We do not need (or even want!) to be reminded of the unusual year we have faced in 2020: A pandemic, economic crisis, and societal turmoil from racial injustices. Yet amidst it all, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul has offered a steady hand to our most vulnerable neighbors, providing food, rent assistance, utility payments, the list goes on and on. Thankfully, in the worst of time, the Society shines. With nearly 100,000 Vincentians in the United States alone, we are ready and willing to step in.
Among those we are serving, our sisters and brothers returning home from incarceration are facing many barriers and obstacles, often without family or resources to fall back on. Up to one third of our Home Visit contacts have a formerly incarcerated individual in their household. Sadly, years of systemic racism have profoundly impacted the struggles, evidenced in the disproportionate numbers of Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples bearing the brunt of inequities in the criminal justice system. Addressing this myriad of concerns through the Society calls us as Vincentians to form a “network of Reentry,” to borrow a phrase from Frédéric Ozanam: “I would like to embrace the whole world in a network of charity.”
St. Vincent de Paul has already responded with the typical creativity that we are known for. Immersion and Back2Work were designed to work in tandem to address the special needs of those returning from incarceration, “returning citizens.” Utilizing the strength of our many Conferences, our community partnerships, ability to access resources, we walk with each neighbor on their journey home. Right now, we have these programs in four different Councils across the country.
Now, in a hopefully “post-COVID-19” world, we are challenged to be even better organized and consistent in our approach. A “network of Reentry” has already been conceived in the National Reentry Task Force (NRTF). We have an opportunity to grow our Task Force to form a new vision, to provide invigorated and integrated services to returning citizens everywhere. By providing mentoring, job training, education, advocacy, restorative justice and more, we can help bring healing to our sisters and brothers and communities.
Please take a moment to prayerfully discern: Are you being called to this Reentry ministry? Consider how you can help us in this shared mission. Who in your Council or Region is already serving the formerly incarcerated? Who has a passion for restorative justice? Can you help us bring a new vision to the National Reentry Task Force?
As the Society of St. Vincent de Paul we are uniquely qualified, indeed gifted, to help meet the many challenges our returning citizens are facing. Together, we can begin to participate in the building up of the Kingdom of God within our truly Vincentian charism, embracing a “network of Reentry.”
In Christ’s faith,