Event helps ministry close gap after state cuts

Kathryn Ziesig | kathrynziesig@archstl.org
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The funding gap for the Criminal Justice Ministry caused by a state budget cut is closing, but the ministry still needs financial support to help the agency with its outreach.

Since 1979, the Criminal Justice Ministry has supported and empowered people impacted by incarceration. The agency provides jail and prison ministry, client re-entry services and advocacy for community safety and criminal justice reform.

Supporters of the Criminal Justice Ministry were honored June 1 in St. Louis. The ministry presented its Luminary Award to Archbishop Robert J. Carlson and the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the Good Neighbor Beacon Award to Nestlé Purina and a Lifetime Achievement Beacon Award to Nancy McCarthy, retired regional administrator of the Missouri Board of Probation and Parole.

The inaugural recognition dinner "really helped," said Anthony D'Agostino, executive director. In mid-January, Gov. Eric Greitens cut $146 million from Missouri's budget. The Criminal Justice Ministry, along with all service providers helping formerly incarcerated people, lost state funding. The move created a budget deficit of $150,000 for the ministry.

The proceeds of the dinner haven't been fully reported yet, but it's expected to leave the ministry about $20,000 to $30,000 short of its goal when added to other fundraising. "We've got a few weeks to get up to that funding level. Obviously there's still a need, but we're in a very good place compared to where we were, and the event helped big time," D'Agostino said.

The mission of the Criminal Justice Ministry is "to bring Christ's message of compassion, reconciliation and hope through person-to-person response to the needs of prisoners, their families, those recently released from prison, victims and others involved in the justice system within the St. Louis Archdiocese."

The archdiocese set the foundation for the ministry when it began and, even though the ministry is a separate entity today, the archdiocesan funding from the Annual Catholic Appeal "is a key factor in our success and our ability to continue to work with clients," D'Agostino said.

The Luminary Award was in recognition for the almost 40 years of support from the archdiocese and eight years of Archbishop Carlson's leadership. "We see a bright future in continuing to work with the archdiocese in living out the corporal works of mercy," D'Agostino said. 

How to Help

Among other efforts, the Criminal Justice Ministry this year is expected to provide

• Re-entry housing services to more than 100 people, mostly veterans

• Basic needs such as clothing, bus passes and referrals to more than 600 people

• Support services such as classes and counseling to 1,000 inmates in Missouri.

Donations still are sought to fill in a gap due to state budget cuts. To donate or volunteer, visit www.cjmstlouis.org, email anthonyd@cjmstlouis.org or call (314) 503-1770. 

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