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Sending Hope to Inmates: A Pen Pal Program in St. Paul, Minnesota


This story is the first in the new “Best Practices” series from the American Association’s Prison Ministry Committee. 

Fay Connors, AUX speaks at the Twin Cities Annual Prison Ministry Conference

Fay Connors, AUX, and co-founder of Twin Cities Prison Ministry (PM) shares how their Pen Pal Program works. In operation for four years, this activity involves writing and sending cards to prisoners all over the United States. Last April, university and confirmation class students wrote and sent 800 Easter cards. Receiving a card is often the only contact a prisoner may have from the outside world.

Establishing a connection with a local university can be essential to the success of a Pen Pal Program. Twin Cities PM has developed alliances with the University of Minnesota at St. Thomas’ and St. Paul’s Community Outreach Centers. The same students and seminarians often return every year to continue building on their programs.

As coordinator, Fay is also responsible for recruiting individual volunteers, interested adult groups and introducing the Pen Pal Program as a parish activity to local churches.


How It Works:

Fay receives a request from an ‘insider’ group. She has a list of 450 inmates participating from all over the United States. The ‘insider’ informs her of the names of inmates and number of cards that his/her group would like to receive.

Volunteers meet ‘outside of prison walls,’ and together they write out the cards. They may contain an image, Biblical verse, and/or a missive like “Jesus Loves You!” Fay also asks Pen Pals to pray for the individual to whom they are writing.

Fay provides envelopes with the Twin Cities PM return address. The volunteer groups – a parish, adult group and/or students from a university outreach center – pays for the postage. The PM also has a budget to cover the cost of sending the package containing the individually addressed cards once it is ready for sending.

The Pen Pal Program has a low “return to sender” rate because Connors has developed and adheres to guidelines.

They include:

  • Printer paper only (no card stock)
  • Black and blue ink only
  • No personal information is included; all cards must be double checked
  • No embellishments other than the card’s central image, and
  • Students under the age of 18 need adult guidance to participate.

Fay is married to Kevin Connors, co-founder of Twin Cities Prison Ministry. She is the mother of four children and grandmother to six. Fay believes God has given her and Kevin the opportunity to serve those living in incarceration. By being of service in prison ministry, she says, “He has enriched our lives beyond measure.”

For more information, and/or to start your own group’s Pen Pal program, please contact Mary Jo Kriz, co-chair of the American Association Prison Ministry Committee at Maryjo.kriz@gmail.com.

Order of Malta

American Association, U.S.A
St. Patrick’s Cathedral Parish House
14 E 51st Street
New York, NY 10022
(212) 371-1522