Pen Pal and Pizza Program Enriches Pen Pal Experience
A year ago, Kristy Snyder and Liz Tamarkin began their tenure as Connecticut Area Co-Hospitallers with a question to ministry leaders: “How can we support you, and what do you need?” The first person to answer that question with a yes was a member working on the Books Behind Bars program for the incarcerated. That was the Co-Hospitallers’ introduction to Prison Ministry.
In addition to helping with Books Behind Bars, Kristy and Liz brought another of Connecticut’s Prison Ministry programs, the Pen Pal program, to the next level. They created Pen Pal and Pizza. Over pizza and salad, the participants would talk about what it’s like to be supportive of someone who is incarcerated as well as any issues they might experience with the prison system, such as having letters delayed or losing touch with prisoners if they are moved. “It’s wonderful to have the support of others and to hear different points of view that can enrich the relationship that you have with this prisoner,” said Kristy.
Pen Pal and Pizza was inspired in part by the Our Lady Pilgrimage summer program for young people. In the evening, the young people would get together to reflect upon the day. “We thought that if the pen pal writers had a similar process to share what they were experiencing, we would be able to develop a community as well as more effectively support the inmates,” said Liz.
Because of the pandemic, the meetings are now held virtually, but the substance is still the same. “For our first online meeting we used a jeopardy game to encourage conversation and share our thoughts about our pen pals,” Kristy said.
Kristy and Liz are willing to help other Areas get started in the program. “We’d be delighted to share the activities we’ve put together, chat with, or mentor anybody,” Liz said. You can find contact information in the Spirituality in Action Resource Book in the member section of the American Association’s website.