by Sister Margaret Jane Kling, CSJP
In New Jersey, almost within sight of the Statue of Liberty, more than 2,000 immigrants languish in "detention" centers and in our county jails. They are isolated and confined, and have restricted access to the outside world. A major concern for these detainees is to be in contact with family and friends, which is denied if they do not have money to purchase stationery, envelopes, stamps or phone cards.
Thanks to the generosity and support of so many sisters and associates, this year the sisters at St. Michael's Villa assembled more than 190 packets of writing materials, to be delivered to FIRST FRIENDS for distribution to detainees in the Bergen County Jail and elsewhere. Following the strict protocol of the detention authorities, each packet contained writing paper, colored paper, large and small envelopes, Christmas cards, and "forever" stamps. Every packet also contained a hand-written "Dear Friend" letter, expressing a personal word of encouragement.
This was quite an accomplishment and so many had a part in it. Pictured here assembling some of the packets are Sisters Margaret Jane Kling, Lillian O'Neill, Anne Croghan, Cabrini Delaney, Margaret Shannon, and Francis Scanlon. This was just one of several groups who gathered to count out the sheets of paper, sort Christmas cards, or write letters—all done with compassion and love.
FIRST FRIENDS also sponsors a visitation program, responding to those detainees who request a visitor. Following up on our recent CSJP Assembly, our Congregation Peace through Justice coordinator Frank McCann gave an orientation session for a small group of sisters and associates, who have since applied to become First Friends Visitors at the Bergen County Jail.
"We are consciously choosing to shape the future rather than allowing the future to shape us."
Sheila Lemieux, CSJP