It was late in 2017, and Sherry Anandappa, a new member from Connecticut – SWN Area, had just been invested in the Order of Malta. She was looking for her “niche” and how best to serve. She found it shortly after when she was introduced to member Jack Murray. Jack had founded the Books Behind Bars program 10 years earlier. The program provides books to 18 prisons in Connecticut.
Jack was in his eighties at the time and about to step back from the ministry when Sherry offered to take on the management. Jack passed to the Lord in February 2021, but he leaves a legacy in Books Behind Bars that will benefit the Connecticut Department of Corrections for years to come. “Jack had a passion for getting books into the prisons,” Sherry said. “His mantra was the prisoners do better, the inmates do better, the prison in general does better when they have things to read.”
Sherry and several members of the Order as well as members of Jack’s Saturday Morning Men’s Bible Study from St. Aloysius Parish in New Canaan, Connecticut, collect the books from library sales and other book drives and deliver them to the prisons. Subject matter varies greatly and includes religion, business, self-help, parenting, mystery, and suspense. Sherry sees value in both the fiction and nonfiction offerings. Through the years, they’ve provided several copies of The Shack, a fictitious story about a man who loses his daughter, has an encounter with God and learns forgiveness. She said she always hopes someone picks it up to read. “I think it’s an easy way into somebody’s heart.”
Sherry said the inmates are extremely happy to receive the materials. That is especially true of the prisons that have no other resources to acquire books. “Those prisons are just over-the-moon grateful,” she said.
Gratitude is also what Sherry feels for the support she receives from her Area Co-Chairs, Cece and Mike Donoghue. “They are amazing. They’re willing to do whatever is needed and are very supportive of the ministry.”
As for how Sherry responds when asked why she serves this ministry, she said, “I don’t have a good answer for that, other than this is just what I’m supposed to do.”