“I was wandering aimlessly. I thought I’d just do my time and get out and go home,” he says. “I’d been away from church for a while. Then the light came on.” ~Greg, Former Allen Correctional Institution Inmate

Behind Prison Walls

In the town of Lima, you can’t help but look at the massive buildings that sit behind the snowy fields. Most of these buildings are state correctional facilities that have housed thousands of inmates over the years.

The brick building, known as Allen Correctional Institution, is where Sue Bishop and her team of 40 volunteers go about four times a year to minister to the inmates behind these prison doors.

“We want our inmates to walk away knowing that God loves them and that there are people out there who care,” Sue says.

Giving God a Chance

From Friday to Sunday, the inmates and volunteers join together to pray, share stories and participate in activities. They end the weekend with Sunday Mass.[singlepic id=118 w=320 h=240 float=right]

“We have a turnout of about 100 inmates,” says another volunteer, Leanne Kerschner. “At Mass in the prison, everybody’s participating, everybody’s praying, everybody’s singing. It’s just a really great atmosphere. It’s wonderful.”

Greg participated in several retreats during his time at Allen Correctional from 1988 to 2007.

“I was wandering aimlessly. I thought I’d just do my time and get out and go home,” he says. “I’d been away from church for a while. Then the light came on.”

The prison chaplain suggested Greg give God a chance and attend the retreats. Hearing the volunteers talk about their own experience of overcoming problems helped Greg take a fresh look at his life.

“You can be humbled to realize you have so much when you feel like you don’t have anything,” he says.

After going on more retreats, he found a new sense of purpose. He was confirmed in his childhood Catholic faith by Auxiliary Bishop Robert Donnelly while still in prison. With a new direction in life, he spent his free time at Allen Correctional studying tax law and taking college classes. He graduated with a financial degree from Ohio University while still incarcerated.

He credits Sue and her team for helping him get to where he is now – a faithful church member and owner of his own business. He also reaches out to those just released from prison to help them reintegrate into society.

Whoever is Forgiven Much

“We minster to a lot of guys who just made bad choices,” Sue says. “The faith of some of these guys is amazing.”

Leanne agrees: “I think it goes back to the Bible verse that says whoever is forgiven much, loves much. Knowing that they are forgiven from something big makes them love more.”

Sue remembers an inmate who had strong hopes of getting parole but was denied. “I was crushed,” she says. “We got there and I said, ‘I don’t even know what to say.’ ”

She pauses again and with a soft tone in her voice says, “He turned to me and said ‘It’s ok … God has something else planned for me.’”

Greg thanks the team for making a difference in his life.

“They have their struggles in life, but they still found time for us,” he says. “It put me in the right direction, and let me know God’s always there.”

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Catholic Charities makes real the love God has for each individual regardless of faith or background, by serving the poor, speaking for and assisting the neglected and forgotten, respecting and promoting life from beginning to end, and nurturing and supporting individuals and families.

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