For some, it may be a concept hard to grasp. A popular belief lingers that those who wrong others should be punished accordingly and thus are labeled as “bad people.” But all over the state of Iowa, churches have formed prison ministries to reach out to those serving time behind bars to offer a nonjudgmental, safe haven for the worshipping of God.
Corpus Christi and Sacred Heart, two of the five members of the Holy Trinity Parish in Fort Dodge, provide an example of this. It all began more than a decade ago. Since then, a combination of volunteers and priests has continued to visit a local correctional facility every Tuesday evening to conduct a Mass in the institution’s library. The inmates have participated in sharing their faith and partaking in formation. Many have even been inducted into the Catholic Church, says Parish Life director Hiedi Touney. But whether or not this is the path they choose is not the sole motivation behind the Prison Ministry.
“Either way we are committed to the spiritual needs of those at the prison,” explains Touney.
The ministry is strongly connected and committed to its faith and, therefore, feel it’s a Christian’s duty to help all people — especially those with the most need. In this case, the imprisoned.
Touney explains that a factor is simply the condition of “being human,” which encompasses many physical, psychological and spiritual characteristics. The goal is to help what the state calls “offenders” lead law-abiding lives, she says, and also assist them during their time of individual internal growth.
But the incarcerated persons are not the only ones to experience change. Touney believes, through volunteerism, the ministry continues to walk in the footsteps of Christ and become more like Him, while those they are helping gain a sense of hope from learning about and becoming more in tune with a faith of their own.
“It has been fruitful in many ways,” says Tourney. “We are committed to being present and spreading the gospel to all — no matter their life situation.”
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