The Executive Director Corner
A blog from the desk of the Executive Director of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church.
I Have Come to Set the Captives Free
Dear friends and colleagues in ministry,
You will notice a good portion of the 2020 Spring/Summer issue of One Church, Many Faces is dedicated to prison ministry. For some time, we have wanted to reflect on the problem of mass incarceration and the unevenness of the justice system from a pastoral perspective. We also wanted to give voice to those who tend to the spiritual needs of prisoners, their families and those involved in the prison system.
Incarceration is a big problem that affects disproportionately communities of color. Beyond the individual serving a sentence, incarceration affects --and often puts unbearable stress on-- families and entire communities. Community and church support is often vital. However, when it comes to prison ministry, “everyone knows the importance; very few are part of the solution,” as one contributor to this issue puts it.
When we decided upon the editorial focus of this issue many months ago, we did not know that we were going to be in the middle of a pandemic that would bring our lives, our economies and our world to a halt, forcing many families into voluntary and then mandatory self-isolation. Many are unable to say goodbye or to attend funerals for their loved ones, or join in joyful celebrations like weddings, births, baptisms, and graduations. For a minute we hesitated: Was this the right topic for this moment?
Then, we read and watched the very moving meditations for the Way of the Cross on Good Friday at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican. And learned how the Holy Father had entrusted a prison ministry in Italy with the task of gathering the reflections to for each Station. They included prisoners serving long sentences, teachers working with prisoners, families whose relatives were killed by an inmate, and even a prison guard who is also a deacon. And we decided that, yes, this was the right topic and the right time to bring attention to this issue. In fact, it seems providential that we are bringing it to you when have been forced to take a pause from the external world and limit our “in person” social interaction.
Jesus said: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has chosen me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed.” (Lk 4:18) We are the Lord’s eyes and ears, His heart, hands and feet. We are His witnesses, called to bring the Good News to all.