When the Laborers are Plenty, Too.

There is little more inspiring than ‘standing-room only.’

This week, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati invited anyone interested in learning about prison/jail ministry, reentry and mentoring opportunities to join us for an information session.  Those of us who get a little giddy about working in this particular mission field are always optimistic that God will send more laborers….but we’re also realists:  asking talented, busy people to drive across town on a bitter, snowy February evening for some information and light snacks is a reach—-especially when the invite includes the word “prison” on it.  Whether people have it on their hearts to walk with our incarcerated brothers and sisters and returning citizens, wind chill of 4 degrees is wind chill of 4 degrees.  For the 12 people who RSVP’ed that they were coming, we were grateful.  We set up the classroom, moved a few tables and cracked open a box of Busken tea cookies.

Then, 70 of you showed up.  And 30 more of you left messages saying you couldn’t make it but wanted to start a conversation.  The 12 original gangsters scooted their chairs in tighter and we plucked mismatched chairs from other classrooms until the place was stuffy enough we had to open windows to let in that 4-degree February air.

St V valentines

Students at St. Veronica Parish made Valentines for the incarcerated men and women in the diocese.

It was a really good problem to have.

Like most ministries and many organizations, we rely on the time and talent of men and women in the community to carry out our mission.  As we say on our website and in person:  walking with the incarcerated is not for everyone.  But for those laborers who stick a toe inside the unfortunate and vast harvest that is the Criminal Justice system, your curiosity and willingness to learn more is like a Bengals second-round playoff victory:  we don’t expect it, but we celebrate big when it happens.

Know this:  your time and talent is welcome in many forms.  St. Anthony parishioner Margaret Wilson recently contacted us to let us know that our ministry and those inside it will be part of her daily prayers.  Teacher Theresa Kearney informed us that St. Veronica students were studying the Corporal Works of Mercy and wanted to know how they could impact those who are incarcerated in our diocese.  (How that turned out:  St. Veronica coordinated the donation of 125 copies of Everybody Needs to Forgive Somebody  for our small faith study groups in the prison and then the St. Veronica students made Valentines at home that we distributed—with anonymity and great care—to the men and women at DCI, LeCI and WCI.)  Still others have said that they want to be part of the solution, but not necessarily on the front lines. Yes, yes and yes! In other words, have an idea that we haven’t listed on our site?  Bring it. In addition to prison/jail opportunities, there are myriad spots for mentoring, reentry and other organizations, such as the HELP Program and St. Vincent de Paul in Cincinnati.  We are all on this blessed journey together.

Jesus was clear that we have a responsibility to serve others; how we do that is between the individual and God’s perfect plan for each of us.  When he walked the earth and cajoled and convicted men and women to find their place among the harvest, Jesus was a patient sort.  “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field,” he said.  We have.  And now, we trust that God will deliver, on His timeline.

Kind of like that second-round playoff victory.