Seeking to Minister

If you are seeking information on how to become involved in volunteering in Catholic jail, prison, or detention ministry, you have come to the right spot.   

If you are seeking to minister, please explore our ministries.

What are you seeking?

If you want to learn more about how to become involved in volunteering in Catholic  jail, prison, or detention ministry, the resources in this section will:

  • Enhance your understanding of the various types of Catholic jail and prison ministry; 
  • Offer guidance in discerning what type of ministry may be a good fit for you; 
  • Direct you to Catholic jail and prison ministries across the U.S.; 
  • Explain the critical role of jail and prison ministry in the Catholic Church.
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What does Catholic Church say about jail and prison ministry in the U.S.?

To learn more about the Catholic Church’s involvement in jail and prison ministry in the United States, we recommend you read the USCCB statement “Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice” by clicking the link below.

What is the difference between Jail Ministry and Prison Ministry?

While people tend to lump both jail ministry and prison ministry together, in reality there are significant differences.  Jails are places where people are detained while waiting for adjudication of their criminal charges.  Prisons are places where people are sent to serve time after they are convicted of a crime. To better understand the differences between jail and prison ministry, click on the link below.

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“Programs in jails and prisons that offer offenders education, life skills, religious expression, and recovery from substance abuse greatly reduce recidivism, benefit society, and help the offenders when they reintegrate into the community.”

- USCCB, “Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice”

“There should be no prisons, jails, or detention centers that do not have a regular and ongoing Catholic ministry and presence.”

- USCCB, USCCB, “Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice”

What can we learn about prison ministry from our sisters and brothers in Christ across denominations?

Mass incarceration is an issue that effects everyone. We have partnered with ministries of other denominations, and encourage you to read about the comprehensive ministries of Prison Fellowship by clicking here.

We also encourage you to gain insights about preparing to serve in prison ministry from the United Methodist Church by clicking here. 

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What kinds of Catholic ministries are already offered to persons affected by incarceration?

While there are many ministries involved in this work, we recommend you read about the work of Dismas Ministries by clicking on this link. They are just one of numerous ministries you can learn about on this site. 

Additionally, we recommend that you explore our listings for more examples. There may be one near you!

Order of Malta North
American Prison Ministry Apostolate Pen Pal Programs

A common way that people first become involved in prison ministry is by writing letters to an inmate.  

The Order of Malta Federal Association and American Association coordinate a pen-pal program that offers volunteers the opportunity to develop an anonymous relationship with an inmate through two-way correspondence.

For a resource packet on becoming a pen-pal, click here. To watch an Order of Malta Pen Pal instruction video or to learn more about the pen pal programs, click one of the buttons below.

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“Everybody on death row needs someone at their side.”—Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ

A person confined to death row often spends up to 23 hours each day alone in a small cell—for years and sometimes decades.

Letters can bring a ray of hope to the darkness of death row.

For those on the outside, learning to know just one prisoner can dispel some of the misconceptions and fears about prisons and the people locked away inside of them.

Are you ready to start writing to someone?