"...When I was in Prison, You Visited Me..."

"...When I was in Prison, You Visited Me..."

A simple request led Sister Marietta Fritz, SNDdeN on an unimagined journey. In the 1970's, Sister Marietta was teaching math and physics at Julienne High School in Dayton, Ohio. Involved in prison ministry, a sister in the community invited Sister Marietta and others to write to those in jail. Sister Marietta said, "This was the hook!" She also began visiting those jailed in Dayton. In 1984, after eighteen years of teaching, she became a chaplain at Saginaw, Michigan's County Jail. One day she offered a ride home to a young woman, just been released from jail. With a far-away look, the woman said, "Someone will be around," forecasting her return to the streets, to the same crimes, and to prison, Sister Marietta knew her new mission.

She and her friend, Sister Shirley Orand, dreamed of a safe place for women leaving jail, prison, or rehabilitation. Without money, but believing in place for miracles to occur, they found a building. Word spread about their goal to provide "guests" with daily essentials, guidance, therapy, a sense of community, and a home. Donations of items, volunteers, and checks arrived. Thus began Emmaus House in 1987. 

By 2016, when Marietta left this ministry, fourteen houses accommodated fifty-one guests. Since 1987, Emmaus House has served over 1,000 guests. Every woman who stays at Emmaus House until her court hearing successfully gets her children back from foster care. Judges know that Emmaus House ensures that the woman meets the requirements.

Recently Sister Marietta returned to Emmaus House for its 35th anniversary. Many ex-guests shared with her their pride in staying free (clean) of drugs and alcohol, being employed, and raising children. Two former guests want to start houses for women coming from prison.

In 2020, two volunteers and friends of Sister Marietta wrote and published "Sister Marietta: Saginaw's Saint."

Sister Rita Sturwold, SNDdeN for The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur U.S. Newsletter, November 2022, Vol. 13 No.9