Justice and Mercy are One
ACCCA Conference at Embassy Suites at Airport in Nashville TN, August 5-8, 2009
The American Catholic Correctional Chaplains Association is the official Catholic organization which supports and certifies correctional chaplains and is committed to promoting and securing Restorative Justice for victims, offenders, and the community. Annually, the ACCCA holds its national conference. I received the invitation to join the ACCCA Conference in Nashville from Mrs. Christine M. Shimrock, Chaplain of the Lebanon Correctional Institution, near Cincinnati. I had met her and Fr. Mark Schmieder, former President of ACCCA, in Poland in September 2008 when we were all invited by Mgr. Pawel Woytas to join the training for prison chaplains in Popowo.
I was very happy to go to Cincinnati and then to Nashville for the Convention. The theme was very important: Justice and Mercy are one. In fact, there is no real Justice without Mercy.
With Fr. Mark, I drove across the State of Kentucky and arrived in Nashville, which is in the State of Tennessee. Nashville is located nearly five hours south of Cincinnati.
The Congress took place in a wonderful five-star hotel: Embassy Suites.
The first speaker was Father David Link: “Dean/Reverend Link graduated from Notre Dame Law School in 1961, became a partner at the prominent Chicago law firm, Winston & Strawn, subsequently leaving to first teach and later also serve as Dean of the Notre Dame Law School for over 24 years. His marriage to his beloved wife, Barbara, produced four children and thirteen grandchildren. After losing his wife to cancer after 45 years of marriage, he pursed yet another vocation, this time as a Catholic priest, becoming ordained in 2008. At the Indiana State Prison, he is a chaplain and Deputy Director of Religious and Community Activity for the Indiana State Department of Corrections, a natural extension of his prior work in the area of reconciliation and social justice through the Dismas Ministry and the Center for Healing and the Law.” Fr. Link talked to us about how the inmates can experience God’s mercy through the chaplain and how that experience can be a turning point in their lives—even to the point to stopping war between gangs in prison.
The second speaker was Dr. Robert Wubbolding: “Dr. Robert Wubbolding has been a practitioner of Reality Therapy for nearly 30 years. He studied with Dr. William Glasser, the founder of Reality Therapy, and is now the director of his own Center for Reality Therapy in Cincinnati, Ohio. He conducts workshops for teachers and counselors across the United States and internationally. His primary goal for participants is that they leave with immediately applicable skills and techniques that will allow them to help students accept responsibility for their actions and empower them to change their negative behaviors into positive actions.”
Dr. Wubbolding talked to us about the effectiveness of reality therapy in dealing with person that have suffered traumas in their lives.
The Convention ended up with the presence of Monsignor Barry Knestout, auxiliary Bishop of Washington. Mgr. Barry Knestout is in charge of the chancery work, now at the helm of the Washington chancery's Secretariat for Pastoral Ministry and Social Concerns. In this role Mgr. Knestout is the Episcopal Moderator of the ACCCA. He celebrated the holy Mass the last day and during his homily he said, inter alia, that when he was a seminarian he used to go into the prison sometimes to talk with prisoners and pray with them. His impression, the very first time he entered in the prison, was that in a place like that, hope doesn’t exist. Then he quoted the encyclical of Benedict the XVI “Spe salvi” when the holy Father stated that without a sure hope in the future nobody can live the present especially when the hard time comes. Mgr. Knestout then confirmed the ministry of the Chaplains and said to them: You are the ones sent by the Church to bring hope to the brothers and the sisters that live behind bars.
During the Conference, the election of the new ACCCA officers took place: Newly elected (Aug 09) ACCCA officers: Episcopal Moderator: Bishop Barry Knestout, Paul Rogers (president), Christine Shimrock (secretary), Teodoro Rael (treasurer), Fr. Michael Koncik (vice president).
The website for the ACCCA is www.catholiccorrectionalchaplains.org
Fr. Bruno Oliviero – Chaplain of Poggioreale, Naples – Italy