Sister of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Ministers to Connecticut Inmates
Never having been incarcerated, the first thing most of us probably think of is what it would be like to lose freedom of movement. But incarceration can also bring with it loneliness, fear, discouragement, anger and even a disbelief in the existence of God. How do we as disciples of Christ minister to those in such a state?
The ministry of Sr. Jerilyn Hunihan, ASCJ, has taken the form of providing Order of Malta Bibles and prayer books to inmates in Connecticut, helping the prisoners understand the words of scripture and prayer, and relying on the Holy Spirit to guide her and them.
A member of the missionary order Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Sr. Jerilyn has been a religious sister for 46 years, and she was a school teacher for 35 of those years. She brings a wide knowledge of both faith and education to her service in prison ministry. Before the pandemic, she taught a bible study course for inmates and also tutored them. She would use the Order of Malta Bibles and prayer books both formally and informally. “When I give out the bible to someone, one-on-one, I always read with them Psalm 139,” she said. “‘Lord, you have probed me, you know me: you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar.’”
It’s not only her own ministry that is served by the Order of Malta Bibles and prayer books. Sr. Jerilyn said she has witnessed inmates using prayer to comfort one another. “The books serve an individual’s growth in love and knowledge of God, but they also allow an inmate to assist another person,” she said. “And that comes from the person’s own reading of scripture and prayer, which would not be able to happen if the men didn’t have the Order of Malta Bibles and prayer books.”
The simple act of receiving one of the books can in itself bring a sense of belonging to an inmate. “I have to say some of the men are totally surprised that there are people in the community who are even thinking about them as oftentimes there’s this sense of abandonment.” She added: “And so to be able to sit with the scripture, either alone or in a group, is a gift to them.”