News

Dubuque Associate Offering Support to Others Through Jail and Prison Ministry

18 Mar, 2021
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by Jody Tomkins, Dubuque Presentation Associate

In October 2019, associate Kim Schmidt reached out to her Nano’s Hands associate group regarding her interest in Jail and Prison Ministry (JPM) through Catholic Charities in Dubuque. Kim arranged for her group to meet with Deacon Bill Hickson, coordinator of Jail and Prison Ministry with Catholic Charities. Deacon Bill suggested that the associates attend drug court since most of the recovering clients are required to attend.

Drug court is a special initiative that gives people facing sentences for nonviolent crimes stemming from their addictions an alternative to jail. Instead, they are offered a spot in a 12- to 18-month program. To graduate, participants must undergo intensive treatment while fulfilling a requirement to work and meet other conditions.

The associate group attended drug court together and were amazed by the respect, empathy and support that the judge showed to all of the clients. Some had setbacks with consequences, and others celebrated milestones with rewards. In addition, the group had the opportunity to share with other Circle of Support volunteers. Circles provide a healthy and supportive relationship between the individual reentering society and the community, opening an avenue for restoration and healing of all people impacted by crime.

After attending drug court, the group agreed that this ministry aligns with the mission of Nano Nagle and were fully eager to participate. In February 2020, Deacon Bill was beginning to organize two new Circles of Support. Associate group members, Sister Maura McCarthy and Kim Schmidt were assigned to one circle and Jenny Schultz and Jody Tomkins were assigned to another. Both participants were battling with addiction and experiencing major struggles throughout their lives.

The support sessions always begin with a prayer followed by active sharing from all members of the group. The participants are asked to set their own goals related to housing, transportation, finances, faith, health, mending relationships and education. The regular Circle of Support gatherings give the client or core member the opportunity to get feedback and guidance from volunteer members of the community who are willing to help in any way they can.

Both support groups experienced significant setbacks during the COVID-19 pandemic, including job loss and the need to replace in-person meetings with Zoom calls, which continue.

Kim and Sister Maura describe their participant as an extremely hard working young man who has never missed a day of work. He is employed at a fast-food restaurant and is now managing the work schedules and opening and closing duties. He notes that he communicates with his employees to help them become more responsible and attempts, when possible, to give them a second chance. He recently progressed from a supervised halfway house to living in his own apartment.

Kim shares, “Being a part of a circle reminds me daily to pray for those fighting addictions. Our support, love and prayer give hope, and without hope there is nothing.”

“What a thrill it is to be in a circle with caring people and a young man out of incarceration from addiction getting his life together, moving to his own apartment and finding furnishings for it with special thanks to the Sisters of the Presentation garage sale,” adds Sister Maura. “He is manifesting great responsibility in his work, in charge of personnel and opening or closing the business. I am so impressed by the work of Deacon Bill and all his initiatives in benefit of the personal growth of the recovering clients. The drug court also seems to have a definite affirmative action to help those in recovery.”

Jenny and Jody describe the woman that they are working with as hard working, energetic and determined. She has had some obstacles to overcome, including health issues and finding suitable housing, but through it all, she has remained extremely positive. She is now living in her own apartment and her health has improved. Deacon Bill recently noted that she is, without a doubt, one of the best success stories to witness.

“I was so hesitant to be a part of this ministry as I thought this was so far out of my comfort zone, but I can’t imagine not being a part of this,” reflects Jenny. “I look forward to every meeting, to be that support when needed and to celebrate their successes with them.”

“Being a part of a Circle of Support has been so rewarding. I would highly recommend participation in the Jail and Prison Ministry for those that are looking for ways to help others in their community. Everyone deserves a second chance, they just need others to support and encourage them when life gets hard,” says Jody.