105-year-old nun sends letters to prison inmates

Posted at 12:42 PM, Jan 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-17 22:34:48-05

A Minnesota woman who celebrated her 105th birthday on Monday hasn't let her age get in the way of one of her most treasured projects - sending letters of encouragement to inmates in correctional facilities.

"I surely do [enjoy] writing the letters and I've been doing it for many years," Sister Mary Mark of St. Paul, Minnesota, told ABC News. "They're in prison, but they're working. They hope to make it. Other people have asked me for names, so that they could write to them [the inmates] too."

Sister Mary Mark, who's been a nun for over 80 years, has been writing letters to prisoners for over 20 years, according to Kathleen Conrad, pastoral care coordinator of Carondelet Village in St. Paul where Sister Mary Mark lives.

Conrad told ABC News that Sister Mary Mark initiated the project after responding to a notice in a newspaper enlisting pen pals for prison inmates. 

"I think at one point she was writing to about 50 prisoners," Conrad said. "When she was 89 years old she was called down to Oklahoma to testify on behalf of a prisoner on death row because she had been writing to him for such a long time."

"She says she just offers [the inmates] love and encouragement and let's them know that they're not alone," Conrad added. 

Sister Mary Mark currently corresponds with three prisoners, all of whom have sent her photos. She hangs the photos on her bulletin board.

"She's very concerned as to what will happen when she's not writing to them anymore," Conrad said. "She's the most beautiful woman you could meet...she's amazing. She has many friends and residents and people who work here, when we visit her it's as much for us as it is for her."

Conrad said Mary Lou Carney, a volunteer at Carondelet Village, will take over writing letters after Sister Mary Mark can no longer do it.

On Jan. 11, Conrad and other residents gathered wish Sister Mary Mark to wish her a 'Happy 105th Birthday,' an event that the centenarian said was "out of this world."

As for additional birthdays, Sister Mary Mark said she'd be happy spending many more on this Earth, so long as she can continue sending her letters.

“As long as I can write, I’ll do it,” she said.