Prison, the Place of Encounter

Reflection on Charitable Work in Yankton, SD. " I have learned how alike we are."

Communion and Liberation has changed my relationship with God in fruitful and beautiful ways. What started as an invitation has grown in living in a manner I never knew, never considered and was more than I could ask or imagine. One of the more significant experiences for me has resulted from a work of charity.

Starting in 2017, our charitable work, was to attend Mass with the inmates at the state penitentiary. The group attending the first time did not get to participate with the men due to a power outage. We did however have Mass with our group, knowing that the men could listen into the Mass. That experience alone was profound. For me, I heard the Mass in a new way and began to understand the immensity of God’s love for his people. During the time before Mass, two of the regular attendees shared with our group their experience of Residence Encounter Christ (REC). REC is a retreat within the prison system for insiders to encounter Christ and build their faith. My heart, mind and soul were filled with a desire to encounter Christ with the men and women in the prison system. Through this program and through attending Mass at the prison, God has revealed to me a new understanding and knowledge of who God is and what love is. I have learned and encountered the incredible mercy of our God.

Encountering the insiders, I have learned how alike we are. One of the differences I did encounter was that God forgives our sins and wipes them away but society does not. I have encountered Christ in the suffering of the prison. I have encountered Christ in the kindness of the prisoners to one another in a place where kindness is sometimes hard to find for both prisoners and prison staff. I have encountered the transformation of God’s love in men and women who do not feel love or lovable or even valuable. I have encountered a deeper understanding of my own poverty, because for all the gifts I have been blessed with, my struggles in life, in relationships with others, and my relationship to God is not really different than theirs.

Prison is the place I always encounter the presence of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit with others, in others and through others. This has transformed me to find God in the joys of life, the daily routine of life, in the struggles and suffering of life. Every encounter with the prison system fills me in a manner that I cannot fully explain other than a true gift from God that nourishes my soul and yet keeps me longing for and thirsting for more. Blessed be God.

Connie Biergen, South Dakota, USA