Mission Minute: Meet Jenny Quimpo
Written by Joshua Stancil
This week we’re very happy to have with us Jenny Quimpo, who serves as the Catholic Chaplain at Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility in Santee, California.
Jenny, how did you get started in prison ministry, and what drew you to it?
I belonged to a small parish that was geographically close to the women’s detention facility in our county. The pastor made it a point to regularly visit that facility. He knew many of the inmates, the deputies, and the staff. He called the inmates “his girls.” In time, I moved to another parish and got involved in other ministries. But there was always a thought that swirled in the back of my mind. Every year, when we would read Matthew 25:31-46 at Mass, I had the same question as those who meet Jesus at the Judgment: “When did I visit You in prison?”
And that’s what provoked you to become active in prison ministry…
The Holy Spirit pushed and pulled me, but I resisted. It took a while. I was pretty sure the detention ministry was for others, not me. But I remember the exact moment when I surrendered: I had volunteered at a juvenile facility, but quickly realized it wasn’t a good fit; I tried the women’s facility in my old parish and immediately knew that was where I belonged. From there, no turning back.
What form does your ministry take?
I signed up for diocesan classes to obtain certification as a Chaplain. I took night classes for a couple of years while continuing to volunteer. Over time, my volunteering became a commitment as the facility’s Catholic Chaplain. Now I think of these incarcerated women as “my girls.”
In your view, Jenny, what is the most important aspect of prison ministry?
Our mission is to tell them that God loves and forgives unconditionally. This is an ecumenical role. We minister to anyone who asks for help or prayers. We bring their hopes and prayers to Jesus along with our own prayers for their well-being. My question for each one I meet is, “What can I pray for, for you?” We care. It’s just that simple: we care. When the world, friends, and family drift away, we care. We pray for and care about their kids, who may also be adrift. We care when justice is not readily available to those without resources.
That’s simply beautiful. Any thoughts about Dismas Ministry you’d like to share before we leave?
I’m grateful that Dismas Ministry continually answers my requests for prayer books, which not only offer familiar prayers but also hope. With these simple words of prayer, miracles happen. God lifts them up and heals hearts that have broken. I’m so glad I surrendered.
Joshua Stancil is a Dismas Ministry board member, a published author, and a native of North Carolina. A frequent speaker at restorative justice conferences in both America and abroad, his writing has appeared in Magnificat, Traces, and Convivium. He can be reached via email@example.com.