Prison Ministry


#1

I am a 50 year old divorced ex-business man with four grown children. I have been called to work with prisoners and serious ex-offenders for the past five years, mostly with long sentences and serious crimes. I have developed a new program for these men that has been very successful in keeping them from coming back. My problem is that often I feel very isolated and alone in my work, despite being constantly surrounded by people. I sometimes wish that my faith in Christ which sustains and inspires me, could be shared and strengthen with others. Is there a community or place for me in the church as a Deacon, Brother, or ?


#2

I don’t quite know why, but I have always had a strong inclination to want to be with prisoners and to minister to them. I’ve never done it. What a blessing you must be to them.

As for your other question, I have no idea. I am interested to hear other people’s responses.


#3

First as a ex-con, who was brought back to the Church through ministry such as yours, I can attest to the importance of your ministry.

Now, as far as becoming a part of an religious community, I think the first hurdle would be your divorce. Once you get past that, you ought to be able to do whatever. Hopefully others can give you further options.

God be with you.


#4

Contact your diocese. If there is a prison within the diocese I'm sure there is a team that is set up.


#5

There is an impediment to religious life and Holy Orders, you are married. Even with a civil divorce, the Church still views you as married.

You will need to work though the annullment process. If you are sucessful then you can proceed with contacting religious communities and diocese. Know that not all will accept you even with an annullment (I know of at least one diocese that will not).

This can be a long process so talk to your pastor as soon as you can to get started on the paperwork.

Also know that you age could hold you back. More so from religious life than a diocese. But it could hinder you there also.


#6

every lay person I know of who is involved in prison ministry in this diocese (and prisons are the biggest part of our economy after government and agriculture) is also a secular associate of a religious institute--Benedictine Oblate (5 I know of for sure), Secular Franciscan (at least 3), Carmelite (don't know the precise term, at least 1) or are involved in some ongoing renewal such as ACTS, Kof C and so forth. Your instinct is correct, you cannot give what you do not have.


#7

Thank you all for the advice. I forgot to mention that I do have an annulment of my marriage and all of my children are independent adults.
I was not sure where to begin to inquire or research what my options if any would be. I tend to work quite a lot and as such do not have much of a life or contacts outside it. The program that I developed is now going to be in more than one prison, so I will most likely not be residing in just one Diocese. I will look into the secular affiliations to see if they would fill my need for some community and belonging. God bless


#8

Thank you all for the advice. I forgot to mention that I do have an annulment of my marriage and all of my children are independent adults.
I was not sure where to begin to inquire or research what my options if any would be. I tend to work quite a lot and as such do not have much of a life or contacts outside it. The program that I developed is now going to be in more than one prison, so I will most likely not be residing in just one Diocese. I will look into the secular affiliations to see if they would fill my need for some community and belonging. God bless


#9

[quote="puzzleannie, post:6, topic:226236"]
every lay person I know of who is involved in prison ministry in this diocese (and prisons are the biggest part of our economy after government and agriculture) is also a secular associate of a religious institute--Benedictine Oblate (5 I know of for sure), Secular Franciscan (at least 3), Carmelite (don't know the precise term, at least 1) or are involved in some ongoing renewal such as ACTS, Kof C and so forth. Your instinct is correct, you cannot give what you do not have.

[/quote]

For Carmelites it is either Third Order Carmelites (T.O.Carm.) or Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites (OCDS).


#10

[quote="zak1024, post:1, topic:226236"]
I have developed a new program for these men that has been very successful in keeping them from coming back.

[/quote]

Could you share your program's curriculum and why it's been so successful?

Very interesting topic.


#11

Sorry for the delay, no email allowed at work.
The curriculum is too long to post here, but below is the basic philosophy I built it on.

Wounded and Lost Men

When we speak of the recidivism problem with offenders we tend to paint them with a broad brush. Some are in fact sick with psychological illness and can only be helped with proper treatment. Some are indeed dangerous men and need to be locked away in a humane way to keep them from the public. But I propose that the majority of them where in fact injured by their environment and carry within them the emotional wounds of neglect, abuse, molestation, violence and poverty. The resultant grief from these traumas, if not expressed and shared with others ultimately manifests itself as rage. A rage that, turned inward results in drug abuse and alienation from society, turned outward results in violent and anti-social acts.
Our beliefs, ideas and conceptions of how the world works, as well as our place in it, are shaped by our early role models and environment. Children and young people who bear witness to a reality where the sale and abuse of drugs is commonplace, and criminal acts are presented as an acceptable – even necessary – means of survival, are prone to form a faulty mental map of the world and a myopic vision of their role in it. That these young people become adults programed with anti-social views and living habits should come as little surprise. This disengagement from pro-social living habits is identified as one of the most common criminogenic personality characteristics of a criminal lifestyle. Addressing this lack of connection, trust, and empathy is vital to the successful implementation of any reentry program.
Our tendency to demonize these men requires that we classify them as either sick or evil. To call them sick implies they bear no responsibility for their actions that they are inherently defective, and that experts are needed to provide them with treatment. Seeing them as evil, on the other hand, implies that they bear all of the responsibility for the problem, that they
are even more defective and beyond redemption, and that what they need most is punishment.
There is a third possibility that changes the way we approach them. That we see them as wounded and lost. To do so does not relieve them of their responsibility; we merely recognize all the poverty, loss, violence, and hopelessness that made them see the world as they do. It implies that all of us bear the responsibility for understanding why they got injured, helping them to heal, and empowering them with a new perspective on their role in society. Seeing them as wounded and lost also leads us to the conclusion that the remedy is first healing them on the inside, while giving them a new mental map to interpret and interact with the world around them. Then the delivery of the needed educational and training programs along with appropriate counseling and mentorship will be received in fertile ground.


#12

Contact the diocese to look into your marriage. If the investigation concludes that your marriage was not a true marriage then a declaration of nullity would be issued and you would be free to marry or even be considered for ordination. WE have a man that was divorced after 3 years and was not a very smart man on top of that becuase he struggled so much in college. He was about your age. He’s now known as Fr. Tom (pretty generic name so it’s safe to say it) and his mother is very proud of him, rightfully so.

You’ll have to find an religious order that would take you, but I do know that a diocese short of priests would likely take your discernment serious. Once you’re ordained a deacon you take the same promises that a priest takes and are bound to remain celibate and obedient. May God bless you in your ministry. I too believe God is calling me to the diaconate. I also would like to participate in prison ministry but have yet to take the step because of financial limitations and change of career. I’m becoming a teacher to give me more time to perform my duties as a deacon down the road. My wife is very supportive of me, a real blessing. Long story, but God has been there every step of the way.


#13

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