By Dianne Anderson, Restorative (Prison) Ministry
[This article is part of a “Fuel-Up Friday” series in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon]
My name is Dianne Anderson and I have been working as the Coordinator of Restorative Ministry in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon since January 6, 2006.
This position did not exist before then, so it was my role in the beginning to build this ministry. I went to the prison and observed the everyday operations of the institution and listened to the stories of the inmates. The ministry began when I started to talk with the inmates to find out what they needed in terms of spiritual care.
“…I was in prison and you came to visit me.” – Matthew 25:36
I knew from the beginning that I could not “preach” at the men, and that they needed to discover their own spirituality. I offered sharing circles once a week, which became a safe place for them to release their anger, anxieties and tears. During prayer time, and we prayed the Rosary together. I also offered to them the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. We celebrated Mass at the Correctional Centre on Saturdays and it was an opportunity for the incarcerated men to come back to their faith or to join the faith.
Through many one-to-one conversations with the inmates, I recognized that so many of them had a deep need for healing in their lives. With the help of volunteers, I am able to offer a program called Return to the Spirit, as well as a Grief Workshop.
Other aspects of prison ministry involve walking with the men and their families through court appearances and offering support during this process. I will also bring a smudge upon request from families. I make sure that the men who are in prison are able to take part in the Easter Triduum and Christmas Mass. The COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have placed a hold on many such in-person activities.
One of the challenges we have faced in the Correctional Centre over the years is a shortage of space to conduct programs and faith services. All spaces must be booked in advance and we want to make sure that we always take advantage of the times we have booked. Sometimes when a volunteer is unable to make it, I have to fill in order to ensure we are making use of the space and time.
I work closely with the Aboriginal coordinator and the Elders at the Correctional Centre, always incorporating the Catholic faith and Indigenous spirituality.
From the time I started going into the Correctional Centre, my hope was that if I could help one person see a different way, I would be pleased.
Years later, I can say that I have seen many young lads walk a different path. We call that the Red Road. I always tell them, “We all walk this path, we all fall – it’s all about how long we fall for.” I have seen many men leave their anger and resentment behind.
So many times, all they needed was to have courage and for someone to care enough about them and support them in their journey towards change. I believe that this ministry has made a difference in the lives of many. I get to see that difference when I meet the men on the street, when they are no longer incarcerated.
Easter outreach at the prison. – The diocesan Restorative Ministry Office is again seeking monetary donations in order to purchase chocolate bunnies for those in prison, as part of Easter outreach at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre. This project lets the men know they are not forgotten at this most holy season marking the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Monetary donations can be dropped off or mailed to Restorative Ministry, Catholic Pastoral Centre, 123 Nelson Road, Saskatoon, SK. S7S 1H1. (A donation of money rather than chocolate ensures that identical treats can be purchased). You can also give online by going to dscf.ca/designated-ministry-support/ and choosing “Restorative Ministry Fund (Prison)” in the designation drop-down box, and then typing “Easter Chocolates” into the optional Comments Box.