In Vancouver, prison ministry volunteers help change lives

Woman imprisoned Credit Kaspars Grinvalds Shutterstock CNA Kaspars Grinvalds via Shutterstock

A former inmate in Canada credits volunteers and staff members working in prison ministry in the Archdiocese of Vancouver with helping to transform his life – helping him find sobriety and a relationship with Christ.

"The Catholic prison ministry helped me stay faithful to the Lord and to trust fully in Jesus as he was refining me in the furnace," said Ryan Prasad in an April 1 article for The B.C. Catholic, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Vancouver.

In the article, written for National Volunteer Week, Prasad shared the impact that prison ministry volunteers had in his own life. He particularly thanked Bob Buckham, a volunteer who brought him the Eucharist while he was incarcerated.

"Bob supported me through my sentence and always took extra time to keep me on the path of righteousness," Prasad said. "He encouraged me to help others in their faith journey and share my testimony with inmates."

Prasad, who is 26, was charged for drug crimes and involvement in shootings in 2016.

"After I was charged, I was released on bail to a Christian recovery facility known as Luke 15 House," he said. "I was not a Christian and was a man of little-to-no faith."

But the guidance of the staff and volunteers at the recovery house helped Prasad become and stay sober, he said. Their witness also drew him to the Catholic faith, and he entered the Church in 2017.

When Prasad was sentenced to 23 months in prison, volunteers from the Luke 15 House attended the June 2018 sentencing hearing to offer their support and prayers.

"Their support did not end when I went to prison," he said, noting the visits and prayers he received from the Catholic community.

"This support was absolutely amazing because, as I learned, many inmates receive no visits from family or friends, but they receive great support and visitation by Catholic volunteers."

He particularly voiced gratitude for Buckham, one of the local volunteers who learned that he was saddened to be unable to receive Eucharist and became an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion so that he could bring him the Eucharist each week.

Prasad was granted full parole and released to a halfway house last December. "Once again, support from the Catholic volunteers continued after my release," he said. He attended Mass every Sunday, participated in a weekly prayer group, and volunteered at the Luke 15 recovery facility where he had previously lived.

Today, Prasad continues working to rebuild his life. He is living with family, has made Christian friends, and is training to be a mobile crane operator.

He thanked the prison ministry volunteers who touched his life during a difficult time of isolation and uncertainty.

The Archdiocese of Vancouver has more than 250 prison ministry volunteers who visit inmates in the area and support Catholic ministries for those recovering from addictions and re-entering society following incarceration.

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