Sharing Treasures of Faith-1
On October 4, 2014 Catholic Charities Justice Services (CCSJ) of the Archdiocese of Vancouver presented “Sharing the Treasures of our Faith”, a volunteer support and development conference for those who serve our brothers and sisters in and outside of the prisons.  This was a day to explore the rewarding and transformative work of Prison Ministry in the Archdiocese of Vancouver.

Our Vision Statement

Catholic Charities Justice Services (CCJS) of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver builds an educated Christ-centred community that upholds the dignity of every human person touched by crime.

The Support and Development day was held at St. Andrew Kim and hosted the following speakers

Summaries of the talks provided by By Hugh Robins & Johanne Perreault, Prison ministry volunteers

KEYNOTE Speakers:

Sharing Treasures of Faith-2Fr Robert Allore, SJ, Pastor/Chaplain St Mark’s Parish – “Encountering Christ – Carrying Christ – Becoming Human”

Father Robert says that “volunteers bring hope and healing to prisoners.” He talked of being human and our instinctive capacity to share. He told the story of the Woman at the Well, and how her encounter with Jesus changed her perspective, enabling her to face a brighter and freer place. Volunteers provide this sense of real freedom for the incarcerated. He also talked about defiant behavior and reminded volunteers that many biblical character’s, King David, Moses, Paul and St. Peter for example, were not always very charming well behaved individuals. Kind of like ourselves sometimes. Fr. Rob set the stage when he forcefully reminded us of our own potential for creating messes for ourselves and for others.

Germaine Solaiman, CCJS Volunteer Coordinator

Germaine provided an overview of current programs supported by CCJS volunteers in the prisons, both Federal and Provincial.

Maureen Donegan provided an overview of the growth of CoSA (Circles of Support and Accountability), which has provided structured mentoring groups to over 70 inmates returning to the community over the past years. Frank Sawatsky, CoSA Volunteer Coordinator, together with three “actors”, presented a role playing skit depicting how the circles provide a safety net for former prisoners rejoining society

Evelyn Vollet, Director Service & Justice and John Zanatta, CCJS Advisory committee member

Evelyn and John presented an update on Catholic Connections in Restorative Justice (CCinRJ) conference led by Bishop Gary Gordon and which they attended in September. The vision of the conference was to create a network of Catholic faithful across Canada that find themselves called to be in service to those on the margins of our society because they have been touched by crime. We encourage all volunteers to sign up for the network or to see the full presentation click here.

We were treated to a wonderful gourmet lunch provided by the St Andrew Kim CWL and were joined by Archbishop J. Michael Miller CSB.

Sharing Treasures of Faith-3
Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB

Archbishop Michael addressed the volunteers and punctuated the call of service to the Lord, doing works of corporal mercy. As well, he referenced chapter 25 from the gospel St. Matthew. He spoke of how Pope Francis compares the church to a field hospital where Prison Ministry enters the wounds of Jesus and that is where the power of healing is experienced. He also expressed how grateful he was for Catholic Charities Justice Services Volunteers.

Click here to read Archbishop Michael’s complete talk.

Fr Mako Watanabe, Bob Buckham, Jim Clarke, Noval Lee-Son, Richard Podgurski and John Zanatta – members of the Advisory committee for CCJS

The Advisory committee brainstormed the Future; Volunteer Feedback/Input on Visioning added much food for thought for future growth.

Nedelijko Macesic, Deputy Warden, Fraser Regional Correctional Centre added a perspective from the Provincial Prisons.

Mike Hanly, District Director for Federal Community Corrections for BC and the Yukon spoke eloquently of the need to remember the success stories (which are the majority) and how Chaplaincy and volunteers are essential to the work of corrections.

A volunteer’s testimony given that day “So what is a middle-aged, middle class ordinary woman doing visiting in a prison?  How did it happen that I should make it a habit to walk into a medium security institution, walk over to the guy with tattoos on his head, offer my hand, introduce myself and begin chatting? It is because I am saying hello to my brother. And if I am saying hello to my brother, then it is my hope that my brother will recognize me as his sister. And If I am his sister, then he is no longer an inmate.  He is no longer in prison.  He is where he belongs, in communion, free to be the person God intended him to be.  He can, perhaps just for a few minutes, consider that he is not what he sometimes believes himself to be, what others believe him to be, but what Christ knows him to be, and that is a person loved into being, and continually loved by God our Father.  If he recognizes that, then his soul is free, even when he remains in a human-built prison.  That, to me, is my ministry. And best of all, this frees me also, to be the person God intended me to be, seeking the kind of justice that brings peace, the kind of peace that only God can provide.  This work – this mission – has freed me to go beyond being a middle-aged, middle class ordinary woman.  And for that, thanks be to God.”

Testimonies and comments from several inmates and released offenders

“ You all know that I am more than my behaviour”

“ I simply have asked God for His mercy”

“ The only way to trust Him is to throw myself to Him”

Additional Resources:

To learn more about the Prison Ministry, please contact Maureen Donegan at 604-791-1864 or Germaine Solaiman at 604-307-8481.

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