prison-folks_2845Gesuina and Walter Seibert (Photo by Jack Sheedy)

ENFIELD – What started as a penance after confession has blossomed into long-term labor of love for a husband and wife who hope others will join their efforts.

"To whom much is given, much is expected," said Walter Seibert, by way of explaining why he and his wife Gesuina make up the Prison Ministry of Northern Connecticut.

For the past 15 years, the Seiberts, both septuagenarians, have been involved in prison ministry, which brings prisoners of different faiths together with volunteers. They travel to correctional facilities in Suffield and Enfield three times a week to share their faith with inmates.

Both products of Catholic education, Walter and Ges, as she is known, say the ministry has fortified their faith. Although they describe their sharing of the faith as "Catechism 101," they are challenged by the questions inmates ask.

"We’ve had to answer questions that we never had to look at before because we just took things on faith. But a lot of these guys say, ‘I don’t want to know based upon faith, I want an answer to that,’" Walter said. "So we go back and look up the Church’s teaching."

The Seiberts’ ministry is funded entirely by the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal.

"Last year we got a $2,500 grant from that, and thank God," said Walter, adding that the money is used primarily to buy Bibles and catechisms in English and Spanish.

"We are so blessed," said Ges. "If somebody had told me, ‘One day, you’re going to enjoy going to prison,’ I would have said, ‘You’re out of your mind.’"The Seiberts, who have been married for 55 years, live at St. Joseph’s Residence, a home for the elderly run by the Little Sisters of the Poor.

They met on a blind date in college in the 1950s, were married in New York during a hurricane and "have done everything together ever since," said Ges with an infectious laugh.

Walter said when he was in business as a certified public accountant and Ges was raising their three children, they often thought, "God wants us to do something with our faith because we had been given so much, and we kept asking, ‘Lord, what do you want us to do?’ And no matter what we put our hands to," such as teaching religious education and other volunteerism, "nothing seemed to gel."

In 1996, Deacon Rene Kieda, then the Catholic chaplain at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, put a notice into the St. Martha Parish bulletin for people to help with the prison ministries program

Walter said he thanked God for not calling him to that ministry.

Two weeks later, when the Walter and Ges were at Mass, Deacon Robert Bernd talked about his involvement with the ministry.

Walter said he again thanked God for not calling him to that ministry.

Shortly after that, Walter said, when he went to confession, the priest told him to read Matthew 25 as a penance. It was the line "[For I was] in prison and you visited me" that shaped the couple’s future.

They started by visiting MacDougall-Walker and Carl Robinson Correctional Institution in Enfield every two weeks.

Now, they visit MacDougall-Walker twice a week and Carl Robinson weekly. They are there for about two hours, and their visits attract anywhere from several to 30 inmates. They show the men videos about the saints or the faith, talk about whatever topics the men raise, and are on hand for regular holy hours, eucharistic services (both are extraordinary ministers of holy Communion) and inmate-led rosaries and Divine Mercy Chaplets.

"The basic attitude we’re going in with is that Jesus is love, and we want to be vessels of his love," said Walter. "We want to restore their God-given dignity and let them know that the Lord loves them unconditionally.

"We have found so many men who are trying to turn their lives around," said Walter. They aim to make the Catholic faith a vital part of the men’s lives.

Walter and Ges have witnessed conversions to the faith. Ges also participated in several baptisms as the godmother of several inmates.

They shared parts of notes, cards and letters they have received from inmates over the years.

"My reason for writing is … to say thank you for being such caring and loving people. You and your wife show me how love can make people live a happy life, and how Christ works through people who believe," wrote one man.

Another wrote, "The prison system can’t change who you are. You must do that for yourself, and through programs like this one, it can be possible to make a change in each of our lives."

"I am in a six-month addiction program. I have a room all to myself where I can work on myself and pray and read," wrote another. "I am so blessed, I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am for turning my will over to the care of God."

Walter confessed that there are times that they are tempted to skip a visit. "But, it’s very fulfilling work. They come out better and we come out better. When we come out, we’re walking on air," he said.

The couple said more lay Catholics should get involved in prison ministries. Again borrowing from the Bible, Walter said, "The laborers are few and the harvest is so ripe."

