"From the very first day, I was surprised how much God is in prison."
Curtis was living his life like many ordinary men.He worked a white collar job.Had a wife and kids.His family members were always Catholic, and he had become Catholic a few years earlier.But, because he had become Catholic mainly for his family, he chose not to fully engage in his faith.Life went on as usual.
Then Curtis was arrested for fraud.He was convicted and sent to prison.He spent time in four different facilities – two jails and two prisons.And one of the first things he noticed in all four facilities was that God was everywhere.He found that many prisoners read the bible, and there was a great curiosity for faith among the incarcerated.He saw people whom he didn't expect to have a relationship with God, like gang members, reading the bible every day.When there was a "call-out" for faith services, prisoners of all different faiths would join in.More than 25% of prisoners were in a regular bible study.Many had a strong foundation in faith and encouraged him to grow in his faith.
Curtis's sentence was a real blessing in that it was a significant period to focus on his faith.There were a lot of distractions, but there was also a lot of time.While incarcerated, it was important for him to hold onto anything that helped him recognize his goodness.It helped him realize he was not as bad as society (and he himself) had labeled him.A Catholic volunteer came in weekly and once Curtis made the choice to walk his faith, everything grew – it snowballed – and now he chooses it every day. The Catholic bible studies and volunteer helped ignite his passion for faith and challenged him.He learned so much about the Catholic faith, and his prison time helped him get his spiritual life together.
Being Catholic is not popular in prison, especially after the unfavorable publicity the Church has received.The negative reputation of the Catholic Church is amplified in prison. Prisoners do not usually want others to know they are Catholic.Early in his sentence, Curtis participated in a Catholic bible study with only three members, and he had to go get the others to join him.Even the prison chaplain asked Curtis why he'd want to be Catholic.So getting Catholic ministers and materials into the prisons is imperative in supporting Catholic inmates. While in prison, Curtis came across Dismas materials – bibles, study materials, prayer books – and felt that they gave more structure, like creating a map for prisoners' faith journeys.Prisoners found support and Curtis encouraged them to embrace their faith.By the end of his prison term, about 18-20 men were regular attendees of the Catholic bible study group.
Prisoners are hungry for information, for things to do and study. So once these faith materials are in the prison, they can truly change someone's life.Curtis noted, "Donors probably don't comprehend how much of a difference they are making.There is no better cause than helping someone find their path to God."
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