Newspaper of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

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

September 2014
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
12:00 AM
Archbishop O'Brien Library , Bloomfield, United States
The Archbishop O’Brien Library will participate in a community-based project with Life Choice Donor Services, a non-profit organ procurement organization, during September, to raise awareness for organ [...]
Date :  September 01, 2014
06:00 PM
Hartford Club, Hartford, Hartford, United States
HARTFORD – The House of Bread, one of the area’s largest urban ministries, will kick off its 35th [...]
Date :  September 04, 2014
09:00 AM
Caritas Christi Center, Hamden, Hamden, United States
“Empowering Catholic Social Justice Teachings through Gospel Living, Every Day, Every Way’ is the title of a Catechist Day presentation to be given by Father Chris Tiano, director of the Office of [...]
09:00 AM
“Empowering Catholic Social Justice Teachings through Gospel Living, Every Day, Every Way’ is the title of a Catechist Day presentation to be given by Father Chris Tiano, director of the Office of [...]
Date :  September 06, 2014
02:00 PM
Cathedral of St. Joseph, Hartford, Hartford, United States
08:00 AM
Academy of the Holy Family's Dining Hall, Sprague, United States
The Baltic Knights of Columbus will have a pancake breakfast from 8 a.m. to noon Sept. 7 at the Academy of the Holy Family’s Dining Hall at 54 W. Main St., Baltic.  Pancakes, French [...]
11:30 AM
St. Rita Day Care Center, Hamden, Hamden, United States
St. Rita Parish in Hamden will celebrate its 50th anniversary with an outdoor Mass at 11:30 a.m. Sept. 7 [...]
Date :  September 07, 2014
07:00 PM
St. Lawrence O'Toole Church, Hartford, Hartford, United States
People from the English, Spanish and Portuguese Cursillo communities will be among the congregants at a multicultural Cursillo Mass that will be celebrated at 7 p.m. Sept. 11 at St. Lawrence O’Toole [...]
Date :  September 11, 2014
03:00 PM
St. Anthony Maronite Catholic Church, Springfield, Springfield, United States
The Archdiocese of Hartford will host a one-day pilgrimage to St. Anthony Maronite Catholic Church in [...]
Date :  September 12, 2014
09:00 AM
Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary, Bloomfield, Bloomfield, United States
A workshop titled "Building Intercultural Competence in Our Parishes" will be presented from 9 a.m. to [...]
10:00 AM
Lourdes in Litchfield Shrine, Litchfield, United States
BRANFORD – The St. Mary Ladies Guild is planning a Day of Pilgrimage and Prayer on Sept. 13 at the [...]
10:30 AM
Mortensen Riverfront Park, Hartford, Hartford, United States
HARTFORD – Immaculate Conception Shelter & Housing Corp. will have its third annual “Give Me [...]
Date :  September 13, 2014
08:30 AM
Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Waterbury, Waterbury, United States
WATERBURY – Sheridan Council 24 of the Knights of Columbus will host its second annual Communion [...]
Date :  September 14, 2014
06:00 PM
Church of St. Ann, Avon, Avon, United States
St. Ann's Church of Avon is having its fifth annual clothing sale from 6-8:30 p.m. Sept. 19 and from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 20 in Father Bennett Hall at the parish. Proceeds benefit students [...]
Date :  September 19, 2014
08:30 AM
Church of St. Ann, Avon, Avon, United States
St. Ann's Church of Avon is having its fifth annual clothing sale from 6-8:30 p.m. Sept. 19 and from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 20 in Father Bennett Hall at the parish. Proceeds benefit students [...]
10:00 AM
St. Paul Catholic High School, Bristol, Bristol, United States
St. Paul Catholic High School open houses at 10 and 11:30 a.m. Sept. 20,  7 p.m. Oct. 8 and at 10 and [...]
Date :  September 20, 2014
11:00 AM
Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary, Bloomfield, United States
Applications are being accepted for the 2014 Catholic Youth Spectacular (CYS), set for Sept. 21 on the [...]
Date :  September 21, 2014
11:00 AM
Wampanoag Country Club, West Hartford, West Hartford, United States
HARTFORD – The 22nd annual Archbishop John F. Whealon Memorial Golf Tournament will take place Sept. 23 [...]
Date :  September 23, 2014
06:00 PM
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Hamden , Hamden, United States
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Hamden will have its monthly Pro-Life Holy Hour Novena from 6-7 p.m. September 24.The Holy Hour will include exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, pro-life rosary, [...]
Date :  September 24, 2014
09:30 AM
Holy Angels Parish Center, South Meriden, Meriden, United States
MERIDEN – The Meriden-Wallingford Council of Catholic Women will sponsor a catered breakfast at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 27 at Holy Angels Parish Center in South Meriden. Guest speaker Deacon Thomas J. Davis [...]
Date :  September 27, 2014
01:00 PM
Polish-American Club, West Haven, United States
NEW HAVEN – St. Stanislaus Parish will have its annual picnic/harvest festival from 1-8 p.m. Sept. 28, rain or shine, at the Polish-American Club at 194 W. Spring St., West Haven. Polish and [...]
Date :  September 28, 2014

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