About the Order The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and Malta is one of the oldest institutions of Western and Christian civilization. The 13,500 Knights and Dames remain true to its principles – nurturing, witnessing and protecting the faith and serving the poor and the sick.
The American Association Founded in 1927 as the first association of the Order of Malta in the Americas, the association is headquartered in New York City with over 2,000 Knights, Dames and volunteers in over 30 Areas working with the poor, sick, and incarcerated and giving witness to the Catholic faith.
Spirituality Knights and Dames join the Order of Malta to pursue their spiritual growth over a path laid out by Blessed Gerard more than nine hundred years ago, seeking to nurture and witness the Faith and assist the sick and the poor.
Spirituality in Action Members are involved in hands-on work at over 100 hundred organizations, including food banks, hospitals, pregnancy support centers, homeless shelters and mentoring programs for at risk children.
“Just as God never abandons us, so too we must be in covenant with one another. We are all sinners, and our response to sin and failure should not be abandonment and despair, but rather justice, contrition, reparation, and return or reintegration of all into the community.”
Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice. A Statement of the Catholic Bishops of the United States Issued by USCCB, November 15, 2000.
When, as members of the Order of Malta, we recite the Daily Prayer, we thank the Lord for calling us into loving service to our neighbors, especially the sick and poor and those at the margins of society. One pathway of service to the poor and marginalized is through Prison Ministry.
“We do it because the Lord has commissioned us to love our neighbor, to feed the hungry, to visit the imprisoned. We’re giving praise to God by doing what He has commissioned us to do.” Fran Buckley, Prison Ministry, New York
Prison Ministry is a response to the voice of the Holy Spirit and the call to extend God’s compassion and mercy to those in need. It is the call found in Matthew 25, where the teachings of Jesus provide a model that helps guide us in caring for one another. Christ gently reminds us to bring food, drink, and clothing to those in need; care for the sick; welcome the stranger; and visit the imprisoned.
Through Prison Ministry, we engage with those who have fallen away from Christ, to help bring them out of darkness and into the light of God’s love and mercy, to grow in the Spirit, and to journey toward holiness. It is a ministry of listening, of presence, a ministry that brings a brighter sense of hope to those who are struggling to find their way home. Our mission is to serve others, and yet, by showing compassion to those in need of such care, each of us progresses farther along the path toward a deeper relationship with the Lord.
Our work falls into four categories:
Visitation and Outreach—Listening and Being Present Inside the Walls: This is the largest direct contact we have through Prison Ministry. Our members and chaplains visit inmates to participate in the Liturgy, provide support and fellowship, pray the rosary together, conduct weekend retreats, provide spiritual direction, lead Bible Study, bring books purchased from local library book sales, and share an overall sense of fellowship.
Re-entry—Helping to Rebuild Lives: At the point inmates are leaving incarceration, our members provide mentoring, assistance with locating housing and higher education, and help with job searches.
Bible and Prayer Book Distribution—Bringing the Word of God: We provide Bibles and Prayer Books to inmates, offering the opportunity for spiritual nourishment and growth in the Spirit.
The Pen Pal Program—Supporting From a Distance: Many of our members participate in the Pen Pal Program, a secure way to visit. From a distance, our members develop connections to prisoners, often the only connection an inmate may have to the outside world.
“I get more emotional fulfillment in supporting these prisoners than from almost anything else on earth. Helping these men understand how the Gospel affects their lives deepens my own understanding of the Gospel and helps me grow in faith.” Bill Mattison, Prison Ministry, Florida
Opportunities To Participate
As an Individual: If your Area has a Prison Ministry Program, we encourage you to talk to your Area Chair to discover opportunities to participate. Whether you feel the call to be part of the ministry of presence and listening inside the walls, are more comfortable in the Pen Pal Program, or believe you can make a difference in the reentry process, you will find the work rewarding on so many levels. Click here to learn more.
As an Area: Many of our Areas do not yet have Prison Ministry programs. We would be happy to help you set one up. Click here to fill out our contact form and get started. Or click here to check out the Prison Ministry section of the Spirituality in Action Resource Book, where you will find descriptions of other Prison Ministry programs. Any one of the Area Chairs would be delighted to talk to you about the ministry. To find contact information for Area Chairs and Activity Coordinators, please click here to log into the Members Only section of the website.