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Sister Regina Marie’s Prayer Techniques for Prisoners—Could They Work for You?

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“We’re all prisoners,” Sue Brosmith mentioned off-handedly. “It’s only the bars that are different.”

With this comment, Sue spoke of the spiritual guidance she witnessed Sister Regina Marie Bernet share over many years of volunteer ministry at Jacksonville Correctional Center. For years Sue joined a “trio” of Dominican Sisters and other dedicated volunteers at the prison for weekly Mass on Saturdays and a semiannual 3-day retreat called Residents Encounter Christ. The sisters included Sister Regina Marie, Sister M. Rose Schleeper, and Sister Helen Wolf who, along with many other volunteers, would offer the retreats for as many as 70 men at a time.

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“I adore her,” Sue said of Sister Regina Marie. “The inmates also adored her. Those who were not assigned to her table for the weekend wanted to talk with her during our breaks. She always had them lined up. She had a peaceful and loving presence, it seemed, at all times.  She has touched so many lives–including mine.”

Watch the video below to hear Sister Regina Marie recount a touching story about the impact she made on one particular inmate.

Some of the prayer techniques Sister Regina Marie taught the prisoners can work for anyone. Here is a sampling, with thanks to Sue Brosmith for sharing them.

Sister Regina Marie's Prayer Techniques

Start Where You Are

“Can you forgive yourself?” Sister Regina Marie would ask the men. This was the key to her success, Sue believes.  She had a way of reaching quickly to the heart of the matter with the men.

What You Contain

Sue said that during her frequent REC talks on the Paschal Mystery—the life, death and resurrection of Jesus—Sister Regina Marie shared a powerful story about a woman in her art therapy class at the Lincoln prison. The assignment was to draw a container to represent who they were. One woman drew a garbage can, so low was her self-esteem. Sister Regina Marie asked her if she knew what compost was, and gently explained to the woman that beautiful flowers and nourishing vegetables require the decaying mass of “garbage” in order to grow and thrive. It was a transformative moment for the woman, and for many prisoners who heard the story, Sue recalls. What kind of container are you?

Five-Finger Prayer

Another technique she taught was her own special version of the 5-finger prayer, suggesting the men use their fingers to remember to pray about their past (index finger), their wounds (middle finger), those they love (ring finger) their future (pinky), and for respect for themselves and others—a rule of thumb—on their thumb.

Breathing Prayer

"The guys loved this,” Sue says. “They said it brought peace.” In this prayer she taught the men to sit up straight with their hands on their laps and she would guide their breathing with the words “Breathe in God’s love, breathe in God’s joy, breathe in God’s healing, breathe in God’s forgiveness.”

“We’re all prisoners. It’s only the bars that are different.” Could any of these ways of prayer free you from your prison?

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