I am fortunate to have a background in social service ministry that includes working with a widely diverse group of people. My interest in gaining more experience with prison ministry led me to MARC. MARC provides an opportunity to take a personal journey with people that have been down some rough roads in life and want to move forward in positive ways. In my work with MARC, I am in touch with formerly incarcerated individuals that just need a little assistance overcoming obstacles to reconnect in their communities. My work also puts me in touch with community partners that can help provide ongoing support when needed. I’ve been incredibly inspired by the determination and strength I’ve witnessed as people embark on a new life journey. For some, the road of reentry is difficult – and they need people in their life that believes in them and their potential for change. Working with MARC is a personally humbling and transformative experience. I am often reminded that we all have moments in our lives when even the smallest of mistakes can create a huge and lasting impact – and that when we do make mistakes, we all need someone that is willing to unconditionally walk with us on the path of forgiveness, freedom and hope. It is my hope that we will be able to join with others to build wrap-around centers of support within every community in Mississippi.
Why am I involved with MARC? I have to go back some twenty five years ago, when I lived in Alabama. A friend, who was involved with prison ministry, invited me to help him with a Bible Study course for incarcerated men. I was very reluctant to say yes, as I was not comfortable going into a prison with criminals. I had a mindset of not wanting to associate with “murderers,” “thieves,” “rapists,” and “druggies.”
But, I eventually agreed to help my friend and it was quite an experience! As anticipated, I was very uncomfortable at first. But then, the inmates started sharing their life stories, and painting a picture of the reality of prison life. That was an eyeopener for me! They were genuinely craving conversation and contact with the outside world. I thank God, and my friend, for getting me involved in prison ministry. It has been a true blessing.
I have conducted classes in four prisons in Alabama, Draper, Staton, Elmore Correctional Facility, and Tutwiler (a women prison) for 20 plus years. I moved back to Mississippi to be close to family. I was reluctant to leave my prison ministry in Alabama, and hoped to be able to continue my Ministry in Ministry.
I was excited one Sunday morning when they announced a meeting for anyone interested in prison ministry at my church, St. Paul Catholic Church in Flowood. I met Marvin Edwards and Sister Madeline, and this was the beginning of MARC.
I am so excited to be back in prison ministry. MARC has so much to offer the incarcerated with the Getting Ahead While Getting Out Program, and the post release resources. I am proud to be part of this organization. God has truly blessed me with the desire to serve and minister to his creation, who are incarcerated. I just pray that more men and women would volunteer their time and talent in the prison vineyard.
Sister Madeline responds
MARC has been for me a providential experience in that a series of unplanned circumstances came together to invite me to respond to an urgent need and here I am working with a great group of dedicated people in support of impressive men and women; some preparing to leave prison and others already struggling with the challenges that present themselves during those first difficult months after release.
Being part of this team has been a privilege as well as an enhancement of my education even after so many years of service in the education and social service fields.
Although my choice to become part of the MARC team has been a happy and fulfilling one, it has not been without pain. It is painful to hear the stories of people whose lives have been interrupted, sometimes for an exaggerated number of years, for what they did, or had, while in the grip of an addiction or for mistakes made when not receiving adequate mental health care or for allowing themselves in their youth to be influenced by others. Not to mention the ones who have been falsely accused and inadequately defended.
On the other hand, what powerful example have I seen in those who recognize and accept their errors and who use whatever means available to better themselves and move on in spite of the constant obstacles they encounter.
Then again, MARC provides me with opportunities to work with families of incarcerated people, another type of victim. Parents distraught over the addictions that have dominated the lives of their sons and daughters, children being raised without a parent, relatives in constant anxiety over the dangers their loved ones face while incarcerated. These also are part of our service.
Finally, there is the gift of ministering with people motivated by gospel values of service and respect whose generous gift of time and talent never cease to be an inspiration for me.
–Sister Madeline Kavanagh