KAIROS Prison Ministry International, Inc. is an interdenominational ministry that serves to transform the lives of the incarcerated and their families. Through trained volunteers, KAIROS mentors men, women, and youth in prison, as well as their family and loved ones on the outside. The Diocese of Gallup is very familiar with Cursillo, which is a Catholic-based structured weekend, short course, in Christianity for and run by laypeople. Due to the success of this movement, the participants wished to present the same systematic training, structure, ongoing fellowship, support and accountability to persons who are incarcerated. It was adapted for the prison situation, opened up for all denominations and called KAIROS, which means “in God’s time.” KAIROS has been in existence since 1976.
Sister Elizabeth Racko, DC, recently participated as a team member in the KAIROS weekend at the New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility, in Grants, New Mexico, which was held in April this year. KAIROS is very similar to the Cursillo, but it is ecumenical and adapted to the prison setting. In a recent interview, Sister Racko stated, “Oh if you only could have experienced this short course in Christianity! It really was Christianity being lived out.”
“The KAIROS program is specially designed for inmates to experience Christianity by offering experiences that enable a person to have insight into their lives so that they can form a new and stronger personal relationship with God,” said Sister Racko. “The training given to the KAIROS team members enables them to share their Christian faith with ease and confidence. It is a faith building experience for everyone.”
She added that the factual, spiritual information that was given was organized and helpful, but most of all, the love expressed in so many different ways impressed everyone, from the 30 participating inmates to the 20 outside team members. There were warm welcomes, lots of singing, creative expression, sincere prayer, and personal sharing of how God can work in our lives no matter the past of the individua. Through special arrangements given by the religious program office of the women’s prison, tasty and plentiful food was prepared by an outside team and brought in. This seemed a marvelous proof of God’s love for the women.
Although many Catholics are usually on the team of 20 volunteers, this year, Sister Racko, who happens to be in jail and prison ministry in the diocese, is the only Catholic.
“The training given and the faith shared among the team members has been strong and supportive,” she said, “and the 30 participants will be surrounded by the love of Christ.”
She also added, “I have been asking everybody I know to support our team and these ladies by offering a half an hour prayer to God during one of these days. I was pleasantly surprised and felt really supported when Bishop Wall said that he would even offer the holy sacrifice of the mass on the first day of the KAIROS retreat.”
For more information or to volunteer for next year or to inquire about more involvement in jail or prison ministry, please contact Sister Elizabeth Racko 928-606-4737.