Read the article 'Mercy in the heart of justice' and answer the following questions. Then share your answers in pairs, small groups or in a classroom discussion.
1. Have you ever heard of a prison chaplain? After reading the article, ‘Mercy in the heart of justice’, how do you describe the role of a prison chaplain?
2. Margaret Wiseman says ‘Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve always had a concern for the underdog.’ What social justice issue or cause is important to you? Have you ever considered making a career out of it?
3. What does it let you know about Margaret that she is a godmother to one of the inmate’s children?
4. Why is it important for the inmates to accept that God loves them? Why is this important for all people to understand?
5. Margaret tells the story of the inmate she’s been working with for 18 years. Margaret says the hardest thing for this woman to do was forgive herself. Why do you think forgiving herself was more difficult than forgiving other people who hurt her? Why can forgiving ourselves lead to long and lasting transformation?
1. Classroom forgiveness meditation: As a class spend some time in quiet. Your teacher can dim the lights and play soft music. Students are welcome to sit comfortably and close their eyes. Students can begin their meditation by inviting God into their hearts and mind. Once they feel safe and ready, students can bring to mind those they need or want to forgive.
Teachers can prompt students with the following questions:
Why haven’t you forgiven a friend, family member, teacher or even a stranger?
Why are you holding on to these resentments?
When have you ever done something similar to the person who has hurt you?
How did you want to be treated after you behaved that way?
Can you let go of your resentments now?
What can’t you forgive yourself for?
Why haven’t you forgiven yourself? What’s holding you back?
Have you forgiven others for the same mistake? If you forgave others, can you forgive yourself?
Can you try and forgive yourself today? Maybe God can help?
Students can imagine handing over their resentments, hurts, bad memories, regrets and losses to God. They can ask God for whatever graces and virtues they may need to let go of these negative feelings and open up to forgiveness.
When students are ready, they can open their eyes and finish up the activity by writing a reflection on this forgiveness meditation. What did they think of the forgiveness meditation? Were they able to forgive anyone or move closer to forgiveness?
2. Prison chaplain Margaret Wiseman says it can be difficult to make a person in prison realise they are still loved by God, although they have committed a crime. She says ‘I tell them over and over that God loves them. None of us are our mistakes, we are God’s beloved.’
Write a letter to a person in prison from God. Imagine what God would want that person to know. What would God say to give them hope for their future and peace for that day?
When you are finished, share your letter with your class.
For younger students
Understanding why people go to jail can be confusing for kids. Your teacher can show your class some of the videos from Sesame Street's 'Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration'. Then as a class discuss the different feelings that a person in jail and their family may have about being separated from those they love. After as a class discuss how a prison chaplain helps both the family members in jail and outside of prison.
Draw a picture of how a prison chaplain, such as Margaret Wiseman, offers hope and God’s love to people in prison.
Watch the videos from 'Sesame Street's 'Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration' here