"For I was hungry and you gave me food ... I was sick and you
visited me, I was imprisoned and you came to me" Mt 25:35-36.
Since their retirement, John and Jeanne Muenzen strive to
live these words from Matthew's Gospel every day. They meet
with prisoners, deliver food to the hungry and do whatever it
takes to assist the helpless in their community. Their drive
to serve God through the poor is powered by the gratitude
they feel for God calling them back to the church many years
While both were raised Catholic, each went through lukewarm
periods in their spiritual lives. For Jeanne, the busyness of
life took a toll on her church attendance.
"As a working mother with two young children, I found it more
and more difficult to even get to church on Sunday mornings,"
said Jeanne. "I sent my children to Catholic schools to
ensure that they learned about their faith, but
unfortunately, I was too 'tired' to follow through on a
Like Jeanne, John found his Mass attendance drift to a halt
while attending Hofstra University in New York.
"I had fooled myself into thinking I didn't go to Mass often
because of issues I had with Catholic doctrine and dogma,"
said John. "But I finally realized it was just a convenient
cover for plain laziness."
After college John spent two years in the Peace Corps, a
decision he believes was influenced by his Catholic faith. He
then joined the Navy and, in 1983, was transferred to the
Pentagon as deputy branch chief in the Defense Information
Systems Agency the same agency where Jeanne worked as a
The two started dating in 1987 and two years later were
married at St.
Lawrence the Martyr Church in Franconia. The couple continued
to struggle with their faith even after their marriage, but
it soon became clear that God was calling both of them back
into the fold.
Hearing the call
It all started with a chance visit to the Cathedral of St.
Matthew the Apostle in Washington. John had decided to visit
the cathedral on a whim during his lunch break. As soon as he
stepped inside he was blown away by the beautiful sanctuary.
"I was hooked after that," he said.
Around the same time, Jeanne also began thinking about
returning to church.
"I longed for the Eucharist and needed to hear the word of
God again. So I kept praying on it until one Saturday
morning, when John was out shopping, there was a knock on our
front door, and there stood two gentlemen from the Legion of
Thinking the pair were Jehovah's Witnesses, Jeanne rolled her
eyes and said that she was Catholic and, yes, she had been
saved. To her surprise they smiled right back and said "so
"We talked for at least 20 minutes, and they left me with
lots of material, but more importantly a firm desire to go
back to church. When John came home, I explained to him
what happened, and that's when he told me that he was
secretly going to church at St. Matthew. We went to St. Louis
Church that Sunday and haven't missed a week since." They
both vowed never to let anything get in the way of their
Shortly after returning to the church, the couple had a
strong desire to serve others and began volunteering with
INOVA Friendly Visitors, even though they were working full
"I believe our faith and return to the church influenced us
to visit the homebound and start to give back for all of our
blessings," said John.
After the couple retired they moved from Alexandria to the
Northern Neck, dropping anchor just a couple miles from St.
Paul Mission in the Hague, a mission known for its "small
size, but big heart." Both John and Jeanne joined the Legion
of Mary, which opened up new opportunities for service. Once
again, they started visiting the elderly in nursing homes as
well as the homebound. But as good as these ministries were,
the couple decided they wanted to do more.
Visiting the imprisoned
It came to their attention that Legion members from St.
Francis de Sales Church in Kilmarnock wanted to pass on
responsibility for ministering to the Haynesville
Correctional Center to the St. Paul Mission, which was closer
to the jail. The couple enthusiastically volunteered.
"We were interested in the challenge of spreading the faith
and doing something different," said Jeanne.
In May 2008, the couple made the first of what would become
many Tuesday visits to Haynesville Correctional Center, home
to approximately 1,000 male inmates.
"Initially with our first couple of visits, it was like, what
are we doing?" said John. "Just getting into the prison was
Fortunately, the former government workers were not scared
away by a little red tape.
By working with the prison and listening to the needs of the
prisoners, John and Jeanne transformed the ministry. Together
they provide Catholics and non-Catholics alike with
opportunities to grow in their faith through Mass, RCIA,
catechetics and the occasional game of Catholic Trivial
pursuit. Many times they are surprised by the devotion the
men show for the ministry.
"They have to cling to something," said John. "With them it's
their faith and that is where we come in."
The husband-wife team now has an entire room in their house
devoted to the ministry and a bookshelf with more than 100
labeled volumes ready whenever the men stump them with a
particularly hard question. By teaching the men and answering
their questions, the couple has learned more about their own
faith than they thought possible.
Feeding the hungry
When John and Jeanne aren't working with the inmates, they
can be found helping in many other outreach ministries at St.
Paul. The mission's new food pantry started in their own
basement. The big blue bins, now kept at the St. Paul Mission
rectory, hold everything from canned corn to cereal. As
parish liaison network coordinator for Catholic Charities,
John works with the organization to keep the bins
well-stocked for their clients. In many cases the food pantry
is just the beginning of the mission's involvement with the
According to John, many of the people who come to the food
pantry are not aware of the resources available to them
through social services. On more than one occasion John has
acted as an advocate for the poor by walking them through the
Social Security process or even coordinating with another
church volunteer to fix a broken air conditioning unit.
Regardless of the circumstance, they try to ensure everyone
they help is treated with dignity, regardless of their
"We try to use it (outreach ministry) as a vehicle of
evangelization," said John. "It's not forced but it is
John and Jeanne have been busy since they "retired" to the
Northern Neck, and it doesn't look like they will be slowing
down any time soon.
"We cannot imagine our lives without visiting the inmates,
homebound, food needy, elderly, sick, etc.," said John.
"These activities have only made us even more grateful to be
Catholic, and we thank God every day for allowing us to
continue with these works."
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