My name is Antoinette Corrigan, my husband is Dr. Walter Corrigan MD. We moved from New Jersey to Huffman two and a half years ago, so we’re quite new to the parish. We’ve quickly become part of the St. Philip the Apostle Church community due to the caring and friendly ways of the parishioners and spiritual guidance of our pastor, Father Barker.
Walter and I met at the Ocean County (NJ) jail. Yes, you read it right. He was the physician, and I was the nurse. Some of you might wonder about this sort of work. How do you work in a facility housing hundreds of individuals who are not welcome in society? How does you find satisfaction and rewards? Well, we did.
The inmates were from all walks of life, their offenses were minor to serious. Kindness, respect and good care gained us their cooperation. They conducted themselves well. They trusted us. We credit our Catholic faith for helping us not to judge. After all they are human beings, people just as we are, children of God.
Every inmate may be seen in some sense as a victim
, conquered by temptations presented to them by the devil who wants to destroy all of us. For various reasons, some of them inexcusable, others heartbreaking, they could not find the strength to say “no” to evil.
Therefore we treated everyone with as much dignity, compassion and professionalism as we did our private patients in the office. Often, I would think, There but for the grace of God go I
Religious services were noticeably lacking at the jail where Walter and I worked, so I was drawn to the mention of St. Philip’s prison ministry in our Sunday bulletin. Talking to Brenda Keller, I learned that she and her husband Larry were going two times a month to assist Fr. Fred O’Connor and Fr. George Olsovsky (our former pastor) at the Plane State detention facility in Dayton.
Josie Angell, Janet Hayes and three women from St. Martha’s in Kingwood have been going two times a month to pray the Rosary with the women, along with giving them spiritual guidance and support.
They encouraged me to join them. I agreed, and after a trial visit, training and background check, I was on my way. Since then I have looked forward every week to bring God’s teachings to them.
Looking around the room, during the praying of the Rosary or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, I see in the faces of these women sadness, fear, anger, hopelessness, confidence, comfort, and peace. Coming to grips with incarceration is extraordinarily hard, for the inmate and for her family. But it can be done, and even people behind bars can live their lives with grace and total trust in God.
Then there is an anxiety about being released. Will a woman change her ways? Or will she lose control and return? Our program, we pray, encourages every woman at Plane State to reach out to the Lord for mercy and strength to overcome temptation.
With the help of the Holy Spirit, we pray for all women at the jail to realize that faith in God will perfect their desire and courage to face the challenge of rebuilding their lives. I believe we need to bring God into the hearts of these troubled women. Jesus is calling members of our parish to serve. As St. Maximilian Kolbe OFM (Feast Day, Oct 10) once said, “As we become filled with the divine will, which no created thing can resist, so we become stronger than all others”.
This thought from St. Augustine might inspire you: “What does love look like? /It has the hands to help others. /It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. /It has eyes to see misery and want. /That is what love looks like.” And God’s word teaches us the secret of being content and enjoying profound peace: “Happy are those who have regard for the lowly and the poor.” [Psa 40:2]
We know that God calls. Do you hear him speaking to you to serve with us at Plane State? If so, please join us and experience new expressions of joy and love in people’s lives. Please contact Josie Angell to ask questions and take the first step. Her phone number is (281) 324-1747. St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us!
Sincerely in Christ,
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Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston
His Eminence Daniel Cardinal DiNardo
Auxiliary Msgr. George Sheltz
Retired Auxilliary Vincent Rizzotto
Most Rev. Joseph A. Fiorenza
Reverend Richard Barker