirituality
Malta Justice Initiative
We began the meeting by recognizing the great work of the Malta Justice Initiative. This is a re-entry program that has helped Connecticut inmates and ex-offenders by changing penal laws, directing ex-offenders to employers and providing re-entry services. Led by John Santa and Nick Yanicelli, the initiative has been a great success. During the meeting we acknowledged that, at this point, the Apostolate’s direct role in the initiative is complete. However, we will remain close to this ministry. We gave our thanks to John, Nick and their team for the tremendous work they have done though the initiative.
Guest speaker Bill Gaertner
Bill Gaertner, a gifted man who spent eight-and-a-half years in prison, visited us from Hagerstown, Maryland, to provide a glimpse into the life and challenges of inmates and former inmates. Bill’s experiences have helped to guide the Apostolate to areas of need, allowing us to sharpen the focus of our efforts.
As part of his presentation, Bill stressed the importance of spirituality, citing examples such as pen-pal letters, visits, Kairos and Catholic retreats. He also talked about the need for faith-based re-entry programs and provision for basic needs at the outset of release, highlighting the importance of working with diocesan programs. We concluded that re-entry programs should be a long term priority of the Apostolate. As Bill emphasized, they are an extremely important factor in reducing recidivism.
The Western Association Presentation
The Western Association presented information about its prison ministry, including programs for the children of the incarcerated and visits to juvenile facilities and San Quentin.
The Apostolate reviewed ongoing initiatives such as The Serving Brother (a quarterly publication reaching 55,000 inmates per issue), the Pen Pal Program and the Rosary Petition Program.
The review of our ongoing work led to a discussion of our communication capabilities and the need to upgrade them so as to reach more members and volunteers. We will provide updates as this work proceeds.
New Apostolate Members
We were delighted to welcome two new members to the Apostolate: Patrick Portelli from the Canadian Association and Craig Gibson from the American Association.
Submitted by Michael McGarry and Collins Whitfield, Co-chairs, February 2019