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LIM reaches behind bars to teach Angola inmates

November 11, 2011

For the last 28 years, the Loyola University New Orleans’ Institute for Ministry extension program, LIMEX, has successfully reached the far corners of the Earth, teaching students in places such as Belize, Nigeria and Scotland.

But in 2010, LIMEX started offering courses in a place closer to home and far less exotic – the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, La.

LIM, with the cooperation of prison administrators and the Diocese of Baton Rouge, began offering a 36-credit, three-year program that enables Angola’s incarcerated to work toward certificates in pastoral studies or religious education in their quest to become more capable leaders of Angola’s many inmate-run ministries. Currently, 11 inmates are enrolled in the program.

“Most of the people at Angola will never leave, or if they do, it won’t be for a long time. But, they have developed ministries in prison,” LIM director Tom Ryan, Ph.D., said. “For instance, some run a hospice program for prisoners who are terminally ill, while others are music ministers. There are a lot of different ways that they can be of service to their fellow inmates.”

“These men have been incarcerated for decades – most of them will die at Angola,” said LIMEX facilitator Rick Beben ’81 M.R.E. “Yet, it’s amazing. They don’t have any pretensions. They have a sense of commitment to personal growth and service to one another, and there’s spirituality in them, individually and collectively, that I think surprises people.”

Ryan points out that besides the educational experience, reaching out to those people behind bars is in direct correlation with Loyola’s mission of service to and for others.

“There are not a lot of colleges that are going into prison and offering educational opportunities to those behind bars. Loyola is one of them,” Ryan said.

To learn more about LIM and their extension programs, call 504-865-3728 or lim@loyno.edu.

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