We are fortunate that Sister Mary Celestia retained some of her personal correspondence, which today resides in the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Archives. From this correspondence, we learn not only about her effect on the inmates themselves, but also about her holistic approach to prison ministry, which included inmates’ wives, mothers, and even wardens.
In 1914, S. Mary Celestia received accolades from the newly formed St. Vincent de Paul Branch of the Holy Name Society, based in the prison itself. The officers write:
As its first act, the Saint Vincent de Paul branch of the Holy Name Society wishes to thank you in the name of each member, in the name of every Catholic who, because of your zeal for souls, has gone forth from these walls a true son of the Church, a better man, a more loving husband, a more thoughtful son, or a kinder father, and in the name of the happier mothers, wives, and children for the hours you have spent during the past seven years in advising, directing, and instructing men who but for you would have sunk into that despair which destroy body and soul of prisoners less happily situated than we are.
In an undated autobiography shared with Sister Mary Celestia, inmate Harold Perry shares:
Sister Celestia has taught me that it is possible to apply the Catholic religion to everyday life, anywhere, everywhere, and at all times. Her instructions are nothing short of wonderful. Among the many persons who have assisted in extending my knowledge along these lines, Sister Celestia has helped me more than all others put together.
One could create quite a litany of praise for Sister Mary Celestia, but more interesting is the simple philosophy behind her prison ministry. Her frequent correspondence partner, a student named John McCaffery, reminds her of her own words: “Encouragement is what they (the prisoners) most need…. Confinement is punishment enough.” McCaffrey’s responses to her letters also reveal her strong desire to eliminate corporeal punishment and improve prison conditions.
May we continue to remember Sister Mary Celestia and her vision for the penal system, and may her prophetic works inspire us to extend hope to the incarcerated.
Quoted in excerpt from Four Decades of the History of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, Kansas, 1898-1938 by Sister Leo Gonzaga. Box 1, Folder 1. Sister Mary Celestia Brady Papers, 1914-1940. Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Archives. Leavenworth, Kansas.
 Harold Perry, “A Demonstration of God’s Wonderful Mercy,” undated. Box 1, Folder 11. Sister Mary Celestia Brady Papers.
 John McCaffrey to Sister Mary Celestia, September 20, 1909. Box 1, Folder 3. Sister Mary Celestia Brady Papers.
 See, for example, John McCaffrey to Sister Mary Celestia, November 11, 1909. Box 1, Fodler 3. Sister Mary Celestia Brady Papers.