FOX47 NEWS - Ordained minister works with inmates

Jeff Angileri
Aug 30, 2009, 7:11 PM

People packed a church on Madison's west side to honor a woman who has helped change the life of dozens of Dane County inmates.

At an ordination ceremony, Julia Weaver became a minister with the Madison Area Lutheran Council. During the ceremony, she reflected on her sessions with the inmates.

"We talk, we cry, we laugh, we get to know each other really well," she said. "I try not to pay attention to the crime they commit -- what I work on more with them is where their choices have brought them, no matter what the choice is."

For the last 7 years, she's been their counselor, spiritual guide, advocate and art teacher.

At her ordination ceremony, Weaver displayed a woven tapestry, made by the inmates she serves -- visual stories of struggle, heart, and resilience.

One of her former inmates, Felicia Jones, attended the ordination. "I became addicted to alcohol and drugs," Jones recollected. She met Weaver in 2004.

"She's so welcoming and nonjudgmental thru all of this," Jones said. "I've been sober 23 months. Julia just lets you know you're loved and you can do something different. You're not just a number and another statistic."

Weaver can now perform sacraments to those she counsels. It's refreshing and fulfilling work she says, and has erased so many stereotypes society places on incarcerated people.

"Jail ministry, prison ministry, is not about strangers -- it's about our family, our people, our neighbors."

Weaver is one of only two jail chaplains in the Madison Area Lutheran Council. Together, they work with 1,000 inmates every year.

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