An open letter of request from the Lighthouse of Scranton
Dear Friends of Lighthouse,
The peace and great love of Christ always surround you! Writing this letter in joyful prayer, Lighthouse is moving along quickly and fruitfully. I want to convey my wholehearted thanks to all our supporters and friends.
Firstly, we are sorry to report that due to perilous conditions in Pakistan, our overseas mission has to be postponed indefinitely. Americans are not safe to travel there, and the door for ministry is closed there for us. However, we will still be raising money which can aid with various serious necessities. We will be sending donations periodically directly to ministry personnel who are located there.
There has been terrible flooding throughout the country recently, as well as political unrest and violent upheaval. Any help you can render is gratefully appreciated. We thank you again for your support.
Secondly, as you may already know, for the past 25 years I have been living in private vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in conformity to Christ, under our local Catholic Bishop. My earnest desire was that I could be part of a traditional Catholic Religious community and live as a nun. I have always wanted to live in total dedication to God.
For many years my vocational path was very difficult, since I did not have the spiritual support I needed, and I was not able to find my place in the Church, or in a traditional Religious community. Due to my disability, I could not find admittance; also, my spiritual gifts and calling did not seem to fit with already-existing communities.
However, in living the vows, I have discovered great fulfillment and joy. Likewise, for the past ten years, I have been living as a committed Carmelite. My life is dedicated to loving service, and to intense inner prayer. As Carmelites, we pray for the needs of the world, and take the world’s suffering as our own. We strive to spread Christ’s love in simple ways by living in God’s presence from moment to moment. Living as a Carmelite has brought me supreme happiness!
Yet, as years have passed, my longing for fellowship and spiritual community has never diminished.
A new community
Also, in the past few years, it has come to my attention that many people, like myself, who are in unusual and/or limiting circumstances (i.e., persons with disabilities, persons incarcerated, or persons restricted from traditional community life because of age) also desire deeply to have opportunities to live in community and in Consecrated life, but that options for such a life — for people in such limiting circumstances — are not often available.
We strive to spread Christ’s love in simple ways by living in God’s presence from moment to moment.
Nonetheless, at long last, after many years of waiting, good things have begun to take shape.
In the past few months, a small group of persons throughout the country, three of whom have disabilities, another person who is incarcerated, and one person who is older, have come together, and are forming a virtual community of prayer via the Internet, correspondence, and telephone.
We are doing this work with the help and support of our local Catholic Bishop, and under the guidance of a Carmelite advisor. The official name of our community is Community of Hope, and our first set of written bylaws has been approved. It will take several years for our community to be fully established as a formally recognized Catholic Carmelite community within the church, and there is much prayer, discernment and work yet to be done. However, this work is very important, since it is opening doors for people who desperately need to feel connected to the wider church at large, and it is providing comfort, hope, fellowship, and avenues of service for people who have been cut off from such opportunities for years.
Outreach to the impaired and incarcerated
One of the persons in our community is a hearing- and sight-impaired woman. Spiritual materials must be put into Braille for her to read, and in order for Virginia to have a meaningful conversation, someone must take the time to communicate through a special telephone operator who can transcribe the spoken word into Braille so that she can read it and respond.
Imagine what it is like to be in prison, and to want to live a good and holy life of deep dedication, but materials for spiritual enrichment and spiritual fellowship are not available to you! People are often afraid to reach out to persons with disabilities since they may not know how to approach or help such persons. People are also afraid to reach out to people in prison since they may feel endangered or threatened. However, in both situations, such persons need a chance. They have gifts and they must be included in the church’s wider ministry at large.
Wrongful convictions do indeed exist. We must do all we can to correct such injustice, and to help innocent persons to be freed.
In this newly forming community, persons from other denominations will also be welcomed to have opportunities to fellowship with us, since there will also be a provision in our organizational structure that will allow us to have Associate members who can share in whatever parts of our spirit and life they feel they can connect with, without having to change denominations.
Practical needs of the ministry
We also have various practical needs in order to get this community established. At present, I am acting as the Founder, together with a co-founder, who is incarcerated in Michigan.
Each day, I am putting materials into Braille, and transcribing or relaying spiritual readings and letters from community members around the country so that all the community members can get to know each other and form as a group.
Each day, I am talking to people all over the country, giving them spiritual support, and sharing spiritual nourishment with them. Such a ministry is important, since persons with disabilities often cannot travel, or seek out spiritual fellowship on their own.
In the near future, I will be traveling to meet with our co-founder in Michigan, and Lighthouse needs money to assist with the above-mentioned needs.
Thirdly, as an integral part of Lighthouse’s work, and a key factor in our community’s formation, another serious concern has been brought to my attention, a matter by which I have been profoundly affected. As you are no doubt aware, Lighthouse’s main purpose is to bring guidance, healing, and support to the most needy, forgotten members of our society. We have been able to do this through many avenues. Likewise, in working in prison ministry for the past 30 years, I have tried to help people with serious problems, people who need to make changes in their lives, to pay back restitution for crimes committed. Until recently, I never gave the issue I am about to address much thought. However, in the past two years, it has turned my life upside down!
New-found friends of the ministry
In the spring of 2012, I was working on the manuscript of my autobiography. (The work is almost completed at present, with three more short sections to go.) Around that time, God sent me a wonderful friend, and he started helping me with the book. My friend’s name is Chris; he has written a book of his own, the story of his false conviction. Chris was wrongfully convicted of murder in the 1990s. He spent six difficult years in prison, and finally was released when the verdict in his case was found invalid at the Supreme Court level. Meeting and getting to know Chris has inspired me profoundly! His compassion and kindness are evident to all, and he is forgiving to all who have wronged him in life. Chris’ life has become an exemplar. His days are filled with faithfulness and love, in working humbly and showing great care to all.
Additionally, though this is hard for me to fathom (it’s caused me to step back, in asking why . . .), within the past year, as well, I have become friends with another person who claims to be in the same situation. Kevin, the co-founder of our newly budding community, is presently serving a life sentence for murder, but has been strongly advised and encouraged to pursue post-conviction proceedings, since there are several key issues in his case that need to be corrected and addressed.
We place our hope completely in God, as to the outcome of these proceedings, the outcomes of which will affect our community and its expansion and growth. In any case, may it be strongly, and irrefutably known, that Kevin, our co-founder, though hindered by unjust prison walls, is living an extraordinary life! Words cannot express the genuineness he exhibits. His strength and love are obvious to all. His example of gracious kindness to fellow prisoners and beyond has brought him respect and devotion wherever he goes. To be a serious Carmelite requires profound commitment, and Kevin has been living such a life of deep loving service for many years.
It is important that all people realize that wrongful convictions do indeed exist. We must do all we can to correct such injustice, and to help innocent persons to be freed.
Lastly, Lighthouse continues to do the work of healing, offering guidance and support to people in need, providing counseling and natural healing options. Many people in physical, emotional, or spiritual pain come to us and find the solace they seek. Victims of domestic abuse, people in need of food, those with chronic illnesses — just to name a few — come to us each day, and are desperate for help.
We humbly ask your assistance, and are grateful for your help. If you can consider becoming a monthly donor to the work of Lighthouse, giving a monthly gift of $25, $50, or $100, this would help us to ensure that our hands-on, necessary work with people who are most in need can continue. If you know of anyone who would be interested in helping with any aspects of our work here at Lighthouse, or in the newly forming Community of Hope, please contact us. We thank you for helping us to spread the word about the services and options we offer. We are a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation in Pennsylvania, subsisting solely on the gifts and generosity of others. No one here receives a salary, and any help you can offer is greatly appreciated.
With most sincere good wishes of peace,