In a joint effort to follow Jesus’ teachings and engage in works of mercy, the church communities of St. Luke in Fairfax and Ascension in Georgia undertake a ministry that reaches 200 inmates monthly and shares God’s love and encouragement with those who are incarcerated.

The ministry began while Jean Danis Gilman, a member of Ascension Church, was attending the diocesan Lay Formation Program in 2020. “Several students and I spoke about the desire to reach out to correctional centers to see if we might be able to send words of Scripture and encouragement to inmates,” she said.

They were given permission by the Northwest State Correctional Facility superintendent to bring cards, addressed to his attention, for the 200 inmates. “We have continued since October of 2020 to deliver approximately 100 cards twice a month to the prison. The administration assures us that the cards are passed out to each of the inmates. The superintendent is always extremely supportive of this initiative and tells us our cards are much appreciated,” Danis Gilman said.

Volunteers from both churches prepare greeting cards, which already have Scripture verses on the front, by adding additional related Scripture or suggestions for prisoners on how to make God’s words part of their lives. The cards are signed, “Your friends” from Ascension Church or St. Luke Church.

The most important part of the process, Danis Gilman said, is that “we pray over every card. And we tell the recipient, in the card, that we are praying for them,” noting that in addition to volunteers, both churches also pray regularly for the prisoners who are listed weekly as part of their prayer lists.

There have been many blessings since the ministry began, relayed Danis Gilman, sharing a story of a Northwest State Correctional prison guard being attacked by a prisoner before other prisoners came to his aid and protected the guard from further harm. Prison officials said this sort of reaction from prisoners was unique and those inmates were being formally recognized for their efforts.

“We would like to think that the men involved might have been inspired by our Lord’s words,” Danis Gilman said.

Volunteers donate all the cards and supplies needed for the ministry.

— Originally published in the Winter 2022 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.