Sister T: A mom to moms behind bars

By Jo Piazza. Photos by Steve Pfost (courtesy of Opus Prize Foundation).

Everyone knows “Sister T,” who high-fives her way down the streets of Queens, New York. She has helped thousands of women inmates and their kids get through prison terms and rebuild their lives.

Sister Tesa Fitzgerald, C.S.J. talks to kids from Hour Children foster care home

Image: Sister Tesa Fitzgerald, C.S.J. talks to kids from Hour Children foster care home she helped found. “I love the way my life turned out, “ says Sister T.

Sister Tesa Fitzgerald, C.S.J. never thought she would be a mother. But—and she is the first to admit it—God works in mysterious ways. Those enigmatic ways have led Fitzgerald to help raise thousands of children for mothers who are incarcerated—and become a mother to the women themselves.

“They’re all my babies,” she says, talking about her unconventional and very large family.

Today Fitzgerald, best known throughout her neighborhood in Queens, New York as “Sister T,” is the executive director of Hour Children, a nonprofit that supports women prisoners and their children in the state of New York. The organization—named for the one-hour family visits that prisoners get—helps moms in prison stay in touch with their kids while they serve time, raises those children as fosters while the mothers are incarcerated, and then helps the women rebuild their lives after their release.

Fitzgerald talking to a mom and child
Fitzgerald named the Hour Children foster home “My Mother’s House” so the kids could say, “I’m going to my mother’s house,” and avoid prying questions.

“It became