Friday, March 5, 2010

Stateville Prison to St. Leonard's-A Closed Gate to an Open Gate

Since 2001, I have visited Jermaine, a young friend of mine (former student) each month in prison. He is now 31 years old. For these nine years of visits, I have left my world to enter Jermaine's world. I have personally come to know one of the most unjust and inhumane and expensive systems in our country.

Three years ago I entered the gates of St. Leonard's. Immediately, I could tangibly feel the spirit of freedom, energy, support and love for all who entered the campus. St. Leonard's provides interim housing, education, vocational training, rehab programs and job readiness for the "guests" formerly incarcerated women and men. My primary volunteer ministry there is to work individually with staff. Eighty percent of St. Leonard's staff were formerly incarcerated.

Each month when I enter the prison, I feel my spirit diminished. Each time I enter the St. Leonard Campus, I feel my spirit energized. There is a sense of peace and energy and hope. What a haven and place of new hope for formerly incarcerated women and men, and hopefully for my friend, Jermaine.

If you would like to know more about St. Leonard's or would like to be part of the ministry there, please contact me. Mary Virgnia Phillips, O.P.

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