CRANSTON — Longtime Catholic Chaplaincy Coordinator for the Intake Center and the Adult Correctional Institute Martha Paone was honored in a special and lasting way as she retired after more than 25 years of service at the facility.
On April 20, the ACI dedicated in her name the Martha Paone Chapel at the Anthony P. Travisono Intake Center in Cranston.
Paone held back tears as she greeted guests and staff gathering at the chapel, a small room with a plain, square wooden altar at the front and a small pulpit off to the side.
In attendance were several representatives of the Diocese of Providence, including Father John A. Kiley, director of the Office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Activity who frequently celebrates Mass at the ACI, Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia Monsignor Albert A. Kenney, and James Jahnz, secretary for the Office of Catholic Charities and Social Ministry.
Also in attendance were staff of the Intake Center, friends of Paone, as well as many family members.
“Today is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful day where we honor our friend and colleague, Martha Paone,” Warden Carol Dwyer said.
Dwyer’s remarks were followed by an opening prayer from Timothy Maynard, who is succeeding Paone as the Catholic chaplaincy coordinator.
“Heavenly Father, thank you for Martha Paone. She has been a true representation of your light in this world and specifically here at this chapel and prison,” Maynard said.
He went on to reflect upon the impact that Paone’s career and ministry has had on the ACI, and how her actions will leave a lasting impact on all those associated with the correctional office.
“It is a great honor to be here with you to dedicate this chapel in honor of Martha Paone,” Maynard said. “She has provided the highest level of pastoral care for both staff and inmates.”
“Rest assured, we will be thinking of you, as you will be thinking of us,” he added.
In an emotional speech given after the opening remarks, Paone pointed out how her actions as Catholic chaplaincy coordinator were possible only due to the help and support of others.
“Without your individual support, none of this would have happened. I wouldn’t have had the success that I did,” she said. “I am truly grateful.”
Paone went on to note how her ministry was also something deeply motivated by her faith and personal relationships.
“It is my faith and all of your support that kept me going,” she said.
Throughout the dedication, Paone continually expressed the fact that she was flushed with emotion.
“I’m overwhelmed. I don’t even have words,” she said to Rhode Island Catholic.
Father Kiley said Paone’s hard work and dedication in her ministry over the years is commendable and worthy of the chapel being named after her.
“She deserves it one hundred percent. She’s a hard worker. The prisoners here like her,” said Father Kiley.
“We’re all very proud of her,” said Jeanine Palleschi, Paone’s daughter.
Paone’s journey to her role as Catholic chaplaincy coordinator is a long and interesting one.
Beginning her career as a seamstress in the late 1990s, she saw an advertisement in the Providence Journal asking for volunteers to work as a mentor for the Women’s Division of the Department of Corrections. After spending several years as a volunteer, she began to work more closely with the chaplaincy at the ACI before becoming its leader.
Her responsibilities involved coordinating various services and events associated with the spiritual needs of both the inmates and the staff, organizing religious events and facilitating communication between inmates and their friends and family. Yet, since Paone is also a Catholic, she also deals with services specific to Catholic chaplains, staff and inmates at the ACI.
Paone is also deeply involved with the Church outside of her work with the ACI. She is a parishioner of SS. John and Paul Church in Coventry, where she serves as a lector and is also a member of the parish’s homeschool association.
“I’m really nervous, but she trained me well,” said Timothy Maynard, reflecting on his new role at the ACI. “I think I’m ready.”
Maynard, after retiring from his career in the Navy, spent most of the past several years involved with various forms of volunteer work within the Church. He is a member of the Knights of Malta and has done much work with the sick and the poor. He has spent four years in prison ministry, organizing Bible studies and holding creative writing seminars.
Maynard, who also attends SS. John and Paul Parish, expressed to Paone interest in getting more involved with the chaplaincy program at the ACI. He has spent the past several years as a volunteer, and later as a part-time employee. Martha and many of the clergy associated with the ACI have taken him under their wing.
“It’s a challenging place, but I would never question my choice to work here,” Paone said. She noted how her biggest lesson within the ACI is never to overgeneralize when dealing with the needs of inmates, and to see each prisoner as an individual with individualized needs.
“You can’t lump all of the inmates into one category,” Paone said. Yet, one thing that many inmates share is the struggle with uncertainty. Many repeat inmates know that it will be difficult to find housing or a job, and many new inmates are filled with fear at the new and unfavorable circumstances. Dealing with this fear of the unknown is a central element of Paone’s ministry.
Nonetheless, Paone notes that in helping inmates with both their emotional and practical struggles, she has developed deep ties that have lasted for years.
“We do make an impact,” Paone said. “The inmates do remember us as the individuals who helped them through a rough time.”
“Frequently, when I have been out in a mall parking lot or coffee shop a former inmate does not shy away from saying hello and thank you and this is what is going on in my life. The Catholic chaplaincy has made a difference in the lives of many throughout the years.”
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