By Deacon Adrian Cepeda
Criminal Justice Ministry director
The Criminal Justice Ministry in the archdiocese, with all the 2022 post-COVID challenges, managed to flourish throughout the year. This is due to dedicated volunteers from Kolbe Ministries and area parishes. As state prisons and county jails re-opened, volunteers moved into action. It has been a blessing and an honor to work side-by-side with so many dedicated individuals who assisted in organizing and facilitating Kolbe retreats, RCIA classes, Bible studies, and group prayer sessions. Frequent confession times were offered and followed by the celebration of Mass thanks to deacons, priests, and bishops who also took time out of their busy schedules to travel and serve our incarcerated brothers and sisters.
In 2022, 30 men from three state facilities received sacraments and more will be receiving sacraments in 2023 thereby entering the blessed sacramental life of the Church. The fruits of the service to those incarcerated is witnessing the grace and love of our Blessed Lord penetrate prison walls to find and comfort those who were once burdened with feelings of despair and hopelessness. To see a new-found peace in the faces of those who have come to Christ in a time of great distress. To hear our incarcerated brothers and sisters say how much it means to them that volunteers take the time to just be there for them. Not judging them in any way but just loving and respecting their God-given dignity as children of God. This means so much to our incarcerated brothers and sisters as so much of their human dignity can be stripped away in the confines, power, and control of prison life. During a recent visit to the Dolph Briscoe Unit, an inmate told me that the volunteers “make him feel human again.”
This ministry is a true blessing to those incarcerated and to their families who endured not only a pandemic but the impacts of the criminal justice system within their lives. The Criminal Justice Ministry is a full-service ministry which also strives to be present outside of prison walls through an abundance of parish support groups throughout our communities.
Thank you to all the current volunteers for all you do for your fellow man in the name of Christ. You continue to be a tremendous help to me and a blessing to all who encounter you on the winding road of life.
There is much more work to be done and more volunteers are needed to continue to re-build and strengthen this Ministry. There are more facilities which will re-open soon and others still in need of more dedicated volunteers. There is also a great need for more parish support groups. If you feel God is calling you to this ministry, prayerfully consider donating some of your time and talents. May God continue to bless you and your families this 2023 New Year.
“As each has received, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” 1 Peter 4:10 If you feel God is calling you to this ministry, contact Deacon Adrian Cepeda, director of Criminal Justice Ministry, at (210) 734-0766 or e-mail Adrian.email@example.com. The CJM homepage can be found at https://archsa.org/pastoral-ministries/criminal-justice-ministry, and the volunteer landing page is located at https://archsa.org/pastoral-ministries/criminal-justice-ministry/volunteer/