By Rev. Noelle Dattilo,
Prison Ministry Director to Worcester Fellowship, Inc.
Sometimes when we reach out to help transform others, we are transformed ourselves. This happened to me while doing prison ministry.
Several years ago, I was invited to attend the closing ceremony of a local prison ministry program. I was so moved by this ceremony that, years later, when I heard there was a need for volunteers at the Concord prison, I offered to create a new spiritual formation program. With the assistance of the prison chaplain, I developed a meditation and spiritual formation group (that ran for over two years).
Before going into the prisons, I thought all inmates were scary and dangerous. But something wonderful happened behind those prison walls: I began to see Christ in the men.
While I was running the group, I got to know many of them and it only took a few visits before I realized these men could be my father, brother, neighbor, or friend. I came to realize that many of the men who came to the meditation group were not that different than I was. We may have come from different backgrounds, but we had the same hopes and dreams.
Most importantly, spending time with the men in Concord helped me appreciate my own qualities. When I was growing up, I wasn’t very talkative; so, I was often told by others that I was too quiet. I became very self-conscious and withdrawn. However, the men in Concord that came to my group told me that they needed a quiet place where they could reflect and connect with God, each other and themselves. I was able to create that space for them. As they came back to the group week after week, I saw them create bonds with one another that not only transformed them, but transformed me and many others around them. The qualities in me that had always seemed like an obstacle became a gift to these men. The more they valued this gift, the more I valued it in myself.
Seeing how meditation and quiet time affected the men helped me cherish the qualities in myself that I hadn’t appreciated before this prison ministry. It took this group of men in prison to help transform me to become my truest self. Building relationships with the inmates and getting to know the men created the space for this gift to grow and develop in me, so that I can share the gift with others.
Editor's Note: This story was originally shared in one of the Treasures in Clay Jars sessions of the 2015 Annual Meeting.
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