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

March 2, 2020 — Based out of a humble home on Al-Razi Street in Amman, Jordan, the Jesuits have been changing lives for nearly 40 years.

February 24, 2020 — Pope Francis has recognized the martyrdom of Fr. Grande and his two companions, who were murdered in 1977.

February 25, 2020 — Twenty-seven hours, 6,000 miles and two lengthy layovers after leaving Rome, Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ, the leader of the Society of Jesus, arrived in Los Angeles on January 31 to begin a two-week visit to the Jesuits West Province.

February 21, 2020 — Jesuit Father George V. Coyne, one of the most respected and influential Jesuit scientists in the world who led the Vatican Observatory as its director for 28 years, died on Feb. 11, 2020 at age 87.

February 20, 2020 — During his recent visit to the West Coast, Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ, sat down for a wide-ranging conversation with AMDG Podcast host Mike Jordan Laskey.



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 10/14/19

America 9/30/19

America 9/16/19



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.