Seeking Solidarity

The Catholic Church teaches that solidarity is seeing every person, created in the likeness and image of God.  When we seek to see others as valuable and created in God's image we open up our hearts to more radical kinds of love.  Seeking solidarity increases the value of others we once had little-shared commonalty and changes the way we view our world.   We were all created to love and to be loved by God, even if we are unaware of our value it can never be taken away.  All of us desire happiness and purpose for our lives and those we care about.  God calls each of us in different ways.  It may be to serve in your family, lead in your community, build a company, share the gospel or generously invest into some strangers life.  We have been given a very special gift of free will.  It is this very gift from God that is the root cause of our biggest triumphs and tragedies in life.  It is a freedom that is difficult to fully understand. For  our biggest and most valuable commodity is time, not our money, not our families, but our time here on earth and how we choose to spend it counts for all of eternity.  Time is always passing us by, we can never go backward, only forward in life with a stronger commitment to share God's truth and demonstrating his love to others.  

God is love, truth and beauty.  Id we believe in his good character and will then we can trust that he hears our prayers and wants what is best for his beloved children. Our lives and everyone else's are extraordinary gifts.  With this extraordinary free gift in mind, it seems fitting that during this season of lent we press in and more fervently serve others.  To seek God's will and not our own.

I first learned about the epidemic of minor children affected by our nation's mass incarceration while serving at a woman's bible study at the Ohio Reformatory for woman.  At the time, the email came through my inbox I was pregnant with our fourth child and eager for a break.  This I reasoned would be a great way to give back and be filled up at the same time.  I discovered many things behind those prison walls that you can not read about or find in books and statistics.  To get to know people and hear their stories of faith, fear, joy and hope touches the human heart.  For we are all people no matter the great variance in our circumstances, languages or backgrounds.   These often overlooked children afflicted with the pain of having an incarcerated parent are dear to the Lord and his mother Mary.  Solidarity is about seeing these children and their families who are afflicted with the pain of incarceration as not so different that our own.  Unfortunately, this is a radical, inconvenient and difficult thing for some people to do.  In order to seek solidarity we have to be willing to look past race, social status, external differences or people's life choices and peer into the heart of other human beings.  Genuinely caring for them because they are very valuable to God, no matter what.  Jesus went out into the world to those who are weak and poor in spirit and we should too.  Hurting people are not always in church, many of people who need the most ministering are in the broken places of our communities.  There is widespread sin in our cultural today and many people are finding themselves caught in the shadows.  As Catholics, and Christians we should be the people who are willing to take a stand against social injustice, against systems that deny the weak and oppress the underprivileged.  We are called to do charitable divine works of mercy and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  These children facing the stigmas and adversities of having an incarcerated parent are in serious pain and turmoil.  They, like, all young people need the body of Christ now more than ever.  Many of us are unaware of the statistics of how many people are locked away, most of them parents of children 10 and younger.  

How many children have an incarcerated parent?


1 in 28 children or 2.7 million have an incarcerated parent

National resource center on children & families of the Incarcerated. Approximately half of children with an incarcerated parent are 10 years and under.

Through my research I learned much about incarceration and the people it effects.  Before last year, I really had no clue how many people were behind bars.  The statsics are staggering.  The truth is that when we incarcerate a parent, we are also punishing their children. Oftentimes, a mother in prison was the primary care provider for her child, and now after being incarcerated she obviously cannot be home for her family. Where do these children go? Some of them end up living with family, and some of them end up in Foster Care.   Although Foster Care is an important program for our society, the system is far from perfect. The amount of children suffering from mental illness and chronic health issues in foster care greatly exceed that of children in the general population.  It is a popular belief that children are better off without their offending parent, but this is often not the case.  Many corrections facilities are doing all they can to aid positive relationships between inmates and their children, and in a perfect world, this would be enough.  However, the stigma is real and the emotional toll high for those who have a parent behind bars. 

If you have never heard of this subject and how it will impact you, now is the time to read more.  When you see the truth, it is difficult to stand back and do nothing.  Real love requires action, to stand up and create a ministry of love and out reach towards a worthy cause is no small undertaking.  That is why we need an outpouring of participation, prayerful devotion to Mary, and perseverance aimed towards this cause.  Together, as artists, we can give the gift of a quality faith-based education.  

 

"Let's Create Something Beautiful!"

 

 


Additional resources about children of incarcerated parents: 

 

“Shared Sentence,” Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2016

“Collateral Costs,” Pew Charitable Trusts, 2010

“Parents Behind Bars,” Child Trends, 2015

 

 

 

Penned by: Christine L. Munhall