Humble Hands Advent Prayer Service 2018
Bridget McCourt '19
The following reflection was presented by Bridget at the all-school Humble Hands Advent Prayer Service, introducing our Advent Project "Humble Hands" and one of our new partner organizations, Chopping for Change. Bridget was a participant on the Cleveland Immersion retreat this past summer.
For Humble Hands this year, we are called to live out Luke’s gospel which proclaims that God calls us to release the captives and to set free those who are oppressed. One of the most oppressed populations in our country are former prisoners, who struggle to find work, housing, education, and numerous other opportunities following their release. In addition, so many other people in Cleveland, at the border, or in Kentucky are struggling because of homelessness, addiction, poverty, and immigration policies. We are called to help those who are affected to be set free from their struggles.
This summer, during the Cleveland Immersion Retreat, I had the amazing opportunity to visit Chopping for Change (see photo), a rehabilitation program that allows women who are incarcerated, to learn culinary skills so that they can obtain employment once they are released from prison. At first, when I heard we were going to interact with current prisoners, I was scared. However, I soon learned that I did not need to fear these women.
During our visit, I was able to sit in a classroom, shoulder-to-shoulder, with women prisoners as we watched a video on how to stuff a chicken. These women were extremely kind and warm to us. We laughed while cracking jokes about the man in the video’s Australian accent and sharing the jokes that were on the popsicle sticks that the teacher offered to everyone in the class. For a moment, I completely abandoned my prejudices against prisoners. I did not see them as dangers to society. Instead, I saw them as sisters, mothers, daughters, friends. I saw these women as normal members of society, until the shock of seeing their ankle bracelets brought me back to the reality of why Chopping for Change exists.
This program exists because although it only took moments to break down the barriers of my preconceived judgments, we have a long way to go before society fully welcomes back people into our communities who have been incarcerated and have paid their debt to society. It became clear to me that these women needed the support and the training provided by Chopping for Change to be able to embrace their second chance once they are released from prison. Through our generosity, we can support second chances for these women and many others.
This Advent, I encourage you to pick a hand from one of the many trees in the HM center. A small donation might not completely erase suffering of these women or other people in our communities and country, but it might alleviate their pain for just a little while this Christmas.
Humble Hands is a school-wide Advent project that helps meet the basic needs of those in the greater Cleveland area, Youngstown, Appalachia, and the U.S./Mexico Border. Students learn about the struggles that our brothers and sisters in Christ face every day, and are invited to give to one or more of the 13 partner organizations. Each partner organization has a connection to Magnificat through a ministry supported by the Sisters of the Humility of Mary and/or through a Magnificat service program or immersion retreat. Through this project coordinated by Campus Ministry, the Magnificat community hopes to recognize Christ’s living presence in our sisters and brothers and in ourselves.
The 2018 Humble Hands partner organizations include:
Catholic Charities Office of Migration and Refugee Services
Chopping for Change
Collaborative to End Human Trafficking
Domestic Violence Shelter
Dorothy Day House of Youngstown
No More Deaths, AZ
Our Lady of Mount Carmel School
Sonshine Children’s Center, KY
Southside Worker Center, AZ
St. Colman Parish Outreach
St. Patrick’s Community Meal
West Side Catholic Center