Wednesday, December 7, 2011

“Do you know? Have you heard?”

We’re well into the season of Advent now – the liturgical time each year that encourages us to look ahead with hope, and as the reading from Isaiah says for today’s liturgy, because it is that hope which will renew our strength. Today I want to tell you about a group of people who have come to believe in that hope, and have experienced first-hand that strength – in part because others have believed in them!

I’m referring to people formerly addicted to alcohol or drugs, many of whom are also ex-cons.  They live in nearly 1500 places all over the world (and in 44 US states) called Oxford Houses.  Maybe you know people who live in one of those houses.

As I’ve become more deeply involved in prison ministry I have seen how difficult it is for people coming out of prison. They have looked forward to being free, yet too often they have limited education, and are not considered suitable applicants for employment.  Housing is difficult to find, so these people often go back to the neighborhoods and relationships they knew before, and this often leads to offenses that take them back to the system they just left.

Since 1975, Oxford Houses have given thousands (of the nearly 25,000,000 addicts in the U.S.) a chance to re-build their lives through the peer support and disciplines of maintaining both their sobriety and safety, as well as their common house.   I’m grateful to learn about hope from such a dedicated group of individuals.

Do you have a friend or a family member who would benefit from such an experience? 

Ruth Poochigian, O.P.
Madison WI

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