Sr. Camille: Mary Lou, when you assumed the role of prison ministry coordinator for Catholic Charities in the Camden diocese in September 2013, the executive director of Catholic Charities, Kevin Hickey, issued the following statement:
"Catholic Charities is thrilled to have Sister Mary Lou join our hope-filled community. Sister Mary Lou brings a varied background to her work with prison ministry and that variety of experience is so helpful to us in the difficult work which we undertake."
What constitutes the variety of experience to which Mr. Hickey referred?
Lafferty: From 2000 to 2012, I served my congregation in leadership, both congregational and regional. Prior to this ministry, I was involved in the field of education and held positions in Catholic school offices as assistant superintendent in the diocese of Paterson, N.J., and the archdiocese of Boston, as well as principal in many dioceses, among them being here in the Camden diocese at St. Agnes School in Blackwood.
Your transition from Catholic schools to prison ministry seems a voyage from a world of great expectations into one of nightmares for inmates and their families. What challenges and opportunities awaited you?
Prison ministry was never on my radar, as they say. When Mr. Hickey offered me this position, I did a lot of self-talk and came to the awareness that my knowledge and skills were transferrable. In addition, my congregation had recently adopted an initiative to engage in service with people who are unemployed, underemployed and those affected by these conditions. So from the start, I've envisioned prison ministry as fitting in with this initiative, and it's multifaceted. Outreach to the incarcerated and their re-entry back into society are priorities; however, ministry to those affected by this situation, especially spouses and children, needs to be addressed. Matthew 25 is my focus in this ministry.
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