Monday Nights are designed to create a safe space where men re-entering the community from prison or jail feel welcomed and loved. A support group is followed by a meal and fellowship. Parishioners reflect the Gospel message, aiming to reveal God’s presence, without promoting any particular religion or religious practice as they serve people of any faith or no faith. Instead of preaching or offering advice, the group listens, accepts, nurtures, encourages, and shares their experiences as they affirm the inherent goodness and dignity of each person who comes on Monday night.
Saint Cecilia’s Prison and After Committee formed as a way to educate our parishioners about prisons and jails, and issues facing people returning to the community from those environments. After listening to several guest speakers, watching educational videos, considering what other parishes are doing, and looking the interests and strengths of the group, the committee decided to start a program that is simply called Monday Nights.
Every Monday night a group of parishioners gathers and welcomes anywhere from fifteen to thirty men, many of whom reside in local halfway houses. From 6:00 to 7:00 there are two or three support groups that allow the men a chance to talk about what is going on in their lives. Parishioners facilitate the groups and also participate in them.
At 7:00 everyone gathers in a large circle for announcements and grace. Committee members provide dinner and sometimes other parishioners volunteer to cook. Everyone leaves at 8:00 and the parishioners stay to clean up and have a brief meeting. The committee also meets for an hour on the last Sunday of each month.
The men who participate continually tell the group that this simple weekly gathering makes a significant difference in their lives, and the parishioners who volunteer also say that that Monday Nights becomes an important part of their week.
New Jack, Guarding Sing Sing by Ted Conover (helps the reader understand the experience of corrections officers)
The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander (examines contemporary political issues)
I’ll Fly Away and Couldn’t Keep it to Myself (both books contain essays written by women living in York Correctional Institution in Connecticut and both are edited by acclaimed author Wally Lamb)
Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman (provides the reader with a glimpse of life in a minimum security prison and the effects, good and bad, on one woman doing “easy” time)
Dead Man Walking and The Death of Innocents by Helen Prejean, CSJ (invites reconsideration of the death penalty)
Tattoos on the Heart by Greg Boyle, SJ (gives perspective on the lives of young, gang affiliated offenders)
Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton (story of a wrongful conviction based on an eyewitness account)
Solitary Confinement (a National Geographic documentary that looks at the consequences of solitary confinement)
Woodsman (a mainstream film starring Kevin Bacon as a convicted child molester who must adjust to life after prison)
The Released (a Frontline special that looks at the incarceration of those with severe mental illness)