TV Interview, WYOU-TV, November 19, 2007

Monday, June 22, 2009

Religious author honored for volunteerism

Times Leader Scranton Edition
June 21, 2009

Religious author honored for volunteerism
by Shelby Fisk

Helen Silvestri, of Peckville, receives award from Lackawanna County Prison.

Local author, Helen Silvestri from Peckville, who wrote “With God There Is Hope: Hope for Humanity” under her pen name, Ellen Chaksil, has won the 2009 Volunteer Award from the Lackawanna County Prison in Scranton.

In 1978, Silvestri said that she attended her first prayer group after being invited by two friends. Although she was originally skeptical about what she would experience, she said going to the prayer group was a life-changing event. She said that she was given the gift of speaking in tongues and nine months later was given the gift of prophecy. Since then she said that she has helped volunteer with religious groups.

In the mid-1980s, Silvestri said that she began her work with the Lackawanna County Prison. Since then she has continued, making weekly visits to the prison to host Monday prayer groups for women.

“It’s a fulfilling experience,” Silvestri said about hosting the prayer groups, because “prayer could change outlooks.”

“There’s a spiritual energy in prayer,” Silvestri said. “It can move mountains.”

There have been many positive and affirming comments from the women that she prays with, Silvestri said. She did not discuss the exact conversations that she’s had with inmates, citing confidentiality. She said that she is also not allowed to speak with women after they are released from prison, so Silvestri said she only hopes for the best for the women that she has met and she feels that praying with women in the prison can help them.

She believes most of the women in the prison have come from dysfunctional families and are misguided.

“Ninety percent of the females in there are in because of drug related crimes,” she said.

Silvestri explained that she feels that there is a void left in everyone by God that can only be filled by God, even though humans sometimes try to fill it in other ways.

“They’re young girls,” Silvestri said, “hoping to get into rehab.”

“When they’re sentenced we pray that justice will be done.”

Silvestri said that she often reads Scriptures from the Bible to comfort the women.

“Jesus said we’re forgiven 70 times, seven times,” Silvestri said. “Letting them know there is help is important.”

“We’re all children of God,” Silvestri said, noting that some women have found religion through her prayer groups.

“We have common ground (regardless of religious affiliations),” she added.

In her prayer groups, she said that she shares the same message that is prominent in her book: the power of prayer.

“Seeing the power of prayer,” she said is important.

“Yesterday (June 16) was the 20th anniversary of my son’s death,” Silvestri said. “It (prayer) helps you get through (tough times).”

Silvestri has traveled locally, nationally and for the last two years internationally volunteering her time with religious work.

“All I ever hope for is to touch a heart,” Silvestri said.

“You’ve got to do what you can,” Silvestri said adding that inspiration from God keeps her going.

“I’ve had an exciting life in the Lord,” Silvestri said.

Silvestri is a member of the parishes of St. Patrick, Holy Ghost, and St. Michael the Archangel in Olyphant, where she serves as a eucharistic minister and lector. She is also president of the Confraternity of Christian Women, coordinator of RENEW, and is a member of the parish and finance councils.

Her book, “With God There Is Hope: Hope for Humanity,” can be purchased at,,,, and or can be special ordered at local bookstores.

Barnes & Noble College Booksellers on South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre will host a book signing with Silvestri on Saturday, Aug. 15, from noon to 2 p.m.

Helen Silvestri


OCCUPATION: Self-employed

HOW MANY YEARS: Almost 49 years

CHARITIES, VOLUNTEER PROJECTS: Religious volunteer work on local, national and international levels

FAMILY: Husband, Bruno; children, Marie, Paul, and the late John; grandchildren, Laura, 27; Sarah, 20; David, 19; Matthew, 16; Morgan, 14

EDUCATION: Archbald High School and some university theology work

HOBBIES, INTERESTS: Cooking and golf

ABOVE: Helen Silvestri greets Pope Benedict XVI.

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