Sister Martha Zammatore Receives Volunteerism Award for Prison Ministry

Franciscan Sister Martha Zammatore displays her “Chaplain Joe Buck Spirit of Volunteerism Award.” (Photo courtesy of Mary Fran Hartigan)

By TAMI QUIGLEY Staff writer

Franciscan Sister Martha Zammatore, prison ministry liaison for the Diocese of Allentown, is dedicated to her faith-filled work in prison ministry.

That dedication was recognized recently as the Northampton County Department of Corrections and Jail Advisory Board hosted a banquet Oct. 25 at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church, Easton, during which she was awarded the Chaplain Joe Buck Spirit of Volunteerism Award.

Sister Martha was presented with a plaque recognizing her work in prison ministry at Northampton County Jail, Easton. The plaque states it is presented “In honor and recognition of your many years of dedicated service to the residents incarcerated at Northampton County Jail. Your service has not gone unnoticed and is appreciated.”

“It was a complete surprise to me,” Sister Martha said of the award. She said those in charge just kept asking her if she was going to be present at the banquet. “I wasn’t sure I could make it on time due to my ministry at SCI Mahanoy on that same day. I never suspected that I was chosen as the Volunteer of the Year.

“Amid so many other volunteers, I felt so unworthy. I began ministry there in 2014 and was always seen with my guitar in my hands. In reality, when the secretary of our Secretariat [for Catholic and Evangelization] asked me to go into prison ministry, it was something I had never thought about, and yet it just seemed like it was meant for me to do. It brought true joy to my heart.

“Now besides Northampton I’m also going to SCI Mahanoy and SCI Frackville. I have met such wonderful persons of all faiths doing all anyone can to help these persons come to know the Lord, whose love and mercy can show us the path to life and restoration. Jesus wants to restore us all. He’s waiting for us to open the door of our hearts.

“I thought I knew Jesus, until after 21 years as a religious at a special moment during my time spent in Antofagasta, Chile, I had my personal encounter with our savior. Even though I was always basically a joyful person, my joy changed into ‘JOY!’ That’s why I’m so happy to be serving our brothers and sisters in this ministry.

“This message, the Good News is for us all. Whether we’re victims or guilty, Jesus came to give us all a new life, and we become witnesses to the power, love and mercy of a God who is among us to save us.”

The banquet at Our Lady of Lebanon is an annual event. Sister Martha said those in charge of the kitchen are Deacon Anthony Koury and his wife Chafica (Cheffie), along with inmates and former inmates who serve the meal.

Deacon Koury has been a permanent deacon at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church, Easton since being ordained in 1982. A graduate of Notre Dame High School, Easton, he retired in 2012 after 43 years at Notre Dame as athletic director and a theology teacher.

“It is such a beautiful, special and well planned event by those in charge of volunteerism and the chaplaincy of Northampton County Corrections,” said Sister Martha.

Sister Martha, daughter of George and Rose Zammatore, is a parish daughter of SS. Philip and James, Phillipsburg, New Jersey, just across the Delaware River from Easton.

“Anyone who may have known my parents back then would not be surprised that when I was given the award, I was called up to receive it by the way I’ve come to be known: ‘The Singing Nun.’”

“Everyone in the Secretariat for Catholic Life and Evangelization is thrilled that Sister Martha was recognized with this award. She exemplifies what it means to evangelize in the work she does,” said Mary Fran Hartigan, secretary of the Secretariat for Catholic Life and Evangelization.

“Sister Martha has so much compassion and love for each person she ministers to, and her only desire is to share God’s love and mercy with each person who is incarcerated so they know they are loved by God.

“In addition to Northampton County Jail, Sister Martha also ministers to inmates in the two state prisons in Mahanoy and Frackville,” said Hartigan.

Chaplain Christopher Santos is chaplain at Northampton County Jail.