Mary Beth Fessler has been a member of the Order of Malta for 20 years. She and her husband, Bill, were Area Co-chairs for the Connecticut–Southern, Western & Northern Area, and Mary Beth has been a member of the American Association Board of Councillors for four years. However, she is relatively new to the Order’s Prison Ministry Pen Pal Program. “It sparked my attention because it was a program that would fit into my life right now,” Mary Beth said. She liked that she would have the opportunity to serve within the pocket of time she had available.
While Mary Beth is fully enjoying the ministry today, her involvement had a slow start. “Unfortunately, my first pen pal never wrote back to me, and that was very discouraging,” she said. Old hands in the program told Mary Beth that sometimes that happens. It might be that the inmate has been released, or moved, or just is not engaging. She was matched with a new pen pal, “which has been amazing,” she said. “I hadn’t had the appreciation for how much the letters from a pen pal can mean to someone who is incarcerated.”
Their initial correspondence covered superficial subjects. But as the two got to know one another, Mary Beth said it was like writing to a friend. Additionally, she has seen the presence of the Holy Spirit in her pen pal’s increased interest in studying Scripture. She sent him a study guide to enhance that process.
It is not just her pen pal who is benefiting from the experience. Mary Beth is as well. “I think it has taught me so much about living our faith with more openness to others who may walk, think, or behave differently. Yet, we are all united in that common goal of growing closer to God.”