Those most in need of our mercy

Another chance in life


Sister Jacinta Ondeng began volunteering in prison ministry in 2004 as a graduate student in counseling psychology. She was greatly influenced by the movie “Dead Man Walking” and the words of Jesus from scripture: “For I was…in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:35-36) Providing both personal and group counseling to inmates at Langata Women Maximum Security Prison in Nairobi, Kenya, Sister Jacinta finds prison ministry very relevant to the School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND) charism to respond to the poor but especially women and children. Most women prisoners in Kenya are from relatively poor backgrounds. Many confess to crimes such as child neglect, theft or assault in their efforts to provide basic needs for their families. With less education, they are unequipped with how to resolve interpersonal conflicts and may resort to violence and even murder in an effort to defend themselves or to be understood. This can result in a life sentence; there is no death penalty in Kenya.

Sister Jacinta is motivated by her own conviction that “the human person, regardless of how broken they are, still deserves God’s love and mercy. They must be listened to, treated with dignity and given another chance in life. Imprisonment is not only about punishment but an opportunity to rehabilitate an offender so that he or she becomes a useful member of society.” Sister Jacinta keeps in touch with some of the women long after their release from prison.


As one of sister’s clients, Jane spent 27 years at the prison, having been sentenced to life imprisonment for robbery with violence. In December 2016, Jane was among those lucky to receive a presidential pardon. Although good news, there was no prior preparation for both the inmates and their families for their release. Jane had not been in touch with her relatives for several years and had no immediate place to go. Sister Jacinta asked the SSND community in Nairobi to host Jane for a few days while other arrangements could be made. “The community’s ‘yes’ to my request opened our own doors of mercy to Jane, providing us with the opportunity to be Good Samaritans,” said Sister Jacinta. “Jane not only gave us an opportunity to learn from her experience, but also taught us to share love with a stranger.”

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