This year during Lent, the founder of Blessed is She, Jenna Guizar, donated some of our Lent Journals to a local prison ministry who serves women in the local prison. The response blew us all away.
The BIS Lent Journal + Prison Ministry
Our contact with the prison ministry, Janet, was kind enough to tell us about what she witnessed Christ do through this small act of love. She also gives us ideas for serving incarcerated women in our areas. Let’s all commit or recommit to this invaluable Work of Mercy!
Tell us a little about your involvement with the local prison in your area.
I have been in recovery myself due to an abusive home growing up, so I have always felt called to get involved in Prison Ministry. A friend of mine was involved, so we were talking about it one day. I decided to get badged, so I did and asked God to show me where He wanted me to go with it. I always felt my calling was to work with the youth. But I wanted to see what my friend did—since I had no idea what a service would look like—so I went with her to a local prison for women.
My friend knows my story, and right before we got to the jail, she asked me to give my testimony. (Gasp! Panic! I thought I was only coming to watch, not to say something!)
As I told my story, all the women started to cry. I knew I connected with all of them. Right then, I knew I was in the right place. This was where God wanted me to be!
I have computer skills, and the Prison Ministry leader at the Diocese needed help. So I took over the volunteer coordination for that prison for the Diocese. I absolutely love working with the women! I just want them to know they are loved and prayed for and to help restore their dignity as women.
How did you first get connected with Blessed is She?
I live right by St. Andrew’s parish in Phoenix. I’ve seen the Blessed is She events on Facebook and several of my friends have been going. One of my volunteers was connected to Jenna, and Jenna had mentioned the Lent Journals to her. Dawn forwarded the message to me. I talked to Jenna and got a picture of what the books looked like. Then, I sent it to the Chaplain for approval. Since there were no staples, etc., they were approved. If the women filed a tank order (request form), they could request a copy.
What inspired you to make the BIS Lent Journals available to the women?
I looked through the journal and I loved that it included Scripture and great questions for the women to think about. It was easy to understand.
The girls love things like this. I am always telling them not to waste time sleeping the days away, but to use this time to build up their spiritual muscles so they are stronger to avoid temptation when they get out.
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What kind of reception did the journals get?
The girls immediately started filling out their tank orders to get their books as soon as I told them about them. In fact, they were excited to know that my girls were the first ones to get the opportunity to get one. But each time I went back to do my service and I would mention the book, someone in the room had already gotten one. They gave such an amazing testimony about the book—that was all the advertising I needed. I didn’t have to say another word! The women’s testimony was enough!
What fruit have you seen come from making these journals available?
The girls started doing Bible Studies in their dorms (there are 300 girls in a dorm, but only 30 can come to my service at a time).
Those who got a book invited other girls to come and join them and they were doing group studies. One girl said, “This is the best book I’ve ever read! I loved the examples of how to apply this to my own life!”
The information in the books made it real for them. Even though Lent is long passed, I am still getting more and more requests every week for the books!
Did anything in particular seem to resonate most with the women?
The real life examples helped them understand how this applies to “me” and not just another book preaching at them. This is something they could use in their daily lives, whether locked up or on the outside.
If someone wants to be involved in prison ministry, or make resources like this available in their local prison, where do they start?
Well, most prisons can certainly use more volunteers. Check with your local dioceses to see how you can get involved.
As far as resources go, the women love to have the current missals for the year with all the readings for Mass. However, we can’t afford to buy them for everyone, so we don’t hand them out. In the past, I’ve collected old Magnificats from my friends and the girls can request those via tank order. It’s still Scripture with great stories in them, they just aren’t brand new.
They sure jumped on the Blessed is She books and ate them up! If you have the means, consider purchasing future Journals for the women in your local prison.The BIS Lent Journal + Prison Ministry #BISblog // Click To Tweet