“Thomas Aquinas writes that we come to God through our senses,” said Dr. Catherine Stevenson, DMOb. As a participant in the Order of Malta Prison Ministry Program, Catherine takes that sentiment to heart. She made a promise of Obedience and joined the Subpriory of Our Lady of Lourdes in June 2021. A psychiatrist and artist, Catherine uses her gifts to bring color, art, grace and love to people who have little exposure to those simple treasures of life. “It’s a visual desert in a prison,” she said.
Catherine is trained in the art of iconography, a discipline that requires study under a master. She has been a member of the American Association’s Texas – Houston Area since 2012, sponsored by Fra’ John Dunlap, a member of the Order of Malta Sovereign Council. Since 2014, Catherine has been creating prayer cards with images of icons that she paints. “I really wanted to provide something that could be both beautiful and a channel for something deeper, which is how icons work,” she said. “What I was looking for was something that would convey infinite mercy.”
In collaboration with both the Federal Association and the American Association, Catherine has sent out over 12,000 cards to prisons. She has also created a rosary prayer booklet with iconography. Craig Gibson, Chair of the American Association Prison Ministry Committee, said, “The distribution of the prayer cards and rosary booklet is a great example of how two associations can work together to the great benefit of inmates and those who are returning to society.”
To some, a simple prayer card or rosary guide may not seem like much, but Catherine said they mean a lot to inmates. “When you’re a prisoner, you’re in many ways dehumanized,” she said. “With icons, the eyes are so important, and it’s through the eyes that you feel seen. It’s the idea that you are being seen and that you are drawn into the heart of love.”
If you would like to learn more about the American Association’s Prison Ministry programs, please email Craig Gibson, Chair of the Prison Ministry Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.