Many of us take for granted that we own a Bible, written in our native language. But for Hispanic inmates in our prisons and jails, Bible ownership is not a given. While facilities may have Bibles on the premises, they often are not Catholic Bibles. As part of her work with ethnic communities through the Archdiocese of Boston, Sr. Elsa Narvaez Rodriguez runs a Bible-study program through the mail called Escuela de Estudios Biblicos Catolicos that provides Hispanic inmates with faith-formation materials and Order of Malta Bibles and Prayer Books written in both English and Spanish.
“I’ve received some letters from inmates in the program who are very, very thankful because they said these Order of Malta Bibles and Prayer Books in both English and Spanish are such a great help,” Sr. Elsa said. “And they always are glad to share what they have with other inmates.”
The Bible-study program had been operating through the Archdiocese of Boston for more than 20 years when Sr. Elsa took it over almost three years ago. Its role is to provide outreach to mainly Spanish-speaking inmates in jails and prisons in Massachusetts, California, Texas, and a number of other states. It currently serves about 120 inmates.
Order of Malta Bibles and Prayer Books are used in connection with the program, which includes three courses: Sunday Readings; The Sacraments; and Apologetics, a program on how to defend the faith. Inmates may choose to take only the Sunday Readings course or a combination of that course and one or two of the others.
“When they have the Order of Malta Bibles and Prayer Books, I think it makes them feel like they’re not alone,” Sr. Elsa said. “God is with them. God hasn’t forgotten about them.”