Fully Alive is a three-day spiritual retreat offering personal growth opportunities. It is held at an Upstate New York women’s correctional facility.
This ecumenical Christian ministry, based on work by John Powell S.J., is a group experience. Retreat leaders seek to encourage the prison’s “women in green” to reflect upon and change distorted visions of Self, Others, Life, the World and God.
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, (whispering), I will try again tomorrow.”
– Mary Anne Radmacher
Retreats are offered quarterly, typically for 30 inmates each time. A retreat is led by 6-8 “outside” volunteers, with support from a chaplain serving as prison liaison, and five currently incarcerated women. Many inmate participants come from poverty and are serving sentences for convictions involving drug or alcohol abuse, or issues involving domestic violence. Most anticipate being released in the near future. “I am extremely committed to the women at the prison,” says a professional nurse on “the outside” who has served for years on “the inside” as a Fully Alive prison retreat volunteer. Her experience has taught her that many inmates’ drug and alcohol problems developed as coping mechanisms in the wake of abuse or other traumas they experienced in their lives, “The women are so fragile, so broken. Most have little or no self-esteem. It is heartbreaking.”
Volunteer speaks of the effect of calling inmates by their own name.
Volunteer discusses how forgiveness can bring freedom.
Fully Alive, she says, offers the inmates hope. “It is such a gratifying feeling to witness a woman becoming aware of her own value. As she is treated with respect, she nurtures her understanding of a loving and gracious God.” Forgiveness, mercy and compassion for self can lead to forgiveness, mercy and compassion for others, and to a transformation in one’s view of life, the world and God. “At times you can literally see brokenness being healed.”
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