There is a workshop in Chardon that buzzes with high energy and focus. That’s what it takes to accomplish some amazing projects dedicated to bringing a sense of connection between inmates in Cuyahoga County jails, who are indigent, and people who care about them.
Sisters gather in a large community room, walking with canes, wheelchairs, and walkers. Some a little slower than usual since they may have just had their chemo treatment, or are ailing from some illness. They come to help someone else in need. These past two months the projects have been for prison inmates.
Sister Rita Mary Harwood, SND, who facilitates the Ministry to the Incarcerated throughout the 8 counties of the diocese, asked the sisters to fill 6,000 envelopes with 2 sheets of writing paper and a stamped envelope, to give to the inmates at the Cuyahoga County jail. The project enables those who have no one sending them some money for supplies while in jail to have paper and a stamp, to write to their family or lawyer.
Sister Agnesmarie LoPorto, SND, the Activity Director of the Assisted Living Health Care, coordinates the project. As they were sitting together, busy stuffing envelopes, she told the sisters, “I don’t think anyone else in the province helped 6,000 people in one day but you did!”
Several days later Sister Mary Dion Horrigan, SND, asked the Sisters to put together 75 Christmas treat bags for the Community Assessment Treatment Center in Cuyahoga County, a center for women who are addicted and receiving treatment. Sr. Dion explained the women receive the treat bag so that when their children come to visit them, they will have a Christmas gift to give.
Finally, the sisters wrote Christmas cards to 12 inmates who never receive mail. They signed 6 Christmas cards for each inmate. One card per week is mailed so each inmate receives 6 cards by Christmas. These cards may be the only gift the inmate will receive.
Sr. Rita Mary told the story of a son who used the envelope and notepaper to send his mom a long note saying he was sorry. He told her she raised him better and that he made the mistake, not her. He told her how much he loved her. Overwhelmed by his message, the mom, in the middle of snowy December, took a chair, went outside by the statue of the Blessed Mother in her garden, sat down and weeping, read the letter to the Blessed Mother. She told Sr. Rita Mary the Blessed Mother would understand because she was the mother of a prisoner too.