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Pope Francis constantly reminds us to embrace those living in the periphery of our society, especially those in prison.  He also advocates for the social reintegration of criminals and for everyone to recognize the humanity of the incarcerated. Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington (CCDA) Prison Ministry Programs has expanded to answer this call.

The Prison Ministry Program now includes the Welcome Home Re-Entry Program for returning citizens, which helps with immediate needs, temporary housing, food, and clothing, and a volunteer mentor who aids in successful community integration. The program also seeks to reduce recidivism, educate the community, develop strong systems of support and build relationships with other area organizations.

Currently, the program has five returning citizens. The Prison Ministry programs at the Fairfax and Loudoun Jails referred these individuals. All of them are residing in Oxford Houses, have mentors and employment!

To be eligible for this program, returning citizens must apply and be accepted into Oxford House, CCDA’s partner, which provides sober living for the men and women.  Applicants also fill out a CCDA application form and agree to submit to a background check. Mentors and staff conduct a needs assessment and work on eliminating barriers to success. The mentors work with the office of Catholic Charities and provide weekly updates.

A second training series was held in December for new mentors. The two part training includes an orientation to Catholic Charities, challenges returning citizens face, how to be a good listener, managing boundaries and working with people in recovery.

Ken Fails presents “When Prisoners Come Home” at St. John Catholic Parish in Reston.

To advance the mission of educating the community about the challenges returning citizens face, CCDA presented:  “When Prisoners Come Home,” a talk given by Kenneth Fails. Ken discussed his personal journey through the prison system and how, upon release, he had nowhere to go.  He shared about the culture shock he experienced as a returning citizen.  This presentation was given in November at St. John Catholic Parish in Reston.  Please contact Catholic Charities for more information about how to have this compelling presentation at your parish or community organization.

The CCDA Prison Ministry continues to operate within jails by offering bible studies, prayer and faith formation classes.  Additionally, the Transition Assistance Program works with individuals leaving the Loudoun Jail. This program helps individuals the day of release; however, services often end up extending much longer. The program assists with transportation, helping with immediate needs such as clothing and food.

Want to be involved with the Prison Ministry Program? CCDA is currently in need of counseling services for two of the returning citizens.  One of the biggest challenges is that the Welcome Home Re-Entry Program is in need of more volunteer mentors!  We are looking for people who will:

  • Look at a returning citizen’s problem objectively and can relate to individuals with a variety of socio-economic backgrounds without judgement.
  • Commit to mentor for up to 6 months
  • Be available the first 30 days of release (up to 4 hours per week) and then able to meet at least weekly with the mentee
  • Complete the online application, background check and training – for more information, contact Sally sodwyer@ccda.net

CCDA would like to say a special than you to the following sponsors:

  • Phoenix Bikes has provided our returning citizens with bikes.
  • Christians Are Networking has provided expert job search consulting.
  • The Christ House Thrift Shop has provided clothing.
  • Dreamcoat Quality Painting has employed our men.

Prison Ministry Media Coverage: