May 23, 2022

Reflection on Restorative Justice by Sister Janet Ryan

In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we are told that Lydia listened, and her heart was opened. Often, we forget to focus on listening. We are so absorbed in responding to people and stimuli that we miss the importance and value of listening.


Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation is a Restorative Justice Hub located on the South Side of Chicago. Its mission is to restore dignity and healing to youth and their families who have experienced trauma due to poverty, violence, racism, and/or incarceration. It relies on restorative justice practices, including peace circles, to build relationships and create space for healing.


A foundational value of circle keeping is listening. At PBMR, relationships are built by listening to people tell their stories and share their lives.


Restorative justice is an invitation to see the complexity and dignity of all human beings and avoid the knee jerk reaction to judge or condemn. Restorative justice strives to repair harm and restore relationships through listening to everyone involved.


A friend of PBMR, Trudi Goggin, is a circle keeper at one of three restorative justice courts in Chicago. She shared this story of the goodness and efficacy of RJ: 


Following a gender reveal party for family and friends, expectant father Edwardo, age 21, was pulled over for failure to signal a lane change. When the officers approached the vehicle, open liquor and a handgun were found in the car. Edwardo was arrested and incarcerated.


Edwardo’s case was referred to the RJ Community Court where he and his partner, Mirelys, participated in the Peace Circle Process with volunteer members of the community, 2 circle keepers, and a court appointed social worker. Together they developed a strong Repair Of Harm Agreement to which they were both committed. Over the next 10 months, Edwardo completed career counseling and professional development exercises for career exploration, parenting classes, and 60 hours of Community engagements. In addition to ROHA achievements, Mirelys completed her medical training program and began a new job in the field of nursing.


This process not only transformed Edwardo, Edwardo and Mirelys transformed the Circle members, the court, and the community. At the end of the process the couple commented, “We have never known people who cared about us before.” What a joy to behold, restoration and rebirth.


Pray that we listen so our hearts might be opened.


Sister Janet ministers at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation in Chicago, IL. Sister Janet is the founding community leader of L’Arche in St. Louis. She graduated from the University of Connecticut and later earned a Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry from St. John’s University.