The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

Karla Alvarez: The Prison Minister

Conway college student ministers to inmates at McPherson Women’s Unit in Newport

Published: July 30, 2020   
Dwain Hebda
Karla Alvarez

Not long after graduating Mount St. Mary Academy in Little Rock, Alvarez put her faith to work in McPherson Women’s Unit in Newport.

“I would say it was a culture shock,” the 25-year-old University of Central Arkansas student said. “I had never ever been involved with prison in my life. I just knew that that was something that God had placed on my heart.”

“I remember, clearly, my first day in prison. I had this conception of prison and of inmates. I was completely scared. I don’t know how my face looked, but looking back I wonder if they saw that I was scared or that I was judgmental.”

Alvarez, a member of Christ the King Church in Little Rock, stuck it out and soon began to see through the stereotypes she’d carried in from the outside.

“(Prison ministry) made me realize that prisoners are also human,” she said. “I’ve lived my life forgetting that prisoners existed. When I went to prison, I learned they have healing. They have dreams. They have hope. Many of them have been crushed. I told myself that could easily be me in there; you make that one simple mistake and be there for 10-15 years. Who knows?”

Alvarez has also found joy in the Catholic Charismatic movement as a way of expressing her spiritual life and fortifying her ministry.

“Being charismatic and having that charismatic part of the Catholic Church in me has helped me make the decisions I’ve made for ministry,” she said. “Prison is where I learned how to relate with somebody on a personal level and help them pray for healing. If I wasn’t in Charismatic, I wouldn’t have been able to do what the Lord has placed on my heart to do.”

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