“Let us learn from Him to forget ourselves, to devote ourselves to the service of God and the good of men.” Blessed Frederic Ozanam.
Lent is a special season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. This year the creative leadership of St. Margaret, St. Thomas Chapel, Catholic Church in Albany/Springfield posed an especially unique challenge to the parishioners combining scripture with practical and tangible outreach for women incarcerated at LCIW (the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women). It looked something like this:
- Week 1 – Wash me from my iniquities (Psalm 51:4) – donations of shampoo were collected.
- Week 2 – Transform Us, Cleanse Us (Matthew 17:1-3) – donations of soap or body wash.
- Week 3 – We thirst for you, Oh Lord (Exodus 17:3-7) – donations of toothpaste & toothbrushes.
- Week 4 – Anointed with Oil (1 Samuel 16:13) – ladies deodorant was collected.
- Week 5 – Arise from the tomb & walk (John 11:43-44) – tennis shoes were donated.
Deacon Tim Messenger heads up the prison ministry between St. Margaret and LCIW and had this to say, “I simply don’t know where to begin or how to thank you for the tremendous kindness and gratitude you have shown….Because of your generosity we were able to provide personal hygiene items and tennis shoes to over 425 women, contributions valued at over $10,000.” He goes on to say, “It wasn’t simply a financial contribution; it was a labor of love. Simply put the project blew away my expectations, although, quite honestly, I shouldn’t be surprised. You are after all the people of St. Margaret who have shown time and again how to ‘forget themselves’ and think about others instead.”
Each week parishioners filled the contribution bins at Mass and dropped off items at the church office where they were sorted and counted. At the end of the five weeks folks showed up to assemble the goods into individual care packages, traveled to LCIW on Holy Thursday to hand them out, and “heard first hand how touched the women were. As wonderful as the tangibles were, what meant the most to the ladies is that people actually thought and cared for them and their welfare. The community bond we continue to foster (within our church parish) was just another by-product of this whole effort.”
Deacon Tim’s final remarks, “Thanks to Luice Hanewinkel and Landon Goings for the planning and behind the scenes work that hatched this idea and helped make it a reality. And finally, I want to thank our beloved pastor, Fr. Jamin, for his creativity and his commitment to such a significant undertaking. I am not aware of anyone else doing something like this, and it would never have been possible without his support and determination to make it happen.”