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Thirsting for Truth
Gathering to discuss the importance of prison ministry

By MICHELLE DELANEY, Globe staff reporter

WEBSTER COUNTY - When Dr. Rick Salocker tries to imagine where he would find Jesus, he doesn’t think it would be at the local country club; he believes Jesus would be found in the prison working with the inmates.

That’s the message Dr. Salocker wants to convey during the upcoming Thirsting for Truth meeting on Feb. 26. Ransom the Captive is the theme for the upcoming meeting, which will be held in the game room of Olde Boston in Fort Dodge. There will be a social time at 6:30 p.m. with the presentation and discussion beginning at 7 p.m.

Hiedi Touney, parish life director for Holy Trinity Parish, explained that Thirsting for Truth is built off the Theology on Tap model.

Just like Theology on Tap, Thirsting for Truth will meet at a local restaurant/bar for a more relaxed, comfortable feel. The meetings will include a social time for food, drinks and fellowship and then a presentation that will lead to open discussion. Unlike Theology on Tap, Thirsting for Truth will not have any age requirements. Any adult, no matter what age, is welcome and encouraged to attend.

“Since we have a lot of adults who would really like to go to Theology on Tap, they’re just a little bit older, we decided to do Thirsting for Truth,” said Touney. “We’re finding that there are those who may not come to events at our parish center but they’re more interested in attending events like this.”

Currently Thirsting for Truth meets quarterly, but Touney hopes to be able to meet every other month next year.

The second session of Thirsting for Truth will focus on the prison ministry and the Catholic social teachings, Acts of Mercy that reinforce the parish’s work at the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility and people’s own personal ministry at the prison.

“I think sometime that this ministry is passed over but this is an area where we need to have more volunteers coming forward,” said Touney. “It’s important to reach out to them (the prisoners) as we were called to do. We need to remember that there’s a person there, God loves them and it is possible for people to change.”

During his presentation, Dr. Salocker, who is currently in the diaconate formation program, will discuss how he became involved in the ministry, why he sincerely enjoyed his time there and why others should consider volunteering in this ministry.

Since he is in the deacon program and has to pick different ministries to work with, currently he isn’t able to volunteer with the prison ministry.

“I really miss it,” said Dr. Salocker. “That’s what I’d like to do when I get done. I’ll probably spend most of my time there.”

When he thinks about the men he meets within the prison, he cannot help but think of the quote by John Bradford, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

“This could have been any one of us under the right circumstances,” said Dr. Salocker. “That’s one of the reasons why I do it. A lot of them come from terribly broken homes and I just think they need some type of guidance and someone to care about them.”

He explained that time spent there is a mixture of Mass and discussion every Tuesday morning. Since they have to be out of the gates by 8:30 a.m., they only get so much time with the inmates. Each session begins with 7 a.m. Mass and the remaining time is spent in conversation, Bible study, doing the RCIA program or various other things.

“A lot of times we just sit around and really talk to them. We try to answer any questions to the best of our ability and try to explain some stuff,” said Dr. Salocker. “They come from such a varied background, from no religion to strange stuff that’s hard to even understand.”

Over the years, there have been numerous inmates who have gone through the RCIA process and joined the Catholic Church. Dr. Salocker remembers a year when there was around 12 inmates who joined the church.
He explained that the people they meet in the prison are fairly nice, young men who grew up with very confused ideas about religion.

While he did admit it can be scary going into the prison the first couple of times, he truly believes that once they try it, they will really like it. Right now, volunteers are needed for the prison ministry. Since many of the current volunteers are elderly and can’t always make it in, sometimes the priest will have to go by himself.

“This is an area where we need to have more volunteers coming forward. We need to continue to teach our Catholic social teachings and live out the acts of mercy by working with those in prisons,” said Touney.

Dr. Salocker hopes that many people come to the Thirsting for Truth meeting to learn more about this ministry and determine if they could help this ministry stay strong.

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