April 23, 2021

Corrections Corner / Brett Buskirk

Former inmate hopes to be a beacon of light to others

Brett Buskirk(Editor’s note: Brett Buskirk was recently released from the Indiana Department of Correction. This column was written prior to his release.)

I have been incarcerated now for 24 years. I was locked up when I was 18, and I haven’t seen freedom since. I was angry, misguided, full of hate, and lost. I didn’t believe in concepts like love, hope or redemption. Those things were reserved for other people—better people. All I knew was darkness.

The first few years I spent in prison did little to improve my stance. It was a violent, chaotic place that seemed determined to strip away what was left of my humanity. For a while, I gave up and surrendered to the madness.

Like so many before me, I assumed God had abandoned me for what I had become. Soon, I gave up on him altogether. For several years, I remained godless. Yet, I couldn’t escape this nagging feeling that “something” was there. So, I began to search.

Through the next several years, I studied and practiced many different belief systems. I gained a lot of valuable insight, but none of them seemed to be a perfect fit. I even considered science as a religion for a time, studying theoretical physics in an attempt to understand the nature of reality. Ironically, this pursuit only deepened the belief that everything was too perfectly arranged to be mere coincidence.

Then, after 17 years of searching, something extraordinary happened. I was accepted to attend a Kairos weekend, even though I wasn’t Christian at the time. Of course, I was only interested in going because they served “real” food during the event. What I didn’t know was how genuine these people were or how much their love would affect me.

So, I decided to give God another try. I picked up a Bible for the first time in years and began reading. I sought out Christians and asked them questions. My initial steps were awkward and clumsy, and once again nothing seemed to fit perfectly. I asked God to help me understand him. Then I was transferred to another prison.

Soon after my transfer, I got a job working in the chapel. I met a lot of great volunteers. One of them, Teresa, invited me to attend a Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults class. I was interested in Catholicism, so I agreed. It was an amazing experience. For once, everything seemed to fit perfectly. I knew early on that I was in the right place, and eventually I joined the Church.

My interest kept growing, however, so I became an oblate of St. Benedict affiliated with St. Meinrad Archabbey and have taken great comfort in the Rule of St. Benedict. Both the Rule and the Catechism of the Catholic Church have helped me in some pretty dark times.

As I near the end of my sentence, I look forward to actually attending church on the outside. God has worked strongly in my life as of late, and I hope to be a beacon of light to others lost in the darkness of despair. I wish to take the love he has given me and pay it forward. It’s the least I can do. †

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