e-mail us

Keeping Faith

Two retired Sisters of Divine Providence in Pittsburgh, Pa., continue to minister to those in need -- by correspondence with death row inmates.

“I’m physically incapacitated,” said Sr. Gladys Goehring, 90. “But I have a good mind, good eyes and my fingers are not crippled, so I’m able to write, and I thank God for that.”

Goehring began this ministry almost a year ago at the suggestion of Sr. Edwarda Bliss. Bliss, 86, decided to correspond with a death row inmate after hearing Sr. Helen Prejean speak at their congregation’s annual assembly in 1998.

Bliss writes to a 59-year-old Catholic man on death row in Texas. She has been moved by his faith. “I can see the progress he’s made, and there’s no bitterness in how he turns to God and prays,” she said. “I try to put myself in that position and I don’t think I could take it. Like he says, only with the grace of God.”

Bliss said she has encouraged him to pray for the souls of the lives he took and for the families, that they will be able to forgive him. “He told me he’s doing that,” she said. “For the first time he gave me the names of the family he hurt.”

Goehring writes to Michael, a 22-year-old inmate on Texas’ death row. He is a convert to Catholicism. “He doesn’t seem to have a real concept of God or his relationship with God,” Goehring said. “I continually tell him, ‘God loves you.’ I have sent him short prayers, making them personal for him.”

She has also written to Michael’s mother. “It has given me a greater sense of consideration for those in prison,” Goehring said. “I pray for Michael in particular and for his mother. I also pray for all people who are on death row, especially for those who are facing execution, that they will have some help in God.”

Daylesford Abbey in Paoli, Pa., is a “wonderful place,” according to Mary Stroud, and she does her part to welcome others to it, organizing hospitality for the Norbertine abbey’s events.

When the abbey holds adult education courses, prayer and reflection meetings, lectures and other seminars, Stroud, 79, brings together volunteers to help with details from registration to keeping the coffee supplied.

Stroud also joins a monthly women’s reading and reflection group held at the abbey. Twice a month she helps the Norbertine-run Bethesda Project serving the homeless.

Send suggestions for Keeping Faith to Teresa Malcolm at NCR. Her e-mail address is tmalcolm@natcath.org

National Catholic Reporter, April 14, 2000