The following article about correctional center employees and the formation of a group offering them mutual support is by the diocesan vicar for ministry to the incarcerated:
“I was in prison and you visited Me.” (Matthew 25:36)
Most of us have heard this Scripture passage. And it is no surprise, many in northern and mid-Missouri volunteer to visit those serving time in jails and prisons.
Prison Ministry is always looking for more volunteers to visit our brothers and sisters in Christ in the prisons and jails.
In this article, however, the focus is on our brothers and sisters in Christ who serve as employees of the correctional centers.
What is it like to work in a correctional center?
We can read about the corrections employees in the newspapers — the long hours, the expected overtime, the shortage of people going into this profession and how that is causing its own stress.
But, that’s just reading about it or watching it on television.
What does working in a correctional institution do to a person physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally?
Many will say it comes at a cost.
Many more will say that the work they do is not to be discussed outside the prison walls because it will affect family relationships and because, really, no one wants to hear about what they see, hear and experience at work.
Is that the way we should leave our brothers and sisters who are putting their lives on the line to protect us and to protect their fellow staff members, prison residents, volunteers and family members of the prison population?
When Jesus said, “I was in prison and you visited Me,” He also meant to visit those who work there.
Here is the challenge: It would be very difficult for men and women who work in a correctional center to step aside, put down their guard, take off their game face, (however one wants to say it) and spend a few moments receiving spiritual nourishment then go back into the work shift.
So while it is important for all who visit or volunteer in correctional centers to treat the staff with respect and kindness, we must provide ways for these important men and women to decompress, share their stories, fellowship with one another, be of support to each other, and be as fully humanly alive as possible.
That’s where Adrian Group comes in.
Adrian Group is open to anyone employed by the Department of Corrections who is willing at this time to travel to the Jefferson City area.
As we are able, we hope eventually to expand this to other parts of the state.
For seven months, Dominican Father Richard Litzau, who is a former correctional center officer, and Fr. Corel, vicar for prison ministry, have been meeting about twice a month with prison staff, including Chaplain Jeffrey Anderson, at the Algoa Correctional Center.
The goal is to set up a support group for correctional-center employees.
Who is Adrian, or why name a group after him?
Adrian was a correctional officer in the early Church who saw the persecution of Christians — that’s why they were in prison, because they were Christian — and he was amazed at their jubilation for the Lord Jesus Christ even after they were tortured for believing.
He asked about their beliefs and as he listened, he, too, became a believer in Jesus Christ.
For all Christian correctional officers, he can be a role model and an influence to continue to follow Jesus Christ; for Christians who are Catholics, he is the patron saint of Correctional Officers.
A time to gather
The planning team believes that there is enough anonymity in Adrian Group to spark curiosity and ask about it without being so blatant when inviting someone to consider being a part of it.
What will happen at Adrian Group? It is for those who are employed by the Department of Corrections, primarily at first but not exclusively at Algoa and the Jefferson City Correctional Center, with the plan to expand across the state.
Adrian Support Groups will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on the first Thursdays of the month beginning in September, in the lower level of the Taos Knights of Columbus Building, 7128 Route M.
The format of the evenings will be: opening ceremony (prayer) then a meal provided by a church group in the area, followed by a presentation given by a peer about a particular topic that experienced correctional staff believe would be beneficial for all to hear.
Importantly, whatever information is given, it will be couched in the lived experience of the presenter giving the presentation.
After the presentation, there will be table talk about the topic.
More topics for presentations will be sought from those coming to the monthly meetings.
The space where Adrian Group meets is welcoming and hospitable and by its decor shows that it is open to people of all faith backgrounds, those who are searching and even those with no faith.
Correctional center staff need our appreciation and our support.
We can provide a meal to show our appreciation for them. We can provide support by offering a space where they can feel comfortable getting together with their peers to talk with and listen to each other about work and how it affects all aspects of their lives.
Not only that, we owe it to them to allow them to help each other become the best versions of themselves as we pray for them and they pray for and with each other.
What is needed at this time is for us to pray for them to be open to this experience, trust that it can be of benefit, and attend the Adrian Group.
Let us pray for our men and women, our brothers and sisters in Christ, to be able to come share a meal and be a support group for one another.
And, if you are an employee of the Department of Corrections and live in the Jefferson City area, please see this as your invitation and know we would love for you to come be part of Adrian Group.
Adrian Group is part of Prison Ministry, an umbrella of Catholic Charities of Northern and Central Missouri. To RSVP for the Sept. 5 appreciation dinner and talk, call (573) 635-7719, ext. 7.
State that you are calling about the Adrian Group September dinner; give your name and how may are coming.
Daycare will not be provided for this session, but will be discussed so we can make sure it is available in the future.