Dominican Sister Mary Sean Hodges of Mission San Jose spent over 40 years teaching in Catholic schools across California before starting a second career aged 60, setting up the Partnership for Re-Entry Programme in the prison ministry, which offers both practical and emotional support for lifer prisoners on parole.
“I grew up here in LA and there were nine of us children. We were all very involved with school and the Sisters there. I think it was their influence that made me want to become religious, even at an early age. My mother wasn’t actually a Catholic until she married my Dad but she really lived her faith and I feel very blessed to have picked that up. When I went on to high school, we were taught by the Dominican Sisters – they were so friendly and outgoing that I decided I wanted to follow in their footsteps and teach as a Sister. I stayed in education, teaching math and religion for 39 years. After that, I took a sabbatical and met another sister in New York who had a prison ministry and it struck a chord.
I am very close to my brother, who is an alcoholic, and I think visiting him in prison and witnessing his continuing problems there influenced my desire to change things. I often thought about why he went back to alcohol after he’d got out and I realized it had to do the law of insanity: you can’t do the same thing over and over and expect it to work. I do believe that many people in prisons should actually be in treatment centres instead and that given the chance, they may not return to crime.
Perfect happiness for me is knowing who I am and being happy with that.