I wrote this for the Neighbor Center newsletter, but I thought it was appropriate to share with all of Our Savior parish, as well. I hope it might motivate some of you to help out in this area of outreach, in whatever way you can. No one expects you to do prison ministry daily or weekly; but we can impact others’ lives in ways we might never expect.
Why would Our Savior parish want to be involved in a project like “Neighbor Center”? There are a number of good reasons that I would like to share.
We have had a history (through individuals) of doing outreach like Bible study in Mobile Metro jail, and this is a way of renewing continuity. Some of us have had other experiences of prison ministry, including taking part in Kairos weekends.
We have some police officers and state troopers in our parish who are eager to help. They don’t think it a good idea to be in a visible position since they are often the ones through whom those incarcerated are actually in jail, but they want to do what they can behind the scenes to prevent recidivism (and of course that’s to their benefit).
Our Archbishop has been asking parishes to consider a series of four priorities upon which to focus, and one of them is outreach to neighbors. He published the list almost at the exact time I was contacted about the Neighbor Center—it seemed too good to be accidental! And we know that everyone has sinned and fallen short of the grace of God (Romans 3:23). We are given second chances in Christ, and we want to allow those who have “paid their debt to society” to have a genuine second chance— this requires help since men and women released from jail typically have no resources; they become prey for behaviors that lead them back to prison.
What if our outreach and aid are the first kinds of active love these people have ever received in their lives? What if through the Neighbor Center they experience people who value and respect their dignity as persons? We don’t know the seven demons cast out of Mary Magdalene by Jesus, but we know the incredible conversion it produced in her; might our kindness cast out different kinds of “demons” in our brothers and sisters? What demons were cast out by Jesus in the story of the woman caught in adultery (demons in her and her partner, and also demons in the crowds crying for her blood)?
Who among us doesn’t need a second chance?