Posts Tagged ‘Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative’
This past Holy Thursday, Jesuit Father Michael Kennedy, executive director of the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative, organized Jesuit novices to wash the feet of minors at a Los Angeles juvenile hall, following the lead of Pope Francis, who washed the feet of detainees at a juvenile detention center in Rome. The young people at the center in Los Angeles also wrote letters to the pope, and — much to his surprise — Fr. Kennedy received a response from the pope.
In the letter, Pope Francis wrote: “I was very moved to read the letters you sent to me from the young people of Juvenile Hall and to know that we were close to one another in spirit during the washing of feet on Holy Thursday evening.”
“When I read the letter from the pope, many feelings flowed through me,” Fr. Kennedy wrote in a reflection in The Tidings. “I thought of what Dorothy Day said when working at the margins: ‘To work with the poor is a harsh and dreadful love.’ Most of the time it feels like you are losing. Being at the margins brings its own isolation.”
Fr. Kennedy noted that in a simple letter, Pope Francis “affirmed that the choice to kneel down with a population that society has neglected is where we find God’s presence. With his gesture, he points to where we should serve. Rather than running away from those who are not healthy, we should run toward those who need healing.”
Fr. Kennedy said he realizes a letter will not change the day-to-day workings of being in marginalized places, but “it is a small sign of affirmation from the man at the head of our church. It embodies the Gospel’s message of forgiveness and healing, and it affirms that this is where God truly is.”
Yesterday, Jesuits washed the feet of young inmates at a juvenile detention facility in Los Angeles, as Pope Francis did for young Italian prisoners rather than for clerics as is the custom on Holy Thursday.
The decision to hold Holy Thursday services with young prisoners exemplified the particular Jesuit calling for “faith that does justice,” Jesuit Father Michael Kennedy told The Los Angeles Times. Fr. Kennedy ministers to inmates and their families for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles through the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative.
The Times reported that “the Jesuits in black shirts and clerical collars knelt before the youths in standard-issue gray sweats as they poured cool water over their feet and dried them, drawing both smiles and solemn looks.”
The young people also read letters to the pope, asking for healing and blessings. The inmates’ letters were then sent to Rome, where Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi said in an email that Pope Francis would “surely read them with profound gratitude and he will pray for all the young people that are in the Juvenile Hall, and all that are in prisons.”
According to Fr. Kennedy, the pope’s visit to the Casal del Marmo juvenile jail for his first papal Holy Thursday service electrified social justice advocates across the globe.
“He’s going to places nobody wants to go to be with people who are forgotten,” Fr. Kennedy said of the pope. “It’s really shifting the paradigm of who we need to embrace and who is important in God’s eyes.”
Read the full story at The Los Angeles Times website.
When Jesuit Father Mike Kennedy was pastor of Dolores Mission, located in the barrio of East Los Angeles, he witnessed firsthand the impact to the community of having so many of its youth facing life without parole. After serving as pastor from 1994 to 2007, Fr. Kennedy left Dolores Mission to start the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative (JRJI) to provide support and hope to juveniles with life sentences.
Through the Spiritual Exercise of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a series of meditative prayers helping people find God in their everyday experiences, the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative provides tools that allow prisoners to find healing and forgiveness and to recognize their lives have meaning and purpose. As JRJI’s Executive Director, Fr. Kennedy also reaches out to victims and their families to provide support and healing. The group’s advocacy outreach from its headquarters in Culver City, Calif., includes mobilizing communities to transform the justice system from one that is solely punitive to one that is restorative. Fr. Kennedy has been recognized for JRJI’s efforts to transform the lives of incarcerated youth, their families and communities by the California Chief of Probation Officers and the City of Los Angeles.
In this Ignatian News Network video piece below, you can find out more about Fr. Kennedy and the work of the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative to bring hope to Los Angeles’ incarcerated juveniles:
Jesuit Father Michael Kennedy, executive director of the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative (JRJI), was given the 2010 Distinguished Service Award by the Chief Probation Officers of California in January.
Fr. Kennedy, who advocates for the transformation of the justice system to become more restorative than punitive, was honored for his work at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Los Angeles, where he is co-chaplain. His focus is on juveniles who are facing life sentences for serious crimes.
Kennedy introduces the youth to contemplative prayer using the Spiritual Exercises and guides them in meditation, which enables them to lead each other in prayer and meditation. For more on Kennedy’s ministry, read The Tidings story.