Carrying a Lantern Through Dark Spaces: Indiana Women's Prison Ministry

Every week of the year, thanks to the Rev. Kate Wilson and a team of volunteers, the Diocese of Indianapolis ministers to prisoners in the Indiana Women’s Prison.

“One of our baptismal promises is to work toward reconciliation, and people in prison really need to reconcile themselves, others and God,” says Wilson, who coordinates volunteer clergy to visit the prison. “It’s very difficult for some women to forgive themselves and to trust in God’s forgiveness, so our message of reconciliation and forgiveness through Christ aids in the development of self-worth and new relationships with God. It’s so important for us to carry the Gospel with that loving and reconciling message—it’s so powerful.”

During their weekly visits, volunteers celebrate Eucharist or evening prayer and leave ample room for conversation. “Every woman I’ve worked with there is on the edge of or in a spiritual transition. It’s an honor to carry a lantern for their journeys through dark spaces.”

Wilson has seen the results of this hard work outside prison walls. “One day I was at Trinity, Indianapolis, the church I attend,” Wilson says. “This woman said, ‘Kate?’ And I looked up, and it was a woman from the prison. I was so excited. She knows the Episcopal Church, and so she came to Trinity. Several of her friends are now people she met at church. She’s making this incredible return to the real world, and it’s just a joy to see.”

Currently, the Indiana Women’s Prison ministry has six volunteers, including Wilson. She is looking for more clergy to join the ministry. Volunteering requires a one-and-a-half-hour training session, a background check and a recent tuberculosis test. Prison chaplain Andrea Lewis is available each week to answer volunteers’ questions.

Those interested in volunteering are invited to contact Wilson directly at 317-318-3645 or katewilson725@yahoo.com. The next scheduled training is July 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the prison. An application and background check form for prospective volunteers is available online.