November 2, 2018

Vocations Supplement

Deacon seeks to apply judicial experience to corrections ministry

Wearing the robes of a judge, Deacon Marc Kellams stands on Oct. 15 in the courtroom of the Monroe County Circuit Court in Bloomington where he serves as judge. After his service of nearly 40 years as a judge in Monroe County comes to an end later this year, Deacon Kellams will begin ministry as the coordinator of corrections ministry for the archdiocese. He was ordained a permanent deacon for the archdiocese in 2008. (Photo by Katie Rutter)

Wearing the robes of a judge, Deacon Marc Kellams stands on Oct. 15 in the courtroom of the Monroe County Circuit Court in Bloomington where he serves as judge. After his service of nearly 40 years as a judge in Monroe County comes to an end later this year, Deacon Kellams will begin ministry as the coordinator of corrections ministry for the archdiocese. He was ordained a permanent deacon for the archdiocese in 2008. (Photo by Katie Rutter)

By Katie Rutter (Special to The Criterion)

BLOOMINGTON—Deacon Marc Kellams has never believed that his job was to simply punish those who had committed a crime. His mission during nearly four decades as a Monroe County judge, most recently at its Circuit Court handling criminal cases, was to help others.

“Our primary responsibility is to protect the public, but we also have a secondary responsibility to help the person that’s in before us to become a better person,” he said, speaking in his Bloomington office at the Monroe County Zietlow Justice Building on Oct. 15.

“If I can help somebody become a better person, then they’re better off, their family is better off and we as a community are better off,” he said.

This servant mindset has led Deacon Kellams to a new role with very much the same aim. On Dec. 31, Deacon Kellams will retire from his judicial profession and become the new coordinator of Corrections Ministries for the archdiocese. As such, he will help to organize and support Catholics who visit jails and prisons to care for the spiritual and emotional needs of incarcerated persons.

“He has a heart for the incarcerated, and he wants to try to help people find their way out of the system and back into the world,” said Deacon Steve Gretencord. A member of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Terre Haute, Deacon Gretencord has ministered in the Federal Correction Institution in his hometown for eight years.

Both Deacon Gretencord and Deacon Kellams were ordained in 2008 in the first class of permanent deacons for the archdiocese. Permanent deacons typically have other full-time professions and are ordained to help meet the needs of their communities. In addition to serving in a wide variety of ministries, deacons have the authority to preach at Masses, to administer the sacraments of baptism and matrimony and to conduct funeral services.

Deacon Kellams serves at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington. He was also deeply involved in ministry to the hospitalized and to families grieving the death of a loved one. When he learned that the archdiocese needed a new coordinator for corrections ministries, Deacon Kellams felt that the position would be a perfect combination of his profession and his ministry as a deacon.

“Few people know the hearts of a person who has committed a crime better than a criminal court judge,” he said.

“I deal with them on probation and when they make mistakes. … I congratulate them for successes, I let them know that I care about them as people and I want them to be successful,” he explained.

That care for the individual, he says, is how his faith played a role in his decisions from the bench. He utilized a variety of different requirements, such as counseling, home monitoring and drug rehabilitation, to supplement or replace incarceration in any situation possible.

When he sentenced a person to prison, he said that he always tried to treat them with dignity.

“You give them the respect of looking them in the eye when you’re talking about what you’re going to do with them and explaining your rationale in the best possible way you can; that’s how I can love my neighbor as myself,” he explained.

Begun in 2016, the archdiocesan corrections ministry is still in its early stages, with Deacon Kellams being only the second coordinator. Lynne Weisenbach was its first coordinator. Since the beginning, the ministry has been championed by lay people and permanent deacons who regularly bring the Eucharist to inmates and lead prayer services with them.

“When you’re praying with people that are in those desperate situations like that and you hear their prayers and their calls for help, you realize that you’re truly dealing with those people on the margins that Jesus reached out to,” explained Deacon John Cord, who serves at St. Ambrose Parish in Seymour and who ministers at the Jackson County Jail in Brownstown.

“These men are seeking, they’re hoping, they’re longing to find God in their lives, and they need to be reminded that you don’t have to be in a church. … Jesus is right there with them when we celebrate a Communion service,” said Deacon Gretencord.

More than 27,000 people are incarcerated in this state, according to September statistics from the Indiana Department of Correction. About half of those people are held in the 11 jails and prisons within the borders of the archdiocese.

Hoping to better address the needs of these incarcerated people, Deacon Kellams will be present at the second archdiocesan Corrections Ministry Conference, which will take place at the St. Paul Catholic Center, 1413

E. 17th St., in Bloomington, at 8:30 a.m. on Nov. 3. He also plans to coordinate similar efforts in the future to continue the outreach already taking root in this archdiocese.

Most of all, Deacon Kellams hopes to do “the same thing that every Christian hopes to do.

“That is, to bring the love of Christ to somebody else,” he said.

(Katie Rutter is a freelance writer and member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington.)


More about Deacon Marc Kellams

  • Age: 69
  • Ordained: June 28, 2008
  • Spouse: Christina Kellams
  • Wedding Anniversary: July 5, 1969
  • Home parish: St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington
  • Children: Amy Kellams (passed away in 2009 at age 38), Sarah Lippman (39), Katie Dollens (38)
  • Favorite devotion: The rosary
  • Favorite saint: St. Thomas More
  • Hobbies: Being a deacon and other volunteer activities

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