“I was in prison, and you visited me.” (Matt 25:37)
SAINT BASIL CURSILLO PRISON MINISTRY
In all our Cursillo ministry at Saint Basil Salvatorian Center, we strive to live out our MISSION STATEMENT. That Mission Statement is as follows:
Inspired by the life and vision of Archbishop Eftimios Saifi, Founder of the Basilian Salvatorian Order, we strive to live, radiate, and share everywhere the Transfiguration Light of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Our ministry offers people the experience of renewal, healing, unity, and transformation through God’s unconditional love and boundless mercy. In a spirit of love and ecumenism we preach the Gospel of hope, salvation, and service to all.
Archbishop Saifi wrote, “my desire is to preach the Catholic faith at every time and in every place.” Faithful to that spirit of Archbishop Saifi we accepted the request from a prison chaplain and ran our first Cursillo in prison in December 1988. That Cursillo took place in a women’s prison, MCI Framingham. Since that time we have run 7 Cursillo Weekends and 11 Transfiguration Weekends for women in prison. Our 12th Transfiguration Weekend is scheduled for October, 2013. In October of 1989, we ran our first “Prison Cursillo” for the men at OCCC in Bridgewater. We have run 45 Cursillo Weekends for men in prison at OCCC (22), MCI-Norfolk (21), MCI-Plymouth (1) and BSCC (1) with the 46st set for May, 2013 at Norfolk.
There is no place where we minister as Salvatorians more hopeless than behind the walls in prison. Like Father Bechara Abou-Mourad, our Salvatorian priest being considered for canonization, we bring the light, hope, and love of Jesus Christ to men and women in desperate need of His light and hope and love. Men and women in prison have shared that they felt like ‘throw-aways’ of society, after Cursillo most feel loved and forgiven. Often we hear someone from prison talk about ‘feeling human for the first time’ or looking in the mirror and ‘feeling proud for the first time’ in many years of the person he sees in the mirror.
Serving in five prisons for over twenty years we have witnessed many miracles and heard many testimonies from the men and women in prison about the difference God makes in their lives since Cursillo. We see men and women in Prison find new meaning and purpose in their life. Often they develop a sense of service toward others. Almost always Cursillo helps shatter the ugly evil of racism and prejudice as ‘insiders’ grow in tolerance and acceptance of others in prison regardless of race, religion, national origin, or crime committed. Cursillo helps ‘men and women behind the walls’ grow in their self-image and self-esteem while they build a sense of worth and commitment to living valuable lives.
High rates of recidivism (relapsing into crime – repeat offenders) plague the prison system. The recidivism rate in prison today is staggering, but the rate of recidivism for those who attend Cursillo in prison is minimal. Through the grace of Cursillo and the monthly follow up meetings, many are able to face difficult situations in life as they prepare to re-enter society as productive law-abiding citizens.