Serving Those Behind Bars: Preparing for Prison Ministry Leadership

After several years of planning with the Catholic Conference of Illinois and its Network of Prison and Jail Ministers, Lewis University will launch the first cohort of the Prison Ministry Leadership Curriculum at a workshop on August 9-10, 2013. 

This is exciting for me because of the vast need in Illinois prisons and jails for spiritual accompaniment and nourishment.  There are 49,000 prisoners in our state, and faith-filled people are called to visit the prisoner and walk with him or her toward healing, reconciliation and restoration.  I have found jail ministry extremely fulfilling myself, and we hope to empower more people to serve with confidence and care.

Eight men dedicated to serving those who are detained will gather for the next 15 months to gain Catholic theological background to better serve and lead detention ministry in their respective dioceses. 

Participants will represent 5 of the 6 dioceses in the state of Illinois and will subsequently take on leadership roles in prisons and/or jails so as to guide other Catholic volunteer ministers and serve as liaisons between the department of corrections’ facilities and the Catholic dioceses in which they are located.

The Network and Lewis representatives have worked for over three years to make sure this curriculum is holistic and beneficial.  The CCI Network of detention ministers came together numerous times to share experiences, stories, and expertise.  Eventually, we agreed upon a curriculum comprised of 12 credit hours of basic theological study as well as 4 one-credit, practical workshops which address realities found among people serving time in prisons and detention facilities around the state.    The curriculum is enhanced by a parallel formation program that will strengthen each participant’s ability to serve and lead in ways compatible with Catholic doctrine and ministry.

About Dr. Christie Billups

Dr. Christie Billups is an assistant professor of Theology, Director of Pastoral Ministry, and Director of Service Learning at Lewis University. She has co-founded and co-directs the new Peace Studies Minor. She has been a practical, pastoral theologian in both academia and ministry in schools, jails, parishes, and hospitals. Some topics may include ministry with LGBT youth, juvenile justice, confronting racism, restorative justice and prison ministry.

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