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Sister Donna Liette, CPPS, has served at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation for over 11 years. Prior to Chicago, she served for 14 years in Dayton, Ohio, as Executive Director of Mercy Manor, a transitional home for women released from the Ohio prisons. In previous ministerial roles, she as served as a teacher, principal, foster mother, campus minister, and spiritual director. Sister Donna has master’s degrees in Education Administration and in Pastoral Counseling. She is a member of the Sisters of the Precious Blood, Dayton, Ohio.
This podcast is brought to you by A Nun's Life Ministry. I'm Sister Maxine, and my guest is Sister Donna Liette, with Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation on the south side of Chicago, in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation serves young people, families and community members affected by violence and incarceration. Sister Donna, is there a particular story you could share? One that describes what it means to be about reconciliation?
A powerful story that I experienced was a young man, with three other young men, had broken into a home. And it happened to be a police officer's home. And by the way, we usually don't tell the stories. But we were told that we could tell this story, you know, Circle stories. So the judge who knows us said to the young man, this was his first time ever in court, that if he would come to Precious Blood Center and sit in a Circle with his victim, then we could just decide how he would be held accountable for the harm that he had caused. So the young boy agreed that he would be willing to do that. Now the other three had been in the courtroom a number of times, so they were not given that option. We worked with the young boy and his mother, and I told him what Circle was like, and so forth. So a lot of preparation. I had also called the police officer and told him that one of the young boys would like to sit in Circle with him. And he was kind of surprised. But he came along and said he would be willing to do that. So the day came. Father Kelly went to get the young boy and his mother. We had another young person from the community who was on our staff in the Circle, myself, and Father Kelly. And we had a principal in the Circle, so I think there were eight of us that have been prepared to sit in this circle of reconciliation. So the day came, and the police officer came in, and he was a little anxious, like "Let's get this over with." And luckily, the young boy and his mother came in. So we sat in the Circle, and I won't tell the whole story, because it would take long. But anyway, as time went on, and we checked in and when we asked the police officer, “Tell about the harm that was done.” And so he told, you know, a lot of things were happening, his computer, windows, doors, there was a lot of harm done to his home. But what he emphasized is that he had a son. He always told his son that he was a police officer, and he would be safe. And he said, "Now my child doesn't feel safe." And he said, "That's what really hurts me. That's the harm that most harm you did. “So after he told his story, we looked at the young boy and asked him, "Tell us a little bit about what happened that night. What do you remember?" So he first just told the police officer how sorry he was, that he didn't know that he had a son in the home, and that he regretted. But as the story went on, he had kind of been bullied, because he had often said no to these boys. But this time he had said yes. And he went along, and he said he just regretted it. We asked different questions. And the whole Circle went on for about an hour and a half. He had also said how he likes to play basketball. It's one of the things that kind of relieves stress. So at the end of the Circle, those who were going to check out we said, "What do you need?" to the police officer, "in order to begin some healing? Do we need to meet again, or what would help?" and he said, "You know, this is all I needed, that the young boy, you know, that we sat together in this Circle." Then after the Circle was over, and the principal said she would help the young boy get back in school, we all said we'd support each other, and whatever the police officer needed. And he said, "I don't need anything." And after the Circle is over, he went over to the boy, and he gave him his card. And he said, "I know you know where I live, but you don't have my phone number. Call me anytime. I'm not just a dad, I'm not just a police officer. I'm also a coach. And I would love to shoot baskets with you." If this young boy had just been sent him to jail for a year or so it would have been totally different in his life, in his mother's life. And I think even the police officer who would never been able to hear this story, how different it would have been for him. And so it's so important that we began to teach the people in our community how to do Circles and how to build relationships, and that eventually in our community, we would hope that when there's harm done in our community that the community would handle the issue and see how the person should be held accountable, and how we can heal both sides of any story where there's been harm done.
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This transcript has been lightly edited for readability.