PARCHMAN – There are many efforts and initiatives designed at reforming the criminal justice system. It is an arduous task needing committed people to take on the task of seeing beyond the surface and reaching an understanding of true rehabilitation of the whole person rather than short term solutions.
For the weekend of March 27-30, a Kairos “walk team” spent four days ministering with inmates at the State Penitentiary. Kairos is an ecumenical effort. Each team is made up of people from different Christian denominations.
Kairos “walks” are four days and three nights of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a spiritual retreat that developed out of the Cursillo Movement and is designed specifically to strengthen the faith of individuals who are incarcerated and transform them into faith-filled persons who will have a positive impact in prison and once released in the broader commnunity.
According to Kairos materials, “As the Kairos community inside a prison grows and begins to gain influence, the incidences of violence decrease. Incarcerated participants who are released re-enter the outside world with a God centered, perspective and focus on becoming productive citizens.
“Female family members find support, strength and encouragement. Youthful offenders acquire new God-centered values and change their direction in life. Families are reunited with a hope for the future.”
For this Kairos “walk,” Olive Branch Queen of Peace parishioner, Bryan Shaver, served on the team. It was his fifth “walk.” Shaver visited Mississippi Catholic shortly after the weekend at Parchman and shared his thoughts about the transformations among the inmates and among the team members.
“I got involved in Kairos after hearing a homily by Father Terry Langley sharing that he had wanted to serve in prison ministry when he retired,” Shaver said. “I had no clue that the next day, I would begin that journey myself when a friend talked to me about Kairos.
“As part of the Prayer Team, I worked with the inmates who felt the need to share issues they had. We also would pray over them as they came in contact with Jesus Christ.
“In my ‘discovery’ talk I shared with them the need to study and pray on their new journey with Jesus Christ, he added.” During the “walk,” Shaver spent two 12 hour days praying with the inmates and four hours on Sunday, the closing day.
“The best story I can relate was when one of our ‘prayer warrior’ inmates shared with us some truly tough things he had experienced which caused him to end up in prison. He was so sorry for the lives he had hurt. The tears we all shed fell on my feet. I felt as though his tears from his sins washed my feet of my sins,” Shaver said in describing the experience.
In concluding his account of the most recent Kairos, Shaver shared a personal note: “I had no intention of going to prison but since my friend urged me, I just thought I would attend the first meeting and drop off. I am still here three years later and am forever changed.”