Catholic Charities Justice Services (CCJS) coordinator Bob Buckham, at the Archdiocese of Vancouver, provides prison ministry programming in collaboration with Prison Chaplains for offenders in our prisons. The Prison Ministry also strives to open “hearts and minds” on God’s love, mercy and compassion for the incarcerated by speaking at parishes, and doing cooperative projects between elementary and high schools and the institutions.
Over 200 volunteers from our Archdiocese visit offenders inside the 14 prisons and provide support to released offenders through community support groups.
Our volunteers are committed to ministering to help our brothers and sisters to “redeem, restore and reconcile” their lives. Watch the video below to hear testimony from a released offender, volunteer and previous coordinator of Prison Ministry, Maureen Donegan.
To learn more about Prison Ministry, please contact Bob Buckham 604-226-6964.
Ministry to Those in Prison
24 Programs Offered by Catholic Charities Justice Services Volunteers in the Provincial and Federal Institutions
- Mass and Fellowship – Mass said by one our Catholic Chaplains or Parish Priests. Volunteers assist with set up, participate in the Mass and stay for fellowship afterwards
- Rosary Making – Volunteers make rosaries with the inmates, which are then collected and passed out by another group of volunteers to women living on the Downtown East Side.
- Houses of Healing: A Prisoner’s Guide to Inner Power and Freedom – A 13 week journey looking at becoming more aware of a person’s feelings and learning how to control emotions. Learn more
- Life Connections – This program helps the inmate recognize the choices they have made and the consequences. It is a journaling program, with 12 modules (books) each taking about a month to complete. The inmates prepare each week to share what they have written with the group.
- Threshold – A Shortened Version of Life Connections that has three modules and runs for 3-6 months.
- Alpha – Video/discussion program that provides an introductory to Christianity. Learn more
- Finding Faith in Film – Short film clips from movies. Questions accompany the DVDs to help facilitate discussion on morals, ethics, and the seven deadly sins, etc.
- Decision Point – A series of 72 short clips by Matthew Kelly that teach why Jesus and the Church matters today. Learn more
- Grief Support – Grief & Loss Support (GLS) is a program based on 1-1 interviews for those requesting support.
- RCIA/Inquiry – Youcat Study Guide or Decision Point or other similar resources are used.
- Centering Prayer – A method of meditative prayer that focuses on interior silence. Learn more
- Taize Prayer – Taizé music highlights simple phrases, usually lines from the Psalms or other pieces of Scripture, repeated or sung in canon. Learn more
- Catholic Faith Studies – A variety of materials are used to engage participants. Examples are Bishop Barron’s Catholicism, Six Weeks with the Bible or Catholic Christian Outreach materials.
- Finding God in the Dark movie program – Featuring full-length films with discussion to follow.
- Book Club – Read chapter books and dialogue in small groups. Examples of books used are Screw Tape Letters, A Purpose Driven Life, and Man’s Search For Meaning.
- Men’s Choir – Weekly practices with a wide genre of music.
- Liturgy of the Word led by the volunteers – Volunteers prepare and lead a service with readings and reflections.
- Wild Goose DVD series and Discussion – A 14 part DVD program by Fr. Dave Povonka on the Holy Spirit. Questions for discussion are provided. Learn more
- Adult Literacy Program – Volunteers offer inmates support in spelling, reading and writing.
- Readings, discussion and ministry of presence – Readings are preselected by the volunteers and read together with the group. Conversation then opens for anyone to share.
- Songs, presentation and discussion – Contemporary songs are chosen with themes of forgiveness, love, etc. The volunteers lead a presentation and facilitate discussion.
- Unlocking the Mysteries of the Bible DVD Series – The program shows the “big picture” of the Bible by displaying how fourteen narrative books of the Bible tell the complete story from Adam and Eve to Christ and the Church.
- Collaborative Projects with the Catholic Independent Schools Vancouver Archdiocese (CISVA) – CCJS works with principals and teachers in the Catholic schools of our Archdiocese to combine the efforts of inmates and students to benefit the less fortunate. In 2018, we created and filled cloth bags for the homeless. This year, wrist rosaries are being made by inmates and students with proceeds going to Operation Smile and other local charities. For 2020, we are looking at making herb planters as a cooperative project between high schools and inmates.
- Getting Out/Staying Safe – This program is one session that includes a DVD and discussion on what to do upon release and what to avoid. A checklist to assist with release planning is provided.
Join our Prayer Ministry
Join our prayer ministry and pray for the needs of those in prison. By giving us your email address, you will be sent the prayer requests collected from inmates by our prayer ministry coordinator. Your email address will not be used for any other purpose.
Engaging with Parishioners and Students within CISVA
Making wrist rosaries and other collaborative projects
The wrist rosary project is a collaboration with federal institutions and Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Vancouver to raise funds for Operation Smile and other local, non-profit organizations. The objective is for the men and women in the federal institutions to have the chance to “give back” by making wrist rosaries for the students in the schools. The students each receive a wrist rosary made by an inmate and then are taught how to make one to sell in support of the non-profit organizations. We believe this is a great way for many hands to work together to have a positive impact on our world locally and abroad.
When we visit the classrooms, it also gives our volunteers an opportunity to share what Prison Ministry is all about, and why we “visit the prisoners” (Matthew 25:31-46). The students and teachers enjoy the 1 hour session while learning about one of our Corporeal Works of Mercy.
Presentations at High Schools
Former inmate Ryan Prasad (left) with Bob Buckham, the Coordinator of the Archdiocese’s prison ministry. Prasad thanks Catholic volunteers who brought him to faith. He now pays it forward by speaking to youth at Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of Vancouver.
Ryan Prasad is a dynamic speaker who gives of his time to speak to senior high school students about his journey of experimenting with drugs, participating in the drug crime world, incarceration, and freedom.
Because Ryan is young, he relates well to the students, and his story hits home with many students.
I found it really inspiring to hear Ryan’s life story, and to receive advice in regards to leading a faith life from someone who has experienced such hardship. His thoughts and cautionary stories had so much more weight because he was drawing from his own personal experiences rather than fear mongering and telling us off.
Helping Those Released from Prison
Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA)
Vancouver/Fraser Valley Circles of Support and Accountability (VFV CoSA) is a community based volunteer program that assists people who have committed a sexual offence on their release from prison.
Our goal is to substantially reduce the risk of sexual victimization of community members by assisting and supporting released individuals in their task of integrating with the community, and leading responsible, productive and accountable lives.
Support for Released Offenders Program
This program is designed to support released offenders with no sexual related crimes
The volunteer is:
- Available for pro-social encouragement and practical elements
- Accessible by cell phone only, no contact by email and no contact or sharing on any social media platform. Inmate must be released into the community before communication begins.
- Able to talk, particularly during difficult times
- Open to meet in a public place, i.e. coffee shop, restaurant. If another location is chosen, the CCJS committee must agree upon it
- Free to assist in finding employment, setting up a bank account, using public transportation, etc.
Support for Victims and Families of Inmates
Healing Circles of Support for Those Affected by Crime
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver has developed Healing Circles of Support (HCS) for those whose lives have been affected by crime. Our primary goal is to provide a caring, healing and emotional support network to those impacted by crime. Healing Circles of Support is a program for survivors of crime, offered to everyone, free of charge, regardless of religious beliefs or affiliation.
Women’s Support Group for Mothers and Wives of Incarcerated Men
Catholic Charities Justice Services of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver builds an educated Christ-centred community that upholds the dignity of every human person touched by crime.
Serve together to rediscover the fullness of God’s love and image in each other through:
- Inspired Worship and Program
- Meaningful Visitation and Enhanced Volunteer Presence
- Effective Support Groups
- Education for Study/Teaching
- Supportive Re-integration
- Promote and Advocate Restorative Justice
Archbishop Miller’s Priorities for Prison Ministry
- Extended Pastoral Care – to victims, offenders and the families of both in our parishes
- Work with Media – work with media to tell stories which portray successful efforts of rehabilitation and restoration
- Foster Education – in our schools and parishes – for better understanding of our Church’s social teaching principles
- Address Public Policy Issues – become involved in civil society and advocate for policies that reflect Christian truth and values
- Extend Prison Ministry to Families of Offenders and Victims – extend our reach to those who are victims of crime and their loved ones in our parishes
Catholic Charities Justice Services (CCJS) began with a conversation initiated in 1985 by Ms. Lisa Hobbes – an Australian Catholic laywoman, a journalist, and at the time, a member of the National Parole Board. Ms. Hobbes had a desire to ﬁnd ways to provide guidance and support to Catholic prisoners, as they returned to their home communities on completion of the incarceration portion of their sentences.
