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The Prison Ministry Program is very dear to our St. George community and this opportunity to show Gods love to this marginalized group of individuals is priceless. In Matthew 25, Christ reminds us, “… I was in prison and you came to Me.” As well, in the troparion of our patron saint, we are reminded of St. George’s example as the “… deliverer of captives and defender of the poor”.
Our program has two (2) aspects.
PFC’s Angel Tree Christmas program connects church communities and individuals with the families of prisoners through the delivery of a Christmas gift on behalf of the incarcerated parent. Through this program, children not only receive a gift under the tree at Christmas but maintain connections and bonds with their incarcerated parent.
For approximately 20 years, our community has purchased/delivered gifts each year to approximately 60 children whose parent is imprisoned. Children have the excitement of receiving a gift, but more importantly it tells them that mom or dad is thinking about them at Christmas time. For prisoners, our support helps them experience the love of God during a time marked by guilt and loneliness. By strengthening their family ties, it also reduces their probability of re-offending when released. Angels are normally available for distribution by the 3rd Sunday of November to ensure that the gifts are delivered to the children in time for Christmas.
Joanie Younes connects with Prison Fellowship Canada each year in September to offer assistance from our community with the Angel Tree program. At that time she informs them of how many angels our community is willing/able to sponsor. She receives the application forms of the children in mid-November. The caregiver for each child is then contacted by phone to confirm contact info, names of children and gift choice. Following this, the angels are distributed to members of the community.
Diane Younes connects with the Toronto South Detention Centre and organizes the visit to the Centre on the Catholic Good Friday.
Volunteers are welcome to assist each year. Volunteers do any or all of the following:
To volunteer, please contact the church and someone will direct the interested person to the correct party.
A formal report is submitted to PCF in January including the list of the people who have assisted, as well as any comments (good or bad) about the experience.
Our Easter visits take place on Good Friday. This year, Good Friday was on April 15, 2022. Please note that the visits to Toronto South Detention Centre (TSDC) are made on the “(Roman) Catholic” Good Friday.
Typically, a group of volunteers from St. George arrive at the Toronto South Detention Centre (TSDC) at 9am to be registered and prepare for the visit. The Chaplain normally talks to our group, says a quick prayer, and we divide ourselves into 3 – 4 groups and start our day. We start distributing our packages right after breakfast and we are finished within one to 1 ½ hours.
Since the numbers of inmates has been 800 – 900 in the past (this year the number was 1100), we were allowed 9 people to participate, and we break into 3 – 4 groups. The Chaplain leads one group and the prison guards (or other Chaplains) lead the other groups to the various ranges. Once we arrive at each range, we greet the men, say a quick prayer with them and quickly distribute a gift to each.
We prepare an Easter gift package for every inmate (and guards on duty) consisting of:
All these items are in a clear gift bag.
We are truly gratefully to be blessed with this opportunity to continue the prison ministry with annual visits to the Toronto South Detention Centre. It is nothing short of a miracle that we are granted entry into a maximum-security institution …. it’s through the prayers of our patron St. George!
Below is the message in the Church bulletin thanking them for their support for the 2022 prison visit:
“And when I was in jail you visited me” – Matthew 25
By the Grace of God, and through the prayers of St. George, the doors of a maximum-security prison were opened to our church. On April 15, 2022, 9 volunteers from our parish were allowed to visit and distribute Easter gifts to the 1100 inmates at the Toronto South Detention Center. Thanks to your love and generosity, we were able to gift the inmates an icon of Christ, a Chocolate Easter bunny, a pad of paper, a pencil, and the Easter sermon of St. John Chrysostom. Although the inmates were overjoyed to receive these Easter gifts, in truth, the volunteers were the ones that were blessed by them. While we were unable to visit prison for the last two years due to the pandemic, we have been involved in this blessed prison ministry for the past 17 years. It is nothing short of a miracle that we have been allowed entry into a maximum-security prison; it is only through the intercessions of our patron St. George, “the Deliverer of Captives” that these doors were opened.
Thank you again for your prayers, generosity, and support.