Events Calendar

October 2014
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
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10:00 AM
St. Anthony Parish, prospect, Prospect, United States
St. Anthony Parish in Prospect will again operate its Pumpkin Patch during the month October. It will be open Oct. 4-31, and all proceeds will support the parish's HOPE Ministry, which assists local [...]
Date :  October 04, 2014
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07:30 AM
Anthony's Ocean View, New Haven, New Haven, United States
The Foundation for the Advancement of Catholic Schools (FACS) will host its annual Archbishop’s Columbus [...]
Date :  October 10, 2014
11
08:30 AM
Caritas Christi Center, Hamden, Hamden, United States
Caritas Christi Center in Hamden will host a contemporary presentation of the discipline of centering prayer as silent communication with God [...]
12:00 PM
152 Litchfield St., Torrington, Torrington, United States
Oktoberfest 2014 will be held to benefit the Torrington Cluster of Roman Catholic Parishes (St. Peter, St. Francis of Assisi, Sacred Heart and St. Mary) from noon to 6 p.m. Oct. 11 at 152 Litchfield St., [...]
Date :  October 11, 2014
12
01:00 PM
Lourdes in Litchfield, Litchfield, United States
Lourdes in Litchfield Shrine will have its annual harvest dinner at 1 p.m. Oct. 12 in Pilgrim Hall. [...]
02:00 PM
Cathedral of St. Joseph, Hartford, Hartford, United States
HARTFORD – The 25th anniversary celebration of the Diocesan Rosary Rally will take place from 2-3:30 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph. Archbishop Leonard P. Blair will give a talk titled [...]
Date :  October 12, 2014
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14
07:00 PM
Chiara Center, Meriden, Meriden, United States
Thomas Finn, Ph.D., will present a six-session educational and psychological workshop designed to help [...]
Date :  October 14, 2014
15
06:00 PM
Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center, West Hartford, United States
"Incorporating Prayer into the Classroom Setting: An Evening Workshop for Parish Catechists," will be [...]
06:30 PM
Caritas Christi Center, Hamden, Hamden, United States
The film 'Places in the Heart' will be shown, discussed and studied from 6:30-9 p.m. Oct. 15 at the [...]
07:00 PM
St. Peter Claver Parish, West Hartford, West Hartford, United States
WEST HARTFORD – The Archdiocese of Hartford’s Office for Catholic Social Justice Ministry (OCSJM) will sponsor a workshop on the need for criminal justice reform at 7 p.m. Oct. 15 at St. Peter Claver [...]
07:00 PM
Our Lady of Calvary Retreat Center, Farmington , Farmington, United States
  On Wednesday, October 15, Our Lady of Calvary Retreat Center in Farmington is offering "Autumn [...]
07:00 PM
Most Holy Trinity Church, Wallingford, Wallingford, United States
WALLINGFORD – Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, will give a [...]
09:00 AM
Our Lady of Calvary Retreat Center, Farmington , Farmington, United States
  On Wednesday, October 15, Our Lady of Calvary Retreat Center in Farmington is offering "Autumn [...]
10:00 AM
Caritas Christi Center, Hamden, Hamden, United States
"Are You Here for Me, Lord?" a program for the bereaved, will be presented by Sister Mauryeen O'Brien from [...]
Date :  October 15, 2014
16
09:00 AM
Lourdes in Litchfield, Litchfield, United States
Lourdes-in-Litchfield will have its semi-annual tag sale from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 16, 17 and 18 and [...]
Date :  October 16, 2014
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07:00 PM
Sacred Heart Church, Southbury CT, Southbury, United States
Sacred Heart Parish in Southbury and its adult choir music ministry will have a Taize prayer service at 7 p.m. Oct. 17 at the church. Taize is an [...]
Date :  October 17, 2014
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07:00 PM
Academy of the Holy Family, Baltic, Sprague, United States
The Baltic Council of the Knights of Columbus will sponsor a benefit dinner for the Academy of the Holy Family at 7 p.m. Oct. 18 at the academy, located  at 54 West Main Street in Baltic. [...]
07:00 PM
Montfort House, Litchfield, Litchfield, United States
Lourdes-in-Litchfield will have its annual Fine Dining and Wine Pairing fund-raiser from 7-10 p.m. Oct. 18 [...]
08:30 AM
Doubletree by Hilton, Bristol, Bristol, United States
Magnificat for women will have a breakfast at 9 a.m. Oct. 18 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Bristol. Registration opens at 8:30. The speaker will be author Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle.  The [...]
09:00 AM
Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary, Bloomfield, United States
