Ministries of Mercy - Visitation at 6363 9th Avenue North, Saint Petersburg, FL 33710 US - Speaker at the Living Eucharist Conference talks about being called by God to minister juvenile inmates

Speaker at the Living Eucharist Conference talks about being called by God to minister juvenile inmates

Tina Borst, fourth from the left, told Catholics at the Living Eucharist Conference that God called her to prison ministry to share his mercy and Good News with the juvenile inmates.”

Tina Borst, parishioner of St. Cecelia Catholic Church, was a speaker at the Living Eucharist Conference held at the Tampa Bay Convention Center on Friday, April 30 and Saturday, May 1 for Catholics to deepen their knowledge of Eucharist and to know what it means to be sent to serve other people. At the conference, Frank Murphy, president of Catholic Charities, gave a presentation on the Ministries of Mercy, an initiative started by Bishop Lynch in 2006 to support and foster parish ministries that serve the poor, suffering, and marginalized. Following that, Tina and four other speakers gave talks on one of the Ministries of Mercy, the Visitation Ministry.

Tina told the audience that through an experience in her family, God called her to the prison ministry. After accepting his call, she turned to the Diocesan Office of Prison Ministry and with their help, she and nine volunteers started visiting juvenile inmates at a nearby juvenile detention center. She says the center has 120 juvenile inmates, boys and girls of the ages 19-17 with an average age of 13, and that many of them have been incarcerated because of drugs, alcohol, or burglary. “God uses ordinary people to carry out his mission, she said. “And he called me to share his mercy and Good News with the juvenile inmates.”

She also explained that behind the locked doors of the center, are desperately hurting children who need to hear about Jesus Christ. She said she has mentored young girls abused by family members and boys who have never had a birthday party or received a present. “Many of the inmates I visit don’t know what it feels like to get love from a mother or father,” she said. “Many of them are lost and sometimes just need someone to listen or give them a hug.”

Tina expressed that she too has challenges like the other coordinators, including the mobility of the inmates. She said that after seeing the inmates once, she may never see them again because their sentences at the center average 14-21 days. But like the other coordinators, she knows her visits are important and has success stories that show the fruits of her labor.

“During my visits to the center, I got to know a young man that had been incarcerated many times; his mother left him when he was 3 years old and his father is an alcoholic. As a result, he’s been on his own for many years and has faced many struggles. In response, my family has been mentoring him, showing him love and guiding him. I am happy to share with you that he was baptized at the 2009 Easter Vigil and he asked my husband and I to be his Godparents. He’s now getting his GED and holds down a full time job. But the most important thing is that he now see’s there is a light to his future and has hope in Jesus Christ.”

Tina is currently working on starting a Catholic non-profit mentoring advocacy program to help at risk youth. She said the program will provide assistance to parents that know their children are out of control and on their way to jail. The program will also seek Catholic volunteers to become mentors for boys and girls to guide them through life.

Tina concluded her talk by reminding the audience that the conference was about being sent to serve other people and that they must allow God to work through them to bring his message into a world that is hurting. “We must do our part and say yes to God in whatever he is calling us to do,” she said.

To read about other visitation ministries, the Ministries of Mercy, and to find a ministry near you in need of donations and volunteers click here. To volunteer your time to visit juvenile inmates with Tina, contact her at 727-448-0911 or email

Rev. Mr. John H. Lyons III (Deacon Jack), coordinator of the Prison Ministry at All Saints, Sr. Phyllis Shaughnessy, coordinator of the prison ministry at St. Jerome, and Sharon Whiddon, parishioner of Prince of Peace, also participated in the conference. To read about their visitation ministries, click on their names above.


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