“For I was in prison, and you visited me.” – Matthew 25:35
Since the first centuries, Christians have followed Jesus’ lead in visiting those imprisoned which was stated so eloquently in Matthew 25:35 – When I was in prison, you visited me. In those early centuries, the visits of families, friends and strangers bringing food, water and clothing to the prisoner was how they survived. In our modern time, the incarcerated in our country have the necessities of life, including food, clothes, shelter, and medical care, provided by the detention facilities.
Our primary mission is to bring the love and mercy of God to all we meet. We offer hope to those who may be in chaos, by offering a smile, and treating the incarcerated with dignity. Our services are both liturgical and sacramental. We commonly use the Sunday readings and provide either Liturgy of the Word services or Communion Services in County Jails, along with the opportunity to go to Confession. In most of the prisons, we have an opportunity for Confession and Mass.
Within the Archdiocese of Denver, the jails, prisons, and youth detention facilities have been served by Catholic priests, deacons, sisters and laity for more than 100 years. The current Catholic Jail/Prison Ministry started organizing the ministry in the various institutions in 2003 with the help of many of the laity who generously provide time to serve those behind the walls. The ministry now serves over 30 facilities including county jails, youth detention facilities, State and Federal prisons, and private prisons that operate within the territory of the Archdiocese of Denver.
In 2012, the Catholic Jail/Prison Ministry was honored by the Denver Sheriff Department with a Lifetime Achievement Award for serving at the Denver County Jail from the time it opened serving offenders, ex-offenders, their families, and the surrounding communities. The ministry was recognized for providing rosaries, Bibles, bible study, sacramental services, and one-on-one counseling for the incarcerated in the Denver Sheriff Department facilities.
Catholic Jail/Prison Ministry is always open to new volunteers. In order to volunteer, you must be at least 21 years old, a practicing Catholic who is fully initiated, and be able to pass a background check. For more information, contact Deacon Michael Baird at 303-282-3364. You may need to leave a message, but you will be contacted.
If you have a loved one who is incarcerated and you think a visit from a priest or deacon would help him or her, please understand that God creates all of us with free will; it comes as an invitation. Just like all of us, inmates have a right to accept or reject the Lord’s message. An inmate can refuse to see any visitor. However, you may suggest and encourage your loved one to attend the Catholic Services held at the facility. That would be a good start. The inmate can then tell the person leading the service that he or she would like to have a visit from a priest or deacon. The inmate can also contact the jail chaplain’s office and ask for a visit by Catholic clergy.