Prison Ministry in the Diocese of Belleville has the mission of bringing Catholic service and perspective to all those affected by incarceration in the twenty-eight counties of southern Illinois. This includes not only those confined in the federal, state and local correctional institutions of southern Illinois; but it also reaches out to their families, their victims, and the entire community. This is best patterned on the principles of Restorative Justice as a way to do justice that actively includes the people impacted by crime – victims, offenders, their families, and communities. Its goal is to respect and restore each as individuals, repair broken relationships, and contribute to the common good. This ministry in the diocese is carried out by priests, deacons, and lay ministers – almost all who are volunteers. The ministry takes on many forms which includes both the healing ministry of Pastoral Care and the social justice ministry of Advocacy.
Church law and teachings all stress that prisoners, who are separated from their families and communities and who are deprived of many civil rights, remain full members of the ecclesial community with the right to receive the sacraments, teachings, and ministrations, that are provided to Catholics in other settings.
The commentary on the Catholic Church Canon 516 makes the statements about these unique prisoner communities:
“Ordinarily, pastoral care for these unique communities will be rendered by the territorial parish within whose boundaries the institution is located. It is important that the Christian faithful who belong to these kinds of communities be made increasingly aware of the fact that they are members of the diocese, and of the universal Church.”
We are all called to Prison Ministry in terms of how we want to participate in both Pastoral Care and Advocacy ministries that are channeled to those in prisons or out of prison and returning to the community.
"A just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation."~Pope Francis to the Joint Session of the United States Congress on September 24, 2015