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"IT SHOULD'VE BEEN ME DEAD. I held my sister in my arms when she passed. With her last breath she told me to try to give love a chance. She took the blame for my drug dealing. That bullet should've hit me."
"But Debbie, how do you expect me to forgive my mother's murderer? I was only eight-years-old when it happened. I still have mommy's encyclopedias stained with her blood."
"I'm 55 years old and not a day goes by when I don't think about what my father did to me — he molested me for eight years, starting when I was five-years-old. I lost all my innocence. He's an evil, evil man. A father's supposed to love and protect his children."
These are just some of the stories that have been shared in my healing group at the women's prison in Delaware. It has been one of the most profound ministries in my time as a Franciscan Volunteer. I have the privilege to spend Tuesday mornings with ten women inside Unit 6. We talk about everything from anger and grief to meditation and forgiveness. There is so much pain and suffering inside those walls, it can be overwhelming.
I think of what my women say and the most horrific abuses and traumatic experiences they have been through. How can I possibly understand what they are feeling?
What can I do for these women? I can't take away any of their pain, but I can listen to their stories attentively and just be with them as they cry out their pain, yell out their pain, and even find some hope in their pain.
Perhaps the greatest gift of being a Franciscan Volunteer is simply being present with the suffering, guilty, shameful, bitter, angry and scared people in our society, the "lepers." Whether it be a woman trying to forgive her dead father for molesting her, listening and supporting an immigrant in prison on the road to probable deportation, or a child with a troubled home life, ministering to the most vulnerable and broken in society makes more sense when I think about Jesus' life, especially his pain and suffering.
Through that pain and suffering, there is always hope. God has blessed me with the gift of seeing that in others and in their situations. My time as a Franciscan Volunteer is precious and bien especial, so special. It has been the most significant and important transformation of my life. God is good, God is really really good!!
• Debbie, Wilmington '05−'06, '06−'07
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