“In terms of soul work, we dare not get rid of the pain before we have learned what it has to teach us.”
Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer
Concilio Prison Ministry (formerly the Christian Council for Reconciliation) is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing support for prisoners during their incarceration and after their release. It was started by Dr. Charles Taylor, a former faculty member at Acadia Divinity College and pioneer in work with prisoners. Concilio recognizes that perpetrators of criminal behavior are people who come from the most vulnerable people in our society. Many are Indigenous or African Canadian, and almost all are victims of poverty, physical and sexual abuse, or are the children of people who have struggled with addiction and mental illness.
“When I was in prison you visited me.” Matthew 25: 26
As a result, they did not receive the kind of care, access to support and education early in their lives, do develop the skills necessary to participate fully in society. Over many years, their problems and challenges compound until they find themselves on the margins of society, lacking many of the skills most of us take for granted. They often struggle with mental illness and addiction themselves. Once incarcerated they are further marginalized.
Concilio is made up of volunteers from all walks of life. They who come from a wide cross-section of organizations, churches, religious orders, social groups, students, chaplains, mental health professionals and ordinary citizens. Many were influenced by Charles Taylor through his deep compassion and presence. While volunteers in no way condone the behavior that led these individuals to being incarcerated, volunteers recognize the offender’s desire for healing, forgiveness, and the opportunity to lead healthy, productive lives, and to belong to the broader community.