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Social Ministries Encounter Christ in Hawaii

April 22, 2024

From the Office for Social Ministry

Every one of us has encountered the Lord. Each one of us could say so much about this: seeing how the Lord has touched us, sharing the unique moments in which we perceived the Lord alive and close, who kindled joy in our hearts or dried our tears, who transmitted confidence and consolation, strength and enthusiasm, or forgiveness, tenderness.” - Pope Francis Angelus-Regina Caeli, April 15, 2024

In his Angelus reflection on the Sundays of this Easter Season, Pope Francis has emphasized the need for us to share our stories of encounters with Christ. He encouraged us to talk with our families, friends and communities about the times when we felt the Lord's presence in experiencing joy, finding strength, receiving forgiveness, feeling consolation “It does good to talk about the good inspirations that have guided us in life, the good thoughts and feelings that help us so much to go forward, and also about our efforts and labors to understand and to progress in the life of faith. The Pope’s Easter season hopeful message is “If we do this, Jesus, just as He did with the disciples of Emmaus on the evening of Passover, will surprise us and make our encounters and our environments even more beautiful.”

In the week before Easter, on Holy Thursday, Pope Francis focused the world on encountering Christ within Rome’s Rebbibia prison, where the pope washed the feet of twelve women prisoners of different nationalities during the Mass of the Lord’s supper. There our Holy Father reminded the world. “We all have our small or big failures – everyone has their own story where we encounter God who always awaits us, with arms open, and never tires of forgiving, we are we are the ones who get tired of asking for forgiveness.” The pope urged all to ask for the grace not to tire of imploring God’s forgiveness, which in turn will also help us humble ourselves and grow in service of others.

Here in Hawaii, there are also many such hopeful stories of encounters with Christ in social ministries. The Pua Foundation engages the community in an inspiring healing ministry of encountering Christ in accompanying women in and exiting prison on their healing journey from trauma to transformation. This encounter impacts all participants in a collective experience of forgiveness and new beginnings. This ministry involves diocesan parish volunteers in collaboration with staff at the Women’s Community Correctional Center (WCCC), and the Federal Detention Center (FDC) to help women find safe, clean, affordable transitional housing, along with peer support in the process of their re-integrating into the broader society. This ministry has resulted in multiple success of women reuniting with their families, securing employment with living wages, graduating from community colleges, and receiving scholarships for further education and training. The ministry has also succeeded in certifying dozens of formerly incarcerated women and men as “peer-specialists” able to earn and sustain their livelihoods through community service.  Volunteers in this ministry live out their faith and deepen their encounter with Christ through accompanying “justice-involved” women and their families: assembling and delivering welcome home baskets; assisting teaching life courses in WCCC and FDN; helping coordinate peer support groups; organizing special Keiki days in WCCC such as the Christmastime Starlight-Starbright and Summertime Sunlight-Sunbright celebrations. For more information about social ministries encountering Christ, please visit the Pua Foundation website www.puafoundation.org and the Office for Social Ministry website, www.officeforsocialministry.org .

As we continue through the Easter Season, let us heed Pope Francis's call to reflect on our own encounters with Jesus. Let us take time to ask ourselves when and how we have felt the Lord's close presence in our lives. Let us share these encounter moments with others, and listen to others share their stories of encountering Christ, giving thanks and enriching our communities with stories of  God’s amazing forgiving grace. And in the words of our Holy Father, let us daily pray: “May Our Lady help us to share the faith to make our communities ever greater places of encounter with the Lord.” Mahalo.