May 28, 2021

Corrections Corner / Nancy Audretch

Ordinary people can help the incarcerated find hope

Nancy AudretchHave you ever known anyone addicted to drugs? Following is a true story.

She was a hard-working and well-paid supervisor. I don’t know how she got addicted. What I do know is that she found herself in the county jail. She was in trouble. What she did not know is something you and I take for granted. She did not know that she was totally and completely loved. She did not know the wonder and the goodness of God.

Jail ministers visited her. We listened with kindness and respect. We prayed together, one on one and in large groups. Classes were offered for her to learn more about our loving God.

Then came a Residents Encounter Christ retreat which is a full Friday, Saturday and Sunday of being embraced by the love of God through his people.

The jail staff works overtime as the women from area churches present the program, which includes special meals and live music. The weekend is covered in prayer through every hour. It is a huge effort. But this is where huge changes occur.

Think about your own life. Think about the hard times. When you look back, do you see God’s hands and his people helping you through?

He is generous and good and loving to every one of us. Yet, this former supervisor did not know him. Now, she does. She has now successfully completed a rehabilitation program. She has returned to full-time employment. She witnesses to others in need.

This woman is functioning in society again without drugs. What made the difference? Ordinary people like you and me who take the time to listen with kindness and respect.

We have exchanged letters. Here is what she writes:

“Have I told you that God is good? He is! Boy, does he love us, all of us. A kind of love I’ve never experienced before. It’s heartbreaking that it has taken me 35 years to figure that out, but it’s heartwarming to have finally figured that out.”

“I went on an Emmaus Walk, and it was amazing!”

“I really appreciate you not forgetting about me and always believing in me regardless of my past ...”

“When I think of you, the verse 1 Cor 1:4 comes to mind. If you get time, look it up. [‘I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus.’] I love you and hopefully I’ll hear from you soon.”

“It is such a great gift of life to give God’s love and then to receive that love right back.”

Here is something for you to pray about. This woman needed help. She needed to get back into society without the use of drugs. There are so many others who need our help to get back to work.

Perhaps Corrections Ministry is for you? Perhaps your county jail needs you? Perhaps you are called to form a peace and justice committee in your parish? Please pray about this. You can help.

St. Teresa of Calcutta said: “One person at a time.” Pope Francis tells us: “All people need hope. All people need purpose.”

(Nancy Audretch is a member of the archdiocesan Corrections Advisory Committee.) †

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