Prison chaplaincies have an ally in the community. For 25 years, The Montreal Community Chaplaincy has supported people in the process of healing following violence committed or suffered.
By Louise Royer
Brian McDonough, with particular support from the late Archbishop of Montreal, Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, founded this organization on October 27, 1995, and was president until 2011. This was one of his missions as director of the Social Action Ministry Office of the Archdiocese of Montreal.
The Montreal Community Chaplaincy (Aumônerie communautaire de Montréal), is recognized by the Correctional Service of Canada and works in collaboration with that department.
The beneficiaries of its services all repeat how important the presence of the chaplaincy is in their lives. Coordinator Laurent Champagne explains, "Men who come out of prison and lack any meaningful support on the outside find in our two shelters and our day centre a living space that helps them as they enter back into the community."
President Lucie Gravel is proud of what the Chaplaincy has become. She describes her organization’s networking practice:
"We work in a spirit of restorative justice in close collaboration with the Centre for Services in Restorative Justice and reaching out to victims of crime. We are in contact with Relais-Famille, which supports the family members of people who are incarcerated. We are in partnership with Circles of Support and Accountability which helps prevent recidivism by accompanying people who have committed sexual offences. Every Thursday evening at Entrée Libre, volunteers and people who are incarcerated or in transition meet to discuss various topics in a space where they can open up, and which offers them the help they need to reintegrate into society, which is not always easy to achieve. Another one of our projects, Présence Compassion, is there for the people in the street downtown where there are former inmates present. The Jean-Paul Morin Corporation creates a space for dialogue with volunteers and offenders, helping to re-establish human, social and spiritual ties following crimes or offences. The Maison Orléans welcomes men for communal activities and celebrations. All of these projects are also held in English-speaking communities, thanks to Communitas ("open door" every Tuesday evening), as well as in Quebec City."
Of course the projected gathering to celebrate this life-giving experience over the last 25 years is postponed. Covid or not, day in and day out, l’Aumônerie is assisting people to get back on their feet and develop the desire to live with greater serenity and confidence.
On this happy 25th anniversary, Louise Royer, Director of the Social Action Ministry Office, wishes to pay tribute to Brian McDonough and to congratulate Lucie Gravel, Laurent Champagne and all the volunteers and beneficiaries who work with conviction and heart in order to make our society safer and more humane. L’Aumônerie communautaire de Montréal is an inspiring example of the fraternity to which Pope Francis calls us all!!