Prison and Jail Ministry

A Ministry of Presence

Prison and Jail Ministry of the Diocese of Grand Rapids is called to serve by providing a Catholic presence to incarcerated individuals and those returning from incarceration. This presence comes in the form of Catholic religious services and sharing of Catholic educational materials.
Established over 40 years ago, the ministry serves individuals in 21 correctional facilities throughout our 11-county diocese. More than 50 priests, deacons, and volunteers, integral to the success of the ministry, bring messages of hope to those affected by incarceration. With the help of our volunteers, we offer many weekly services, including Masses, RCIA classes, Communion and prayer services.
Prison and Jail Ministry also has a re-entry outreach ministry, GROW (Guiding Returning Citizens to Our World), for people returning from incarceration. GROW helps break the cycle of recidivism by educating parish communities on the spiritual needs and concerns of returned citizens and their families. GROW helps create welcoming faith communities through building awareness and relationships. Through GROW we journey with our Catholic brothers and sisters as they re-enter society and help find them a faith community where they can continue to grow spiritually. Are you interested in learning more? Follow us on Facebook or contact us at 616-475-1255.

Upcoming Events

Donations Needed!

On Thursday, Aug. 1, 2024, the Prison and Jail Ministry will again host and sponsor the Michigan Department of Corrections Offenders Success Annual Reentry Summit for Kent County. This summit offers individuals on parole and probation the opportunity to meet with over 20 support service providers and includes a free raffle, breakout sessions and a keynote speaker. In the past, over 100 individuals attended this event.

Prison and Jail Ministry is seeking the following donations to be given to the summit attendees and to include in the raffle:

New Adult Bikes, New Chrome Books, Wallets containing gift cards to: restaurants that do not sell alcohol (Subway, McDonalds, Panera Bread) or barber shops/hair salons

Backpacks for men and women containing some of the following items: shampoo, conditioner, body wash, body lotion, bath towels, hand towels, wash cloths

If we exceed the number of donations needed for the Kent County summit, we will give additional donations to the summits held in Allegan, Montcalm, and Muskegon counties.

Donations are being accepted now through Friday, July 12. All donations can be delivered, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. to Cathedral Square Center, 360 Division Ave S., Grand Rapids, MI 49504.

If you are interested in collecting these items or perhaps leading a service project at your parish or school to benefit those returning from incarceration, please contact program director, Tricia Worrell, 616-475-1255 [email protected]


Attend a Volunteer Information Session

Did you know our Prison and Jail Ministry develops and maintains Catholic religious services within 6 state prisons located in our diocese? We offer 12 weekly services in the prisons including Masses, Communion services, RCIA, and Bible studies. We also donate Catholic religious material and administer the sacraments in 11 county jails as needed.

We are currently seeking new volunteers to serve in the Juvenile Detention Centers located in our diocese. Are you interested in learning more? Consider attending one of two informational sessions to learn more about this important work and volunteer opportunities.

When: Thursday, July 18

Two identical sessions, come to either one: 11 a. m. – 2 p. m. or 6 – 9 p. m.

Where: Cathedral Square Center, 360 Division Ave. S., Grand Rapids, MI


Questions: Tricia Worrell, program director, 616-475-1255 or [email protected]


Catholic Services in Prison

Recently we interviewed and recorded men who attend our Catholic services at Muskegon Correctional Facility and Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility. In this video you will hear powerful messages from our incarcerated friends on how attending Catholic services in prison has impacted them and how having access to the sacraments radically changes them and their culture.






Volunteer Reflections

Words of reflection from Marj Williams, Ottawa County Juvenile Detention Center volunteer

