Church leaders of every denomination appreciate the help they get from volunteers, who make prison life a little more bearable for the inmates they serve.
"Volunteers do a great deal of good helping at the services, talking with and listening to the inmates, especially those who have little or no family to visit them," said the Rev. Victor Bonnell, Catholic chaplain at Utah State Prison.One such helper is Illa Wright, who believes inmates need someone to listen to them. "I've always considered myself a good listener," she said.
As a volunteer, Wright's ministry consists of bible study, reciting the rosary and attending Mass with the inmates. In addition, she teaches a rosary-making class twice a month, which many Catholics and non-Catholics attend.
"Rosary-making is good therapy," said Wright. "The rosary represents God's life from beginning to end. Not only is it making us aware of God's ways, but each bead is a symbol - a reminder to the possessor to pray and to seek God."
Wright said there are 59 beads on a rosary that tell the life story of Christ from the annunciation to the crowning of the Blessed Mother. "In reality," said Wright, the mother of six, " . . . the rosary is a family prayer."
The women not only make the rosaries for themselves, their families and friends, but they make rosaries for The Rev. Bonnell to give to the male inmates, Wright said.
Wright, who has been a prison volunteer for five years, not only donates her time, but all of the supplies for the rosaries as well. "It's a gift of love," she said.
Wright, whose motto is "caring and sharing" believes the reward for her effort comes from the rosary being recited, questions being answered and the involvement of non-Catholic inmates, which leads to inquiry classes and a personal search for God.
Mont Evans, a correctional administrator, said the chaplains and their numerous volunteers do an excellent job. "There is a far more trusted relationship between the volunteers and the inmates than the inmates and the staff."