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Jail Ministry

"Christ is in search of every human being, regardless of the situation!"

~John Paul II, Message for the Jubilee in Prisons

The mission of Jail Ministry in the Diocese of Fort-Wayne-South Bend:
 Enter into relationship with our incarcerated brothers and sisters, so that they and their families know of Christ's love and the Church's special interest in those who suffer. Assist Catholics and Catholic parishes in applying the Scriptural call for justice and the work of evengelization within the context of their local neighborhoods and cities – welcoming and understanding families who've faced incarceration; growing in knowledge of community resources and continued areas of need; forming more comprehensive understandings of crime and poverty; and always listening for the "voice of the poor" when considering how best to respond to social harm.

Parishes in Ministry:

 St. Joseph County

In St. Joseph County, Deacon Greg Gehred coordinates a team of parishioners from around the South Bend area, as well as priests, seminarians and students from the Notre Dame community.  Mass is held regularly, and coordinate with the needs of returning members. 

 Kosciusko County

Sacred Heart Parish in Warsaw makes monthly visits to Catholics who are incarcerated, holding prayer services and times of reflection together. Volunteers see that inmates receive Communion each week if they desire it. Parishioners serve as liaison with parish priest for any special spiritual needs, and also create a monthly newsletter for the inmates. 

Allen County  

 In Allen County, the St. Vincent de Paul conferences of Fort Wayne will begin annual donations to the Jail Chaplaincy; a regular schedule for priests to visit the blocks will be established; we hope a new county team coordinator will come forward to help shepherd the team's efforts in 2016. 

Huntington County 

The Huntington County Jail Ministry team includes parishioners from St. Mary and St. Peter and Paul Parishes. This upcoming year they will be hosting a special Year for Mercy outreach for entering into Pope Francis' invitation, especially among those with family members in jail; the team will be formalizing its subcommittees and responds to the requests they are already getting from people coming out of prison. 

Starting Jail Ministry in Your County

Do you, or anyone you know, regularly visit your county jail in a ministry/volunteer capacity?  We need your help in getting a core of Catholic volunteers on call for each county, who can visit and pray for new prisoners as the first step in breaking down the culture of isolation and shame that too frequently accompanies even minor offenses. A good place to start is by getting in touch with the jail's chaplaincy office. Even full-time chaplains rely on fundraising for their salary, so allow them some time in them returning your call.  Find out what paperwork you have to complete, and start volunteering with something small -- perhaps taking around the book cart, which offers an excellent opportunity to speak and pray with the inmates.  Your ultimate goal may eventually become to hold weekly Mass and a Catholic Bible study, but you'll notice a natural resistance to anything but the status quo until you prove you're there for the long hull, and that your intention is to find avenues for pastoral care that show Christ's love for all.  Remember, we cannot serve people whose needs we do not know.

The more you get acclimated to visiting the jail, the more you'll begin to want to understand how your county works. Get to know your county offices/administrators -- judges, police commissioner, community corrections, prosecutor, sheriff -- and start learning about various levels of crime --misdemeanors, felonies, etc. -- the network of correctional facilities and how they are related to each other -- juvenile detention, jail, prison -- and release programs -- work release, home detention, parole, probation, community service -- so that you can better understand the stories you'll  encounter in the jails.  After some time of participation and discernment, your core of volunteers will likely recognize a need to help your faith community more tangibly recognize the ways incarceration and poverty affects the families of your parish, and how you are all being called to respond. This will all come about through entering into right relationship with those affected by the issue, and inviting their participation and the talents of the community. Perhaps you will feel called toward focusing in on a specific gap in the system, like providing assistance for caretakers of the children of the incarcerated, helping recently-released ex-offenders with transportation to church on Sunday, or creating an outreach for fatherless homes.  

Besides offering a crash course in law, sociology, psychology, criminal justice, and local government, involvement in jail ministry opens prime opportunities for loving more fully and recognizing our neighbor in all. The Diocese is here to support you as you navigate these various levels of gestation as a team, helping all Catholics to realize the fruits of empathizing with all walks of life, and applying our faith into more active listening, wider imagination, and more participatory kinship with our brothers and sisters involved in the crueler realities of the world.

How well is your county jail meeting the spiritual needs of its inmates? Take the Jail Assessment

How to introduce ministry to the incarcerated in your parish. 

So, You've Established a Catholic Jail Ministry Team...Now What? (Guidelines for crafting Catholic programs in your county jail )

"I Was in Prison and You Visited Me:" Training Videos for Familiarization in Jail Ministry

Wondering how to minister with those who are incarcerated? Feeling un-equipped to do it?
On Saturday, November 15th, 2014, Sacred Heart Parish hosted a Diocesan Jail Ministry
workshop with Dr. Christie Billups. 
Dr. Billups is Assistant Professor of Theology and Director of the Pastoral Ministry program at Lewis University. She not only has experience ministering in Cook County Jail in Chicago, but has developed a course entitled Faith Behind Bars and a Prison Ministry Leadership Curriculum for the Dioceses of Illinois . The workshop topics include:

Faith Behind Bars: Big Picture Regarding the call to Serve in the Jails and the Prison System

Ecumenism in Ministry: Working Alongside Faithful People of Other Religions

Restorative Justice: Healing Harm Done by Crime

Pastoral Care: Spirituality and Skills to Carry with you into the Jail


Helpful Documents: Understanding Jail Ministry as a work of Social Justice

Foundations of Catholic Social Teaching 
Joy of the Gospel:  Study and Action Guide
Huebsch, Bill.Joy of the Gospel: Group Reading Guide to Pope Francis' Evangelii Gaudium
Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice 

"Key Stories and Resources for Addressing Poverty and Building Prosperity," Everyday Democracy, March 17, 2014.
 "Best Practices for Charity and Justice," Jezreel, Jack. U.S. Catholic.

Restorative Justice Clearinghouses and other Prisoner-Oriented Ministries:

"Bridges to Life" (in Houston, Texus)
"Council on Crime and Justice" (in Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Dismas Ministry
Paulist Evangelization Ministries
Just Faith Ministries on Prison Reform  
NETWORK Catholic Social Justice Lobby.

Suggested Reading for Effective Ministry:

"Faith Behind Bars " Gerald Corson, Catholic Answers Magazine

Turning To One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope in the Future

Turning to One Another Margaret Wheatley Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

Camerado, I Give You my Hand Fr. David T. Link

 The Missionary's Catechism , Russell Ford  Keeping Hope: A Resource for Families and Friends of the Incarcerated, ,  
Karen Henning Heuberger
 Appreciative Inquiry in the Catholic Church , Susan Star Paddock

 Ministry to the Incarcerated , Dr. Henry Covert  Saints and Social Justice , Brandon Vogt  

If someone in your family has been arrested, be sure to notify your priest. If you would like to make a request of, or get involved in, jail ministry, please contact Audrey Davis at (260)-969-9146, or or Mary Glowaski at (260)-399-1458 or

Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. 2018. Back to Top