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

August 26, 2016 — Jesuit Father T. Frank Kennedy, internationally recognized scholar of Jesuit music, was 67.

August 24, 2016 — Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, a Jesuit parish in Baton Rouge, was spared from damage in the recent historic flooding, but its parishioners are suffering.

August 23, 2016 — Fr. Roy Joseph, SJ, is the first American Jesuit to be ordained a bi-ritual priest in both the Syro-Malabar and Latin rites.

August 22, 2016 — "Ignacio de Loyola," a film produced by the Jesuit Communications Foundation in the Philippines, will be released in North American theatres on Friday, Aug. 26.

August 18, 2016 — Today is the feast day of Saint Alberto Hurtado, a Chilean Jesuit priest known for his engagement with Chilean culture and his work with young adults and the poor.

August 17, 2016 — Scorsese is the director of the upcoming film "Silence," about Jesuits in Japan during the 17th century.

August 15, 2016 — The concert tour's performances will benefit Jesuit Refugee Service's Global Education Initiative.

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 8/29/16

America 8/15/16

America 8/1/16



Manresa House of Retreats
Manresa House of Retreats is located on the banks of the Mississippi River in Convent, La., midway between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.