In her work as a Vancouver-based journalist, Ms. Hobbes and Archbishop James Carney had come to know one another, and so she was able to offer him an invitation to meet with her, and with a Catholic associate of hers at the National Parole Board, to see whether Archdiocesan support for a pilot project might be forthcoming.
Archbishop Carney swiftly indicated that he had long been trying to ﬁnd ways to actively involve the Archdiocese in providing pastoral care to prisoners, their families and, where possible, their victims. His enthusiasm was wholehearted and immediate from the ﬁrst moments of this discussion.
Over the next year, a proposal was developed and presented to Archbishop Carney and his Presbyterial Council and out of this was born CCJS. He invited two Catholic laymen, Gerry Ayotte and John Zanatta, to work for CCJS on a full-time basis,
In the early years, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) was committed to a model of Restorative Justice. Influenced by this model, CSC entered into contract with the Archdiocese to support the work of CCJS – much of which involved various programs, prison visitation, counselling of prisoners, and building relationships with them that would continue after their return to the community.
Following the death of Archbishop Carney, support and direction for the work of CCJS continued under the leadership of his successor, Archbishop Adam Exner. CSC also continued with its contractual commitments to CCJS throughout this time, and so the focus remained almost exclusively around counselling, workshops and programs, with minimal efforts in recruiting the voluntary involvement of parishioners in the ministry.
In the months and years after the installation of Archbishop Raymond Roussin as Archbishop of Vancouver, the Canadian correctional environment began to move more in the direction of priorities reﬂective of a retributive model of practical justice, and funding previously provided to restorative work, such as that of CCJS, was reduced drastically.
During the 1990s and into the early 2000s, there were a handful of Catholic volunteers that became prison ministry volunteers on their own, or were recruited by Prison Chaplains. The majority of the volunteers were at Matsqui Institution in Abbotsford, under the guidance of Chaplain Sister Aldona.
In 2002, Maureen Donegan committed herself full-time to the CCJS mission, and under her capable leadership, volunteer recruitment, training and supervision became a priority. Catholics throughout the Archdiocese appropriated the vision of CCJS, its approach to prison ministry, and the cohort of active Catholic volunteers grew from 28 (during the tenure of Archbishop Roussin) to as many as 170 in 2016 under the leadership of Archbishop Miller.
In 2003, Maureen was also offered the part-time position of Coordinator of Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA). In partnership with CCJS, CoSA has been a major success during recent years. The work of COSA is exclusively with released sexual offenders – one of the highest-risk & highest-needs populations known to correctional workers. The CoSA program has made a signiﬁcant contribution to this work, and has gained the respect of CSC and associated professionals throughout Canada. Repeatedly, former prisoners have stated that the work of CCJS and CoSA has prevented the creation of more victims – time and time again. Harm has been signiﬁcantly reduced, and many released offenders have been re-integrated into their communities safely and productively, to the beneﬁt of all.
In 2017, Maureen determined that with the growth of the Catholic Prison Ministry and CoSA, she needed to split the job into two parts, so that both could flourish. Bob Buckham, a long time volunteer was asked to be the Coordinator of CCJS, and Maureen became the Coordinator of Vancouver/Fraser Valley CoSA.
Under the direction of Bob, and Volunteer Coordinator Angela Veters, the ministry has grown to 250 volunteers, with 24 programs offered inside the 14 Provincial and Federal institutions. CCJS has also expanded into working with the Archdiocese’s Catholic Elementary and High Schools on cooperative projects with the prisons. The ministry continues to visit parishes to open the “hearts and minds” of students and parishioners with regards to Jesus’ command to “visit the prisoners”. There is also an active Support for Released Offender program that provides support from volunteers to released men and women.
With Maureen being able to focus 100% on CoSA, she has been able to expand CoSA to 35 circles. Bob and Angela help with CoSA as well.
The B.C. Catholic Articles
In Canada, individuals sentenced to a prison term of two years or more serve their time at federal facilities. Of the nine (9) federal prisons in the Pacific Region of the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), eight (8) are located within the Archdiocese of Vancouver. Learn more about the Prison Chaplains.
Catholic Social Teaching (CST)
CST is the foundation of our work in Prison Ministry. To learn more about CST, please feel free to download a presentation by Dr. Christine Jones, President of Catholic Redeemer College.
Read about Sister Antonia Brenner, the ‘Prison Angel’.