This, I hope, will be one of the stranger appeal letters you get from me.
I realize that the word on the streets is that nothing will ever be the same after the pandemic. And I suppose, at one level, that's true. But at another level it's not.
There will always be prisons, I'm sure. But, God willing, not prisons like these that are developing now. The overcrowding—the lack of any kind of controlled personal space, let alone “social distancing”—is totally out of control.
COVID has quadrupled in some prison systems, deaths have skyrocketed, older, long-term, prisoners have become especially vulnerable. And no single program has been developed or adopted to deal with the problem, let alone mitigate it.
The point is that COVID has not only made an over-burdened institution more fragile than usual, it has made it physically impossible, a sitting target for a virus we have not had the leadership to deal with in the best of circumstances. Prisons have become COVID clusters and centers far more incendiary than even hospitals or nursing homes, schools or large public gatherings.
And in addition to the medical side effects, COVID has had consequential effects on social, spiritual, and emotional well-being:
By locking down the prisons to control an increase of infection, it has managed to lock out one of the few things you and I have been able to get into the prisons: good spiritual reflection, holy conversation, a glimpse of beauty, some moments of hope, a ray of the positive that might make life more humane and the future more desirable.
You see, as part of the lockdown, many prisons have locked out things like the free flow of spiritual materials from you and me into the hands of the chaplains. They have nothing left around which to base ongoing gatherings of groups grasping for life and looking for the kind of hope and support that you have brought to them for over 11 years now.
Now those in prison face not only years of desolation, they face the same kind of fear we do about who will get this virus next and who will die next because of it.
So, what is this appeal letter about if we can't get our usual number of materials into the prisons? It is, I think, more important than ever. Despite all of this confusion and concern, we did manage to get a total of 1500 journals into a number of places and a steady stream of Monastic Ways to half of our contacts. Most of all though, we realized, how important it would be to be able to start again.
What we really need to be able to do now is to prepare new materials, so we have something to send as soon as all those doors open to us again.
We need to be an immediate presence where we have been absent so long and where so many need so much support as soon as possible.
Thank you for hearing this plea from the bottom of an empty well to those who have no water at all.
They count on you. We count on you. And you can count on us to hang on to all our connections and correspondents, to let them all know that we are waiting to be with them, too.
Thank you for hearing me one more time. Because I know you and I know you will….
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Add a person in prison to your Christmas list. For a donation of only $12 we will send a special Christmas gift, a one-year subscription to The Monastic Way, to a prisoner.
And/or make a general gift:
- for a total donation of $100-$249 we’ll send you the mini 2021 Joan Chittister Calendar.
- for a total donation of $250-$999 we’ll send you the wall 2021 Joan Chittister Calendar.
- for a total donation of $1,000 or more we’ll send you both sizes of the 2021 Joan Chittister Calendar and the new book, "From the Writings of Joan Chittister: On Women."
Beginning in 2021, The Monastic Way, Joan Chittister’s monthly reflection publication, will only be available in digital form for individual subscribers. An aging software program and the formidable cost of purchasing new software that would handle individual print subscriptions necessitated that decision. However, we will still send bulk orders in print form to those in prison.