Prison ministry and Restorative Justice work are close to Brother Frank’s heart. Prison ministry is about being welcoming, accepting and non-judgmental, he said. It is the same for his work with Restorative Justice, which is about helping others to heal the hurt and harm. He says the job is not for everybody, but his life has led him to this call. “It is about embracing the mystery that God loves us so much,” he said. “I never condemn them for why they are where they are.”
With the Essex Community Justice Center, folks are referred by authorities to Restorative Justice Panels rather than going to court. The panel of volunteers represents the community, because the harm affects the whole community. An agreement is drawn up. If all of the conditions are met, the case is resolved without a record. “They have to take responsibility for their actions to qualify,” Brother Frank said. “The Criminal Justice System focuses on crime and punishment. Restorative Justice focuses on the hurt or harm that was done and finds solutions on how to heal it.”
The model is similar to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. “We attempt to get the parties involved to reconcile,” Brother Frank said. “Instead of throwing blame around, we find the underlying cause of the issue and attempt to make it better. Apologies are involved, restitution, perhaps community service. It’s done on a case-by-case basis. If everything is fulfilled, they don’t get a record and don’t go to jail.”
From a career in nursing, to music ministry, and spiritual direction, Brother Frank has dedicated himself to helping his hurting neighbors find peace. He has tutored at Mercy Connections, works with new Americans, helps folks with developmental disabilities, and heads up Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing for disabled vets.
Studies have shown that prison ministry helps change the culture in prisons, and it reduces recidivism. Brother Frank brings the Sacrament of the Eucharist to the prisons. “But I am also going to meet Jesus there, present in the people,” he said. He also offers spiritual direction and faith instruction on the sacraments of baptism and confirmation.