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Detention Ministry – The Beauty of God’s Love


By Elizabeth Sanville
Volunteer Detention Minister, DSJ

In our Catholic faith, the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation) are often received surrounded by family, friends, and our community. For nine years at Saint Lawrence, I prepared high school teens for Confirmation. As we approached Confirmation Mass, in those final days of preparation, there would be the excitement of rehearsal, of shopping for new clothes, the expectation of presents, and the joyful anticipation of parties and special celebrations.

Recently, I witnessed a very special Confirmation. There was no rehearsal, no special clothes, no pomp or circumstance, no gifts or pictures, no parties. There was simply God’s unconditional, abounding love and mercy. A young man received the Sacrament of Confirmation during Mass in a small room with a make shift altar, wearing prison garb, surrounded by eight inmates, three catechists and one priest. We sang, prayed, read scripture, ate at the Table of Plenty, and celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving. As I reflect on this experience, I appreciate the beauty of the Sacrament, received in humility, filled with joy and renewed hope, mercy and forgiveness, new beginnings, the call to discipleship and the promise of eternal life.
And those he predestined he also called;
and those he called he also justified;
and those he justified he also glorified.
(Romans 8:30)

In our Diocese, we are blessed to have many Detention (Jail) Ministry volunteers who give generously of their time, under the direction of Sister Maryann Cantlon. This Ministry is simple, beautiful and life giving. Before volunteering, I can’t say that I thought about or prayed for prisoners, at least not in any truly meaningful way. However, in ministering, through God’s awe-giving divinity, my eyes and heart have been opened to the least of our brothers and sisters, to God’s all-consuming forgiveness and mercy, and to a deeper appreciation of our faith and the Sacraments. I am learning the true meaning of focusing on God, on His love, on the grace of the Sacraments. I am thankful for this opportunity, for Sister’s guidance and for my fellow volunteers who make a difference, living out their Baptismal promise.

As Saint Teresa of Avila is often quoted “Yours are the eyes through which He looks with compassion on this world.”