PRISON NUN DIRECTS THOSE ARRESTED TO TURN RIGHT AND GO STRAIGHT
After 52 years of ministry as a teacher, pastoral associate and vocation director, Sister Kathy never thought she’d end up in prison.
But that’s where she tries to instill to those awaiting criminal court trials at the Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center a belief in a higher power to bring serenity, peace and faith in turning their lives around.
Sister Kathy has been ministering to about 160 women at the downtown facility over the past five years and can’t think of anywhere she’d rather be.
“I love sitting heart to heart and sharing with people,” said the nun from Philadelphia’s Sisters of Saint Joseph order. “I just felt the sense of God being with me when I came here for my interview. A tear ran down my cheek and I knew this was the place I was supposed to be.”
Sister Kathy’s employs compassion. Many of the women locked up in the facility struggle with addiction and come from broken homes, growing up in poor neighborhoods riddled with the some of the worst poverty in America.
“As I listen to their journey, I’d like to take them home and let them start over,” Sister Kathy said. “I tell them, don’t let this one incident define you. You can write a new chapter and begin again.”
As much as she is an envoy of peace, she is also a minister of justice. The most famous movie of a nun’s prison ministry, “Dead Man Walking,” chronicled the life of Sister Helen Prejean in Louisiana who befriended a death row inmate.
Through her experience, Prejean learned the need to also work with crime victims. Sister Kathy stresses that breaking the law results in consequences.
“I tell the women I am not your judge or jury, I’m here to pastor you,” she said. “I try to pull the best out of them, tell them not to go down that same road.”
Sister Kathy sees the young women in the facility as having the most critical needs. Many are trying to gain their footing, disenchanted with the religion of their youth because of the misery they’ve endured.
Sister Kathy sees her role as instilling belief in their higher power, God, that can provide faith and hope that their lives will be better.
“I’m only this far from the person on the street,” Sister Kathy said holding her fingers an inch apart. “It could be me.”
Sister Kathy gets as much from the detainees as she gives, she said.
“I will never be the same person,” she said.