Twenty-five years ago I met a prison-bound young man through our church youth ministry program at the Ottawa County Jail. Shortly after that encounter, I felt called to explore jail ministry. Trudy Stawick held a training session and I was hooked. A few months into my ministry, Trudy and I had a meeting at Ottawa County Juvenile Detention and we explored the possibility of establishing a Catholic presence in detention twice a month. Guidelines were set up and we began a new program with the youth of Ottawa County. About a year later the administrator contacted Trudy again to see if we could expand the program and alternate with the Protestant churches that held Sunday services. And so began Catholic Mass in detention. But a few years into this plan a shortage of priests’ availability caused us to scale back and hold Communion Services instead. Many volunteers have come and gone in these years as this ministry is not for everyone. Some people are tentative about working with teenagers. Early in my ministry I also led a twice monthly communion service with the men at the Ottawa County work camp (long discontinued) but I always preferred to be with the teenagers in detention. I have been in court when a young man was sentenced and no family would attend. I cried with a 15-year-old mother while her three children were living with grandma and her baby was undergoing surgery. Listened to a 14-year-old explain why detention was the safest place for him. Prayed for a young lady that was being sent home to an abusive household. Scolded a young guy for being in detention so many times that I thought he should be paying rent. Received forwarded letters of thanks from youngsters that had figured out their lives and prayed for a young man who was killed in a gang fight not long after he was released from detention. So, over the years there are some sad memories and yet many, many more happy ones. There has been so much joy along with the abundant blessings I received just being in the presence of these young seekers. Some are only there one time and some come back many times for many reasons. But the Sunday services and/or Tuesday night discussions affirmed the need for a Catholic presence no matter what denomination the teens may be affiliated with. We need to reach out to other potential volunteers and keep this wonderful ministry going forward. Many young people in the detention system in our counties are truly looking for faith filled people to give of their time answering questions. They just need someone to care and share Christ with them.

prison and jail ministry volunteers

Volunteer Resources

Volunteer Schedules / Sign Ups

Communion Service Sheets

*The Communion service format used in our service sheets is liturgically accurate for a lay volunteer leading a Communion service in places other than a church. Service Sheets in Spanish are available upon request.         




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The Michigan Restorative Justice Council

In addition to our work serving the incarcerated and those returning from incarceration Prison and Jail Ministry recently formed the Michigan Restorative Justice Council. This council was formed as an initiative of the 3rd Annual Michigan Restorative Justice Conference: Radical Forgiveness. The Council is comprised of judges, lawyers, parole and probation officers, religious leaders, experts in restorative justice, elected officials, victims of crime and returned citizens.

The MRJC has researched restorative practices within Michigan and throughout the United States. It has developed broad victim/offender mediation strategies and undertaken the work of creating the Restorative Justice Practices Enabling Act. The MRJC hopes its strategies will be converted by policy makers into statutory authority, allowing stakeholders in the criminal justice system to universally implement victim/offender mediation at the various states of our criminal justice process.
The Council will help promote alternative sentencing and offer a path to mercy, forgiveness, healing and restoration pre-adjudication and beyond.

West Michigan Restorative Justice Conference

On Saturday, April 22, 2023 we hosted and sponsored a Restorative Justice Conference planned by the men at Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility (MTU).It was a powerful, inspiring, and transforming day beginning with our keynote presenter James Wahlberg,forRadical Mission: Inspiring collaborative action through restorative culture.

Read more about the conference.
Jim Wahlberg presents during April 2023 Restorative Justice Conference

Keynote Presentation Video

During the April, 2023 Restorative Justice Conference, attended by more than 150 people, keynote speaker, Jim Wahlberg, shared his journey through addiction and incarceration to redemption. Learn more about Jim on his website.  

Watch additional videos below and on our YouTube Channel.


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RJC 2023 panel discussion
Mobilizing Restorative Justice: Enacting the paradigm for healing and human dignity The Honorable Joseph Rossi, Angela Sprank and Nathan Johnson participate in a panel discussion at West Michigan's 4th Restorative Justice Conference organized by the men at Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility and hosted by the Diocese of Grand Rapids Prison and Jail Ministry.
Bridging the Gap Video RJC 2023
Bridging the Gap, Shaping the Restorative Narrative Stories from prison regarding how programing has been restorative, transforming and has radically changed many of our incarcerated friends. It is their hope, these stories will inspire and encourage you to begin implementing restorative practices in your home, community, schools, churches and prison.

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Returning Citizens

Are you a returned citizen looking for a welcoming faith community?

GROW is an outreach ministry of the Diocese of Grand Rapids for people returning from incarceration. GROW helps break the cycle of recidivism by educating parish communities on the spiritual needs and concerns of returning citizens and their families.  

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C.L.E.A.R. (Coalition, Leadership, Educate, Advice, Rehabilitation)

C.L.E.A.R. is a peer support group for men and women who have been formerly incarcerated and/or who are on probation or parole. Contact Officer Kaitlin Bernardo for details regarding the women's group at 616-2127-8337 or email [email protected]. For more information and meeting location for the men's group, contact Officer Ray Erickson at 352-430-6418 or email [email protected].

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Resource Guide for Returning Citizens

Please see resource guide for assistance with housing, employment, meals, clothing, support groups, etc.

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