Saturday, March 5, 2016

CDN Ministry

My ministry on Mondays consists of leading book discussion groups with the women at the Clayton County jail—it’s hugely fun and rewarding.  I started a new group recently to read and discuss Wild by Cheryl Strayed and twelve women showed up for the first session.  I could tell pretty quickly that the group had a good dynamic.  One woman in particular sat in the chair next to me and made quite an impression on me—she was boisterous, funny and unguarded, a bit older than the others.  In the introductions she told us that she was a grandmother of 3, a long-time widow and a crystal meth addict. When I shared my story (i.e. novice doing ministry) she told me that she had attended Catholic schools growing up was practically “raised by nuns”.  She clarified that they were “not like me” though. 

I gave my spiel about how the book discussions would be structured, the basic gist of the story and explained how we would be reading/discussing it from the perspective of a “spiritual journey”.   I asked what they thought a spiritual journey was and we talked about what that meant for a while.  As the books were getting passed around and ladies were signing them out, she leaned over to me and said, “Can I ask you a personal question?”  I said something like “sure, I may not answer it though!”  Then she clarified it was a personal question about her and she wanted to ask me after the session was over, in private.  I said of course and was super curious (and slightly nervous) as to what she wanted to ask.  Later, as the women were leaving she said “So I’m Catholic and I mentioned that I’m a widow.  My husband committed suicide like 15 years ago.  When it happened I was told by two different priests—old guys—that he would go to hell.  Do you think he’s in hell?”  I said, without hesitation and with confidence, “No, I don’t believe for a second that he’s in Hell.”  She then added “I mean he was really, really sick and shouldn’t that make a difference?”  I said something about believing that God is a god of mercy and forgiveness.  I said something about how the Church and the God that I associate myself with wouldn’t condemn him to Hell.  I could see the relief in her eyes, which were glassy with tears.  I got the sense that she had not let tears flow in a very long time.  I threw in a disclaimer that “I’m not a sister yet, but I would guarantee that sisters in my congregation would agree with me.”  She thanked me in a way that was somewhat apologetic for asking in the first place.  She came to one more session before someone posted bail for her.  She returned her book with one of the other ladies and it tucked a note in it that said,

“Thank you for talking with me. It helped lay to rest some unanswered questions    and feelings.  Good luck with your journey—you’re gonna be GREAT.“

I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to work with these women this year.  The ministry is way outside of my realm of experience and leading book discussion groups is something utterly new to me.  I find it challenging and deeply meaningful in a way I couldn’t have anticipated, I love it.


  1. Thank you, Quincy, for sharing. This is very heart warming and at the same time being Holy Preaching. :-) You are indeed great! See you soon, and we continue holding you in our prayers as your God's plan is unfolding for you day by day, just like the story you shared with us. Thank you. Bea

  2. Quincy, thank you for sharing this encounter with us. I htink your listening heat and ear helped to "free" her more than any amount of bail money ever will. Mighty fine preachin' sista'! Sr. Kelly Moline

  3. Sister Quincy, thank you for your sharing and your compassion with the women. Blessings,