Seminarians reflect on ministry to prison inmates

On Saturday, the first-year Master of Divinity (M.Div.) students gathered in the Seminary Refectory for a lunch and debrief of their prison ministry experience this year. They were joined by Priest Paul Tolve, Director of Pastoral Care, Westchester Correctional Facility (Valhalla, NY) and Priest Adrian Budica, director of Field Education and Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) supervisor, who led their CPE101/Prison Ministry this year.

First-year Seminarian Chris Evans prepared a delicious three-course meal for all attending, offering his more than thirty years of experience as a chef as hospitality to his peers and mentors. The group then reflected on the meaningful experience they had visiting inmates, interacting with the correctional officers and reflecting together in the CPE-like group.

"As our interaction with inmates concluded, we miss the actual practical experience [of ministering to real people] on a regular basis, as we did in the prison," said Seminarian John Thetford.

Others echoed that feeling with a hope for more opportunities of authentic pastoral engagement with each other and learning.

"I am blessed to continue Fr. Nicholas Solak's ministry at the correctional facility", said Fr. Adrian Budica. "The process-discussion in the classroom is something I also cherish much, as I learn with and from the seminarians and their individual experiences with inmates. I believe that the most powerful and lasting learning takes places when it is initiated by the student from their own personal experiences, including struggles.”

Fr. Adrian and the seminarians reflected together on themes such as pastoral authority, boundaries, obedience, compassion fatigue, counter-transference and use of self, humility, and other themes as they arose organically from their ministry with inmates.   

St. Vladimir’s Seminary is committed to continuing the CPE process-model, which proved effective in these groups for both pastoral formation and pastoral competence (skills of ministry), as well as continuing parish field education.

Related Articles:
Becoming the Face of Love: Seminarians Train to Minister to Prisoners
Prison Ministry Training Begins for Freshmen Seminarians
“I was in prison, and you visited me.”