The Second Annual Gathering for Prison Ministry Volunteers will be held on June 6 at Discovery House in Mullica Township.
Last year’s gathering was such a success that the decision was made to provide such a get-together annually. The camaraderie among the volunteers and those considering this ministry was gratifying. Their self-giving hearts were evident in their outgoing, enthusiastic conversations.
The main presenter for the day will be Sister Elizabeth Gnam, a Sister of the Order of St. Dominic, Congregation of the Holy Cross, from Amityville, N.Y. She has served as a State Chaplain in New Jersey State Prison for many years. Prior to coming to New Jersey, she was also involved at the county jail level in New York. Sister considers her ministry to be an extraordinary opportunity to share the Good News of the Gospel.
Father Martin McGeough, CM, coordinator of Jail and Prison Ministry for the Diocese of Trenton, refers to “Sister Liz” as a soft spoken woman in an environment that is ordinarily very loud. But her voice carries with it a great deal of respect — respect that she has for the men she ministers to and the respect that they have for her.
“Sister has a great heart for those in the prison and 26 years show that she has the gift of perseverance to work in an environment that many people would not touch with a 10-foot pole,” he said.
It is evident that whether you speak with Sister Elizabeth’s major superior, Sister Mary Pat Neylon, or to one of the volunteers who have interfaced with Sister, you hear of her quiet, gentle, compassionate manner. Her ability to separate the person from the crime is only one of the significant gifts she brings to a challenging ministry.
In addition to the main presentation, two “returning citizens” will share their story of the challenges and successes of reentry into society.
Bishop Dennis Sullivan will join the gathering at some point during the day. Since the last gathering, Bishop Sullivan has made pastoral visits to seven of the nine correctional facilities within the Diocese of Camden. This commitment of the bishop is evidence that the words of Mt 25 — “When I was in prison, you visited me” — are alive and well in the Diocese of Camden.
Registration is open to all who presently volunteer in Prison Ministry or would be interested in learning more about the ministry.
The Second Annual Gathering will take place on June 6, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Discovery House, 3730 Richards Ave., Mullica Township. A free-will offering will be accepted. Registration deadline is set for May 20. For more information or to register, contact Sister Mary Lou Lafferty, OSF, Prison Ministry coordinator, at MaryLou.Lafferty@camdendiocese.org or 856-342-4106.
Sister Mary Lou Lafferty, OSF is Prison Ministry coordinator for Catholic Charities, Diocese of Camden.