SJSO chaplain becomes pastor of local church

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 3, 2022

NEW SARPY — Deputy Jeff Patterson, chaplain of the Sherman Walker Correctional Facility in LaPlace, has been elected pastor of St. Matthew’s Baptist Church in New Sarpy.

An installation ceremony will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, August 4 at St. Matthew’s, located at 604 E.S. Johnson Street.

While this will be his first time serving as pastor of a church congregation, Patterson has spent many years providing spiritual care to help individuals reach their fullest potential. He began ministering to inmates in St. John the Baptist Parish nearly four years ago, after retiring from a 25+ year career as a security guard for Marathon Petroleum.

Patterson was newly retired and driving home when he answered a call from Sheriff Mike Tregre.

“We might need you over here,” the sheriff told him.

“For what?” Patterson asked. “I’m not carrying a gun.”

Tregre responded, “Reverand, you don’t need to have a gun. Your Bible is good enough.”

The sheriff knew Patterson from when he would preach on the streets in the back of Cambridge, Woodland Quarters and the housing developments in LaPlace, Reserve and Garyville.

“Some of the guys that were getting locked up were guys that I had preached to on the street,” Patterson said. “After getting back there, I told the sheriff I’m going to work myself out of a job. I’m going to make sure no one comes back here permanently. We’ve got some guys in there who are gifted. They’ve just been steered the wrong way, and they need somebody to talk to.”

Patterson encouraged inmates to steer their life in a positive direction by recognizing their God-given talents. While many of the inmates lacked a formal education, some were gifted in mechanical work, some were phenomenal artists, and some were fantastic chefs who could go head-to-head with the cooking staff at any restaurant.

“They discovered they had something they could do to work on bettering their life when they get out. From my first group that got out, we have one guy who got his own food truck. We’ve got welders. All night, my phone is ringing because they are checking on me and wanting me to know that they are doing great with their families,” Patterson said.

Patterson has also noticed that the Sherman Walker Facility is housing less inmates now than when he became chaplain in 2018, something he credits partly to the “no return” policy he has instituted.

“If you don’t get it right here, you might never get it right again,” Patterson said. “I tell them God is the main reason you are here and not in the cemetery. This is not the end. This is another opportunity to get it right.”

Being installed as pastor of St. Matthew’s Baptist Church is another opportunity for Patterson to let people know there is hope, no matter how bleak the world or their personal situation may seem.

While Patterson went to school at St. Joan of Arc as a child and based his spiritual development in St. John Parish, he’s always had family ties to the church community in New Sarpy.

“My dad’s family stayed in New Sarpy. The church is two blocks from where I stay now, but I never thought about going over to that church until Pastor Anderson passed, I went back home, and they told me to come on over to the church,” Patterson said. “This was home for me. When I started going there, a lot of people knew I was back home. My grandfather and my grandmother were very big in that church.”

Patterson is stepping confidently into the new position because he knows God is behind him.

“I’ve learned through the years that if God assigns you for a position, He will take care of you,” he said.