The eighth annual “Unbound: Freedom in Christ Conference” will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield. Based on Neal [...]
09:00 AM
Holy Angels Parish Center, South Meriden, Meriden, United States
Former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson and abortion survivor Gianna Jessen will be the [...]
Date :  October 18, 2014
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01:00 PM
Sacred Heart Academy, Hamden, Hamden, United States
Sacred Heart Academy in Hamden will have an open house from 1-3 p.m. Oct. 19.
01:00 PM
Notre Dame High School, West Haven, West Haven, United States
Notre Dame High Shool will have an open house from 1-3 p.m. Oct. 19.
01:00 PM
Sacred Heart Academy, Hamden CT, Hamden, United States
HAMDEN – Sacred Heart Academy, an independent Catholic college preparatory school for young women in [...]
02:00 PM
Cathedral of St. Joseph, Hartford, United States
Annual anniversary Mass for couples celebrating significan wedding anniversaries.
02:00 PM
St. Mary Star of the Sea Church, Unionville, Farmington, United States
UNIONVILLE –The Legion of Mary of St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish will host a living rosary program in [...]
04:00 PM
St. Justin Church, Hartford, United States
St. Justin Parish will host an Interreligious Harvest Festival at 4 p.m. Oct. 19. Local Catholic and [...]
Date :  October 19, 2014
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05:00 PM
Aqua Turf Club, Plantsville, Southington, United States
The Office for Catholic Social Justice Ministry (OCSJM) will present awards for exceptional efforts in social justice ministry at its annual dinner Oct. 21 at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville. It [...]
05:00 PM
Aqua Turf Club, Plantsville, Southington, United States
Click here
07:00 PM
Caritas Christi Center, Hamden, United States
"How to Live an Inspired Life and Inspire Others" is the title of a workshop schuled for 7 p.m. Oct. 21 at [...]
07:00 PM
Our Lady of Calvary Retreat Center, Farmington, Farmington, United States
Our Lady of Calvary Retreat Center will offer a program entitled "Returning to the Church of My Youth" presented by Deacon Art Miller.  Deacon Miller will share his reflections on the [...]
07:00 PM
Chiara Center, Meriden, Meriden, United States
Thomas Finn, Ph.D., will present a six-session educational and psychological workshop designed to help [...]
09:00 AM
Our Lady of Calvary Retreat Center, Farmington, Farmington, United States
Our Lady of Calvary Retreat Center will offer a program entitled "Returning to the Church of My Youth" presented by Deacon Art Miller.  Deacon Miller will share his reflections on the [...]
Date :  October 21, 2014
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07:00 PM
Holy Spirit Parish in Newington, Newington, United States
Holy Spirit Parish in Newington will host a concert by Elisabeth von Trapp, granddaughter of the legendary Maria and Baron von Trapp, whose story inspired “The Sound of Music,” at 7 p.m. Oct. 24.Ms. [...]
12:00 AM
Lourdes in Litchfield, Litchfield, United States
Lourdes-in-Litchfield will have its semi-annual tag sale from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 16, 17 and 18 and [...]
Date :  October 24, 2014
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08:00 AM
Goodwin College, East Hartford , East Hartford, United States
EAST HARTFORD – International Catholic speaker, author and radio host Jon Leonetti will be the keynote [...]
08:00 AM
Notre Dame High School, West Haven, West Haven, United States
Notre Dame High School admissions test
Date :  October 25, 2014
26
01:00 PM
Xavier High School, Middletown, Middletown, United States
Open house at Xavier High School in Middletown for young men in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades.
Date :  October 26, 2014
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06:00 PM
Infinity Hall, Hartford, Hartford, United States
HARTFORD – Malta House of Care will sponsor a new fund-raising event at a new venue in October. “A Little Night Music Under the Stars” will be held from 6-8 p.m. Oct. 28 at Infinity Music Hall and [...]
07:00 PM
Chiara Center, Meriden, Meriden, United States
Thomas Finn, Ph.D., will present a six-session educational and psychological workshop designed to help [...]
Date :  October 28, 2014
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12:00 AM
Holy Family Retreat Center, West Hartford, West Hartford, United States
Holy Family Retreat Center will present "From Control to Compassion," a weekend retreat for men and women with Father Michael Crosby, Oct 31-Nov 2. It wil explore the causes and consequences [...]
Date :  October 31, 2014

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