There are 21 state-Correctional Institutions in South Carolina. There are 19 for men and 2 for women. These Correctional Institutions do not include jails or detention centers – these facilities are located in each county. The CIs are defined as Minimum Security, Medium Security and Close Security.
It has been almost three years since we have been able to offer Catholic Services in these CIs – and it is interesting to see that other than mandatory masks, stringent entry regulations for visitors, not much has changed.
My ministry is in the CloseSecurity facility in Columbia for women. A few of the women who were coming to Catholic Service before the facilities were shut down due to the pandemic and shortage of correction officers have gone home, died or were transferred to another facility.
So in September when we were allowed to reenter the institution – it was like the first day of school – meeting new ladies reconnecting with some who were still there – and “starting again” by explaining what we would do each week – and reintroducing the Mass. Many of the ladies who attend Catholic Service are not Catholic -some are completely unchurched – but the reverence that is shown during this hour of worship is beautiful. After receiving the Eucharist one woman knelt on the cold floor and said “I don’t know why I’m kneeling – but I just thought I should.”
Thanks to many generous parishioners in our local parish and the generosity of the Sisters of Notre Dame Base Community Poor Fund we are able to bring in holiday food at Christmas and put together “holiday bags” (we can’t call them Christmas bags) filled with essentials – shampoo, deodorant, tooth brushes and toothpaste, white socks etc. On that one day in December – there are smiles, many say thank you all around.
Our aim in going into these institutions is to bring hope and to let these women know they are worth something. Every week each volunteer reminds the ladies that they were made in the image and likeness of God – and when people see them-they see a bit of God.
We ask your prayers for all – those who are incarcerated and those who volunteer.
Christina Murphy, SNDdeN