Leaders from five American Association Areas were recently invited to participate in a Zoom Meeting with Father Zach Presutti, SJ, Founder of the Thrive for Life Prison Project. The purpose of the meeting was to provide the Area leaders with an update on Thrive for Life’s progress as well as to encourage members to become more fully engaged in the program.
Fr. Zach founded Thrive for Life Prison Project in 2017. The organization provides retreats for the incarcerated; spiritual mentorship; and community houses, known as Ignacio House of Studies, where people who started their college educations behind bars can live and study to finish that work. “In 2019, from our experience of accompanying people behind the walls, we realized that there were so many people who have started the good work of college education,” Fr. Zach said. “Unfortunately, often the former inmates were being released into city shelters or other temporary housing. Ignacio House is a response to that.”
Thrive for Life now has three Ignacio House locations: the original Bronx facility; a facility in Milwaukee; and a former convent donated by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and Principal Chaplain of the American Association. The convent is in the process of being renovated.
American Association Hospitaller Ken Craig joined the meeting to affirm his full support for this growing ministry. Craig Gibson, Chair of the American Association Prison Ministry Committee, moderated. “I think it’s a tremendous ministry,” said Ken. “Whatever we can do to try to help support this and promote it I think would be great for the Association and great for a population of people who are desperately in need of our help.”
Ideas about how the various areas could support Thrive for Life included:
• Publicize the program;
• Visit the two local venues;
• Participate in the weekly Mass and meals held at Ignacio House;
• Help to set up chapels in the area prisons;
• Hold awareness events closer to home for members who live farther out from New York City;
• Hold one-on-one meetings between Area Chairs and Father Zach;
• Connect with the Pen Pal Program.
Cardinal Dolan said in a recent interview that members who help Thrive for Life are also helping themselves. “When Jesus asks you, did you visit me in jail? You’re going to be able to say, yes, Lord, I did.”
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 email@example.com.