Foundation Grant Supports Spiritual Transformations

Off in the quiet plains of Pickaway County, a spiritual transformation is happening in an unexpected place. Each Monday, Deacon Don Robers, from St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Logan, spends the day ministering to inmates at the Pickaway Correctional Institute where he serves as the Catholic Chaplain.

“It’s one of the few things that I thoroughly look forward to doing,” Deacon Don explained. “I’ll do it as long as I can.”

Deacon Don spends much of the day in consultations with the men and always has a line waiting to see him. He teaches the men about apostolic succession, praying the Holy Rosary and the Catechism. He also offers RCIA, and Father Machnik of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Circleville comes once a month for Mass, baptisms and confirmations. Rather than allowing these individuals to feel hopeless and abandoned, Deacon Don points them in the right direction on their journey in faith. In fact, Deacon Don spends much of each visit just listening.

“They have nobody who talks to them or who cares about them,” he said. “I let them make phone calls to loved ones, I write letters to judges on their behalf.”

In the afternoon, Deacon Don shows a Catholic or Christian-based movie that serves as an opportunity to evangelize and bring in new men, Catholic or non-Catholic alike. This reputation of always having an open door spread quickly. When he took over as Catholic Chaplain 10 years ago, only eight men showed up each week. Today, anywhere from 20 – 30 men show up to the various activities Deacon Don offers.

“If the people in the pew would evangelize like some of these guys, the Churches would be full,” Deacon Don said. “The men are really hungry; most have been away from the Church for a long time.”
In the last 10 years, Deacon Don estimates that approximately 30 men came into the Catholic Church through his ministry. He occasionally receives letters or phone calls from men who were released from the facility.

“That’s really rewarding,” he said. “You get to see the fruits of your labor. It’s an awesome ministry.”

With little to no funding, the ministry is always in need of bibles, catechisms, and new religious videos to enhance the programs and open the doors for more inmates to experience the Catholic faith. For the past two years, Deacon Don received grants from The Catholic Foundation to help purchase bibles (in Spanish and English), Catechisms and religious videos. Deacon Don’s program was recently awarded another grant to purchase a TV, DVD player, religious-themed DVDs, Living Liturgy Missals, a small monstrance and adoration pamphlets. Half of the inmates attending the services are converts, and Deacon Don is eager to draw in even more men. With the proper resources, an even greater number of inmates will be reminded of their value as children of God.

“I always know what’s going to happen on Monday – I just don’t know who it is until I get there. The catechesis starts right away.”