News Detail
Jesuit Father Michael Kennedy
Pope's Words Give Inmates Hope, Says Jesuit Advocate for Fair Sentencing

July 16, 2014 — Pope Francis recently sent a message of hope to a group of prisoners who are serving life sentences without parole for crimes they committed as children. In a letter addressed to Jesuit Father Michael Kennedy, the pope responded to hundreds of letters from these inmates, assuring them of his prayers and that the Lord “knows and loves each one of them.”

After Pope Francis washed the feet of 12 young inmates at an Italian detention center during Holy Week 2013, Jody Kent Lavy, an advocate for restorative justice and fair sentencing, organized a letter-writing campaign, and Fr. Kennedy, executive director of the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative, helped forward 500 of these letters to the pope.

Lavy didn't expect a response from the pope, but then a letter with a simple yet poignant message of mercy, reconciliation and forgiveness arrived from the Vatican. Fr. Kennedy, who ministers to incarcerated youth in juvenile halls in the Los Angeles area, noted the kids were inspired that someone as influential as Pope Francis would assure them of their own worth as individuals. 

On June 8, a special Mass was celebrated at the Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall outside Los Angeles. More than 100 people were present, including Fr. Kennedy, Lavy and dozens of young people serving life without parole.

“We prayed for the spirit to come upon our politicians and our leaders,” said Fr. Kennedy, “to have their hearts moved to realize that kids deserve a second chance because they can contribute to society.”

The letter from Pope Francis was presented to Lavy at the Mass and read to the young people in attendance. “In saying that he [the pope] is praying for these people, that the Lord is with them, I think really affirms their humanity,” Lavy said.

“The pope’s letter is strong and clear. He believes our youth deserve a second chance,” Fr. Kennedy noted. [Sources: Catholic News Service, America magazine]





Recent News

October 18, 2018 — The Jesuits issued a statement of continued solidarity with the people of Nicaragua on the six-month anniversary of nonviolent protests.

October 17, 2018 — On Oct. 20, the Catholic Church will beatify Jesuit Father Tiburcio Arnaiz Muñoz in Málaga, Spain, where he is recognized as “apostle of the city.”

October 17, 2018 — On October 14, Pope Francis canonized a pope and a martyr: Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, El Salvador.

October 15, 2018 — Prevain Devendran was selected to be a collaborator at the 2018 Synod of Bishops.

October 12, 2018 — On this day in 1963, U.S. Jesuit Father Walter Ciszek arrived in New York after 23 years in Russia in Siberian labor camps and Soviet prisons.

October 5, 2018 — Known as "The Magis," the guesthouse provides a place where Jesuits and other religious can recharge.

October 4, 2018 — Pope Francis asked bishops to be bold, honest, open-minded, charitable and, especially, prayerful as they begin the three-week meeting.

view all news

Search news

Publications
Since St. Ignatius bought a printing press in 1556, the Jesuits have been involved in communications. Today the Society of Jesus publishes a number of award-winning journals and publications. Click below to access our latest issues.

America 10/15/18

America 10/1/18

America 9/17/18



White House Jesuit Retreat Center
The White House Jesuit Retreat Center is located on a beautiful 80-acre campus on the bluffs of the Mississippi River in St. Louis.