Food for Thought

March 4-10, 2004
Food for Thought
By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Confirmation groups make a difference for Jail Ministry

BALDWINSVILLE –– The confirmation candidates at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish have chosen a variety of ministries to participate in as part of their service work for confirmation. The confirmation program at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton has over 80 candidates. In groups of 10, the candidates go out into the community –– to the Rescue Mission, L’Arche, the Brady Faith Center or the Samaritan Center and work together to minister to those in need. When one group chose to volunteer to sell Jail Ministry bread after each of the Masses at the church, they had no idea what a difference they would make. One weekend each month, the group sells over $400 of Jail Ministry baked goods –– an unbelievable accomplishment according to Curt Andino, director of the Jail Ministry program in Syracuse. “Our average sales at a parish is between $124 and $140,” said Andino. “Then they just skyrocketed at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. It’s fantastic. If any church wants to know how to do it right, they just need to look at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.” However, for Andino, it’s much more than sales. “I would say the making of bread, the making of something out of simple ingredients is a metaphor for jail ministry,” he said. “To have a young Christian community in a church far away from the city involved in bread making is a vital part of this ministry and the faith tradition.”

Andino said that while these youths may be too young to go to jail, they are not too young to participate. “They are learning to become adults in the faith,” said Andino. “They are learning to care for those less fortunate and are reaching out to the least of our brothers.” Leslie Dubiel, co-director of Religious Education at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, said that this ministry has been a learning experience for the candidates. “Being from Baldwinsville, we weren’t aware of the different needs in Syracuse,” she said. “We weren’t aware of the needs of the inmates. Many of them lack the money to make bail. We also learned about the transition programs the Jail Ministry provides for the inmates who are coming out of jail.”

The opportunity for this education came when the confirmation candidates took a bus tour of the west side of Syracuse and visited the different ministries and programs offered to those in need. “When we stopped at the Jail Ministry, Curt made a big impression on the kids,” said Dubiel. Dubiel said that the youth were thrilled that their parish made the most amount of money for the Jail Ministry program. “They saw that they could really make a difference,” she said. Bonnie Littlefield is the baker of the bread –– and all the other baked goods that are for sale at Glory Bee Bakery. Littlefield said that they make approximately 1,200 items each month and distribute the goods to St. Rose of Lima in North Syracuse, Christ the King in Mattydale, St. Joseph’s Parish in Liverpool, St. Vincent’s and others. First Presbyterian Church in Syracuse is also a large customer, she said.

“We only bake three days a month because we only have a few churches that participate in the ministry,” said Littlefield. “We are so grateful to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton for their participation. They order about 200 items each month and always sell out.” Littlefield said that the students are a wonderful resource to sell the items and are learning about the Jail Ministry program in the process. “It’s nice that the kids are getting involved. How many people even think about it?” she said. “It’s wrong to assume that everyone who is in jail is in there correctly. Those are the people who need us the most. They don’t have money to get a lawyer. They have no one to speak for them. The kids are learning this,” said Littlefield. Meghan Barrett agrees that she has learned valuable lessons during this service project. “We learned about the Jail Ministry while seeing different parts of life in town,” said Barrett. “The Jail Ministry needs our help. We can do that by selling bread. I think it’s a great service project because I learned responsibility and have learned about other people in our community who need help sometimes.” Barrett said that the baked goods always sell out at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. “People at my church look forward to it every month,” she said. “They give donations and buy as much as they can afford.” Littlefield said that after buying the supplies and paying rent at the bakery, all of the net proceeds go directly to the Jail Ministry. She urges more parishes to become involved in such a worthwhile project. “The dedicated people at each church, who have been doing it year after year, finally get tired of it,” she said. “When no one else picks it up, the number of churches involved decreases every year.”

That is why Andino is so grateful to the confirmation candidates and their commitment to raising funds for the Jail Ministry. “Each new group of kids reaffirms their responsibility of serving the community,” he said. “They are involved in social justice without going to the Justice Center. It’s a way to start them on a path of social justice.” Andino hopes that the youth involved in Jail Ministry now will continue to mature in their faith. “Four or five years from now, when they are in college, I hope they will look to volunteer at the Jail Ministry.”

Andino said that if other parishes to look at Jail Ministry as a service project it would be fantastic. “It benefits the bakery, the inmates and the kids themselves,” said Andino. “People in jail really need our help. A $400 check coming into the ministry on a monthly basis really helps us out. We are continually scraping just to buy socks,” he said.

For more information about how to help the Jail Ministry Program, call (315) 424-1877.

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