Shared Gratitude: Nurturing the Heart of Giving

From JPEN donors Linda Trenbeath and Bill Gorsky, a perspective on the importance of the mission and community support. 

Since my husband and I retired, we have explored a variety of community needs and missions for our donations. First is the importance of a meaningful personal and spiritual connection to “the cause”. Not easy to do in an “online culture” where transactions are expected via computer or mobile devices. Relationships nurture the heart of giving, which I describe as a gratitude exchanged by both the giver and the receiver. I might describe it as a metaphysical experience that expands the heart. It can happen in many ways, but most frequently it is a purposeful connection with people, human beings and experiences that move us to act in a genuine way. 

Just such an experience occurred when my husband re-awakened a longtime friendship with Father Tom Curran of Regis University. (I am an Alumna of Regis University in Denver, and my husband has developed friendships with Jesuit communities in Colorado and Arizona.) Fr. Curran introduced us to the Jesuit Prisoner Education Program which provides a path for prisoners as well as guards and staff, to earn college degrees TOGETHER! Here is a concept that could only be realized through a complex network of cooperating public, governmental, academic, and religious entities. The program has grown to include eight universities across the U.S. and one in Belize. Imagine the hope and promise of education to empower lives and break down barriers between people and institutions? What a gift to ourselves and our world!  

This year I was privileged to attend a graduation ceremony of women inmates in this transformational program. The special event was complete with cap and gowns, the presentation of diplomas and testimonials from faculty and students. Here I witnessed a joyful exchange between participants, faculty and prison staff, the genuine pride of the participants, and the close bonds students and faculty have formed. There was a lighthearted exchange of personal anecdotes and the sharing of keepsakes and hand-made gifts. Growing evidence suggests that the children of incarcerated women and men have awakened to the promise and possibilities that education can provide. (“If Mom can do it, so can I!”) The experience has moved me. It will remain with me … this is the gratitude exchange that keeps on growing and giving. And here is the good news: you don’t have to wait until you retire to experience an exchange of gratitude in a personal connection to the causes you support. We have found that once the intention for good is set, possibilities arrive on your doorstep. 


Visit the USA Central and Southern Province website. When you submit a donation, be sure to note that you’re donating to the Jesuit Prison Education Network (JPEN).