Author of "Tattoos on the Heart" Visits SCI Forest

Sisters Marian Wehler, OSB and Tina Geiger, RSM are familiar faces at State Correctional Institution (SCI) Forest where they give enrichment programs to inmates as part of their Catholic Rural Ministry in Clarion and Venango counties. Recently, they invited a new face to offer a special program. Fr. Gregory Boyle, SJ, author of Tattoos on the Heart, drew a crowd of more than 100 inmates. They came to hear Fr. Greg talk about his work in a poverty-stricken Los Angeles parish struggling with gangs and crime and were given a message filled with hope and the truth that God’s love is unconditional for all.

“Jobs not jails help people to rehabilitate,” shared Father Greg. Based on that belief he founded Homeboy Industries, an organization that serves high-risk, formerly gang-involved men and women with a continuum of free services and programs, and operates seven social enterprises that serve as job-training sites. “With programs like the ones we offer and the help of compassionate people, you have the opportunity to transform your lives,” he told the inmates.

Thanks to Sister Marian’s invitation and Father Greg’s willingness to change his plans and come to Pennsylvania earlier than his August 1 engagement at Chautauqua Institute, the inmates were able to hear many success stories and feel encouraged. “Support each other,” said Father Greg. “We all need to belong and the one thing that always trumps gangs is community.”

After reading Tattoos on the Heart and hearing Father Greg speak at Chautauqua last year, Sister Marian knew he was just the right person to lift the spirits of the men at SCI Forest where more than 2000 are incarcerated. “When I asked him last summer if he would consider a conference at the prison he said he would if he could and he kept his word. Now my heart is tattooed, too,” exclaimed Sister Marian with a smile.

Sister Marian Wehler is pictured with Father Greg. To read more about her work in Catholic Rural Ministry check out p 6-7 of the most recent issue of THE MOUNT magazine.