Rosemount parish spearheading prison outreach

| Anthony Gockowski for The Catholic Spirit | April 22, 2015 | 1 Comment

Parishioners of St. Joseph in Rosemount saw prison ministry as an underdeveloped outreach, and are making strides to bolster it. Along with St. Joseph’s pastor, Father Paul Jarvis, Kevin and Fay Connors are organizing monthly prayer services for prisoners and their families, as well as regular prison ministry workshops for Catholics who want to join the outreach.

They hope their apostolate spreads beyond the south metro, however, to the entire Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The goal is to create a collection of parishes and faith communities in the Twin Cities to provide an ecumenical outreach to people who are incarcerated, the Connors explained.

The Connors led their first informational prison ministry committee meeting March 21, when 15 people made a yearlong commitment to lead the prison ministry outreach. The outreach is to begin with a four-day retreat during which participants will work closely with inmates and get to know their stories.

During the retreat, participants will “have the opportunity to see the physical and spiritual transformation of prisoners,” Father Jarvis said.

The retreat serves as the foundation for the monthly prayer services and workshops.

“You see how their reliance on Jesus increases as time passes,” added Father Jarvis, who has been helping launch the prison ministry outreach.

At the workshops, participants will be able to visit with inmates and offer spiritual counsel.

Participants are there to listen, said Father Jarvis. “We’re not trying to solve problems, and we’re not judging.”

The ministry includes its share of difficulties, Kevin Connors acknowledged.

“Some high security institutions do not allow any ministry because of the concern with security, or they simply do not have a large enough area in the facility to host the event,” he said. “Getting to prisons in more remote locations can also present some difficulties.”

Prisons also regulate the number of events they can host each year, Kevin said, which can make it difficult to minister consistently to inmates.

St. Joseph’s parishioners are not intimidated by the challenge.

“It is only when we actively live out Jesus’ teachings, especially those he outlined in Matthew 25, that we truly understand his teaching,” Fay said.

The couple will continue to host monthly meetings for committees promoting the ministry.

The Connors have participated in retreats at the Minnesota Correctional Facility for women in Shakopee and plan to lead one soon at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Lino Lakes with the new prison ministry participants.

The ministry is a moving experience for both prisoners and ministers, Kevin said.

“At the women’s prison, we escort the participants to their seats at the table. There are usually one or two women we escort who break down in tears as we walk to their chair,” he said. “They say it was the first time in their lives they were treated with respect and dignity by a man.”

Parishes around the archdiocese have already committed to teaming with the Connors to spread the ministry, Father Jarvis said, listing Risen Savior, Burnsville; St. Thomas Beckett, Eagan; Our Lady of Grace, Edina; Mary, Mother of the Church, Burnsville; St. Patrick, Inver Grove Heights; and members of Cursillo, a Catholic apostolic movement.

The Connors hope involvement will only continue to grow. People who are incarcerated need more attention from the Church, Kevin said.

“They do not have the ability to leave the prison,” he said, “so we bring our faith and Christ’s love and redemption to them.”

Tags:

Category: Local News

  • Paula Ruddy

    Thanks with all our hearts to the Connors and Father Paul Jarvis for this initiative. What an inspiration and encouragement to step up!