March 26, 2021

Corrections Corner / Deacon Steven Gretencord

Bringing the rain of faith to those who are incarcerated

Deacon Steven GretencordDuring the late spring of 2019, I found myself deep in the desert of New Mexico. The area was arid and appeared to be most inhospitable toward supporting life. Yet I had seen pictures of this same area after a somewhat rare thunderstorm had deposited its rain.

The landscape had become lush with a myriad of blooming plant life which had sprouted from the seeds that had been lying dormant for so long. All it took to cause them to germinate and thrive was the introduction of the one essential element that had been missing: the rain.

When I try to explain to people why I believe in and so strongly support ministering to the incarcerated, I continually run up against the bias of “You’re just wasting your time. There is nothing you can do that can make them change.” It is difficult for them to understand when I attempt to explain that I am not trying to change anyone or anything.

I am not so delusional as to think that I can alter the circumstances of the offenders’ lives. I am not in a position to bring an end to their poverty and their drug addictions or whatever other circumstances brought them to the jail or prison.

What I attempt to do is to help them discover the hope that they need in order to embrace and make use of the resources that are available in order to change their own lives. What I try to do is to help them understand that they are not alone in their personal struggles, that Jesus is right there with them. What it is that I do is to bring the rain.

The lives of those who have been incarcerated are often bereft of knowledge of the love that Jesus Christ has for each one of them. Their lives are often spiritually barren of an understanding of the good news of redemption and salvation. They have heard of Jesus and generally have some knowledge of what it is that Jesus offers so freely. But there is a big difference between a little knowledge and a true understanding.

The seeds to understanding the life-altering impact from the love of Jesus Christ lie dormant in the spiritually arid and barren environment that surrounds them.

I have no misgivings about the role that I play. What I and the many others who also joyfully embrace ministry to the incarcerated attempt to achieve is to nurture a desire within the offenders to develop a personal relationship with Our Lord, the Water of Life.

We hope to help them realize and better understand that they are not alone, and their lives are not pointless and empty.

The seeds of the desire to trust, to better understand and to love God more fully all too often lie fallow in the lives of those who have run afoul of the law.

I cannot change the circumstances of their lives, but I can bring the rain.

(Deacon Steven Gretencord ministers at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Terre Haute and is a member of the archdiocese’s Corrections Ministry Advisory Committee.)

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