In the midst of this Advent season, many of the people I encounter have very little to look forward to, though they are definitely in a waiting mode. Sometimes I’ve written about those who are incarcerated. This month I’m thinking about adults who have a loved one in prison or jail. They are serving time as well, along with the many children they are caring for while mom or dad is incarcerated.
Those of us involved in prison ministry have been trying to reach out to them lately. And what we’ve learned is that there is such a stigma attached to having a family member incarcerated that adults don’t want to admit it to others. That includes in their place of work (where they spend so much time) and even their church communities – where one could expect the disciples of Jesus to surround them with love and concern and prayer. That last part is my own thought, though the rest of it is what I’ve learned from these adults.
Statistics show that 1 in 100 American adults are incarcerated, and that means that 1.5 million children have a parent who they will not be with on Christmas Day this year. (This is even more likely to affect African-American and Hispanic families.)
We might look at our own lives and ask what we are ashamed of admitting to others. What are the things that we feel stigmatized by? And, more importantly, why?
Ruth Poochigian, O.P.