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Feeding God's Children: Rose's Room

Agent David Vanasse and St. Louis 230 teamed up to donate religious items to the incarcerated relatives of Rose’s Room visitors.

In June, I connected with Catholic Order of Foresters (COF) Agent David Vanasse, a native of southern Maine, who felt called to a particular type of religious outreach this year.

David reached out to me twice to organize a Feeding God’s Children event with St. Louis 230 in Fort Kent, Maine, to benefit Rose’s Room, a monthly support group for the families of incarcerated individuals in the state.

“Rose’s Room was started by Rose and Paul Dubey in conjunction with Bruce Noddin, the founder of Maine Prisoner Re-Entry Network (MPRN), to allow a place for anyone that may have a loved one in prison and would like to share their pain and struggles with others in a confidential and supportive setting,” wrote David in an email.

Bruce Noddin launched MPRN, Rose’s Room’s parent program, to reduce Maine’s prisoner recidivism rate. [1]The National Institute of Justice says recidivism “is measured by criminal acts that resulted in rearrest, reconviction or return to prison with or without a new sentence during a three-year period following the prisoner's release.”

[2]According to a five-year study (2012-2017) conducted by statisticians at the Bureau of Justice Statistics, “about 60% of prisoners released across 34 states [including Maine] in 2012 were arrested within three years, and 70% were arrested within five years.”

David and I discussed event details and found that the concept fit the criteria of Feeding God’s Children, COF’s flagship outreach program. Our idea was straightforward: David was to coordinate a religious item collection drive, and the items would go to the incarcerated relatives of Rose’s Room visitors. After all, it’s not uncommon for inmates to repent and turn toward God through religious items like the Bible, rosary beads, or even small saint statues.

As a former campus minister at Saint Xavier University, I am familiar with most types of community outreach, yet I had hardly ever considered prison ministry. Unfortunately, it turns out that most people overlook it, too.

“This population is not served as much as it should be,” said David. “None of us walk on water. We’re just doing our part by helping others in our communities with this struggle.”

A Bible or rosary can promote spiritual growth for the sender as much as the recipient. Simply put: Reaching out to the forgotten — to those on the margins of society — is the essence of Christian charity.

There are currently 11 Rose’s Room locations in Maine — by no means a small amount — but David hopes more people attend the monthly meetings in the future.

“Getting the word out in the community is the current focus,” said David. “In time, God will lead local individuals and families here.”

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