“I was in prison and you came to visit me” Matthew Ch25: vs. 36
If you attend Mass at St. Brigid’s you’ve probably seen notices in the parish bulletin from time to time asking for “Cookies for Kairos.” “Kairos” is a Greek word meaning: “In God’s Time”
A Kairos weekend is an opportunity for incarcerated men and women to re-consider the choices they’ve made in life. The mission of the Kairos Ministry is to share the transforming love and forgiveness of Jesus, to impact the hearts and lives of incarcerated men, women and youth, and their families, to become loving and productive citizens of their communities.
A Kairos team is an ecumenical group of as many as 40 volunteers from all Christian denominations, every time there is a weekend retreat. Volunteers go through a process to form a working team to fulfill Christ’s call to action in the gospel of St. Matthew Chapter 25: Verse 36 cited above. A Kairos weekend incorporates a curriculum designed to build and encourage pro-social character and behavior. Prison reform and unjust sentencing have been in the headlines recently. We spend over $60 billion each year to keep more than 2.1 million men and women incarcerated. About 650,000 of these men and women are released annually. Kairos is offered free at State and Federal Correctional Institutions. A participant once said: “It cost the government $1 million to keep me locked up and it took a $100 Kairos program to set me free”. As hearts are changed, inmates begin to take responsibility for their actions. A Kairos volunteer has a front row seat at a miracle that transforms lives and impacts our world.
Kairos at St. Brigid
The first member of St. Brigid’s who became involved with Kairos was Julie Glowacki. Julie served on the second Kairos weekend at the Marysville Women’s Correctional Institution in 1993. Julie and her late husband Cliff attended an informational meeting on Kairos, for prospective volunteers as it was getting started in Ohio. After attending that meeting, Julie decided that prison ministry was definitely not for her – she was fine with baking cookies for the weekend, but there was no way she was going inside a prison. A few weeks later she received a phone call from the woman leading the weekend at Marysville asking her to join the team. To her amazement she said “yes”. Father Enke (later Monsignor) the pastor at the time, allowed Julie to make a pulpit announcement about Kairos at the weekend Masses. She received mixed reactions from some parishioners who asked her why she was doing this because they were afraid that she would be around murderers and /or very bad people.
Every Kairos weekend, members of the team engage their home church membership by asking for volunteers to bake chocolate chip cookies. Last fall, eight members of the Kairos team for the retreat at London Correctional Institute were from St. Brigid. Each man was asked to ask friends to bake and donate about 12 dozen chocolate chip cookies so we could have 1500 dozen cookies for EVERY man at the prison, and enough for all the Correctional Officers and staff. One of our parishioners created an electronic chain mail site soliciting volunteers to bake cookies. St. Brigid’s parishioners baked and donated 950 dozen of the 1500 dozen cookies needed that weekend. The cookie baking ministry has taken off. Every time we ask for volunteers to help with this task we are touched by the generosity of children, families and members who bring the cookies in by the week they are needed and drop them off at Hendricks Hall in time for the weekend. (The next Kairos weekend at London is on October 31, November 1, 2 and 3 and we will need cookies again! Look for the request in the bulletin).
Other Ways to Get Involved with Kairos
Women who cannot be on teams at the men’s prison volunteer to cook all the fresh meals on the weekend. The men and women in prison look forward most enthusiastically to every fresh home cooked meal that weekend, after years of prison fare! Kairos weekends are challenging. Participants are selected from a very long waiting list by the Prison Chaplain and have to be approved by the warden. Many come in resistant and resentful, and the volunteers try to break through the walls by listening and offering non-judgmental love. However, the Holy Spirit is at work, and most of the residents have gone through an attitude change and buy into the weekend by the time it ends. As these participants return to their cell blocks, they talk about the weekend and influence others to attend. Please call Derek Coelho at 614-790-8988 if you’d like to consider volunteering for a Kairos team in the future, and want to learn more about it.
The other organization that works with incarcerated women and men is “Kindway”- a non-profit organization with the mission of “Investing in the lives of those impacted by incarceration”. The “Kindway” program was started by Kairos volunteers who were concerned about the lack of a program to assist women and men, after they were released, with the transition from prison into the world. ‘Kindway’ leads program initiatives in two prisons, Marion Correctional Institution (MCI) and the Ohio Reformatory for Women (ORW). EMBARK, the flagship program, is a Christ-centered, intensive re-entry ministry offered at MCI and ORW. Selected participants are engaged in weekly discipleship and character building programs offered by staff and volunteers designed to prepare them for successful re-entry. Services to those released continue in the community for one year after their release. To date 123 men and women have been served through this ministry. Only three ‘Kindway’ / Embark participants have returned to prison due to a parole violation, two have re-offended, putting the recidivism rate at 4.1%. The recidivism rate for the State of Ohio is around 30%. Of those who have remained connected to the program for one year after they are released, the recidivism rate is 0%.
If you are interested in experiencing a day long visit to Marion you can contact Rich King at 614-506-8281. Some of the participants you will hear from that day hope to be released at some future date, if they can get a Parole Board hearing and receive the Board’s approval. .
Many of St. Brigid’s Kairos and ‘Kindway’ volunteers also lead Sunday Services for men and women at various Correctional Institutions in the area and / or bring the men and women the Eucharist on weekends
SAVE THE DATE:
Please join us on Wednesday, October 2nd at 1:30 p.m.at Hendricks Hall, to hear from Frank, who was released from prison not too long ago, and hear his story: “Life Inside and Outside Prison Walls”.