Last weekend more than 30 St. Michael seniors spent the day at the Louisiana State Penitentiary on a social justice retreat. The trip was led by Catholic peer minister inmates and Angola Chaplain, Jay Jackson.
One of the main focuses of the retreat included a visit to the Our Lady of Guadalupe Hospice Chapel, built and hand painted by inmates in only 36 days. While there, students heard stores from inmates who serve other inmates in their greatest times of need.
St. Michael campus minister, Emily Froeba, said the trip was truly an eye opening faith experience that students will never forget. “The best part of retreat is seeing students’ preconceived notions about inmates change into something more compassionate,” she mentions. “The power of faith and the dignity of the human person are truly recognized. We hope that the students see the themes of social teaching and the primacy of the dignity of every human person. We want them to embrace their own faith in order to change the world.”
Students also toured the full prison facility, and participated in small group exercises lead by trustees of the prison. Senior Gabrielle Austin, confirmed the retreat was truly incredible because it opened her eyes to a part of the world she did not know existed. “To lift a veil and see underneath the stereotypes of prisoners was indescribable,” she said. “Listening to prisoners tell their stories gives you a personal insight on what truly happened in their lives. At the end of the day, when everyone share what they gained from this experience, something moved my heart for the better.”
The day concluded with a retreat reflection hosted by the Catholic peer minister inmates. They shared stories of good and bad choices and the importance of embracing your faith.