- Southwestern IL Correctional Center (SWICC) named Terri Bauer as the 2017 Volunteer of the Year for her more than 5 years of service as coordinator of the 180 New Beginning program sponsored by the Catholic Diocese of Belleville, IL. Terri attended the IDOC 2017 Volunteer of the Year ceremony in Springfield, IL on April 10 and was awarded the Volunteer of the Year plaque for her work at Southwestern Correctional at the SWICC volunteer banquet on Apirl 27th. Terri spoke at the banquet of her call to service and how her journey led her to be open to prison ministry as a result of her faith, compassion and courage when asked to take on the responsibility for the 180 New Beginnings program.
- Terri’s story as told below includes the many challenges that we all face in living out the call to serve in anyway the outcast, marginalized and downtrodden of our society.
Re: Terri Bauer’s New Beginnings in Prison Ministry
Terri says her volunteer work started “at a local nursing home, I volunteered every week, visiting residents who had no regular visitors. I did this work for 20 years until the nursing home closed.” Terri is originally from the Chicago area, where she was born and raised. She moved to Southern Illinois in 1986 with her husband Fred, who is also a volunteer at SWICC. Terri is a long time member of St. Nicholas Church in O’Fallon, IL where she says “the Lord found many opportunities for me to serve Him. I served in many capacities and joined many Bible studies.”
In 2011, Terri’s son still in Chicago was going through a divorce, bankruptcy, was laid off from his work; and living in a friends basement. He was having difficulty seeing his children and the situation went on for four long months. The ongoing situation precipitated a crisis of faith for Terri, not being able to be there for her son and grandchildren. She said: “I felt desolate, but found great strength in a book I happened to find. It was called, Step by Step to Calvary. I meditated on one Station of the Cross each day, putting myself into the story, walking with Christ to Calvary. That changed my perspective on my life and I wanted to serve God more than ever. I had fallen in love with Him. Things changed. My son found a good job, a place to live, and was able to get joint custody of his children”. Later that summer, Terri wrote an article for the world-wide publication, The Word Among Us, about her son’s divorce, with the pain and struggle she sustained to rebuild her faith.
Unknowingly, at the time, she did not foresee that the article would eventually lead her to do volunteer work with prison ministry at SWICC. It happened that Terri’s membership at St Nicholas became the link to another member at St Nicholas who was deeply involved in prison ministry, Consuelo Munoz, Ph.D.,(2011 Volunteer of the Year recipient) who helped to develop the 180 A New Beginning program at SWICC, a combination of Bible study and Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, (RCIA).
Terri’s world was about to change again and the subsequent impact of that change would have in the lives offenders at SWICC. Terri’s preparation for SWICC and prison ministry was complete, like throwing a pebble into a calm pool of water and the rippling effect. Consuelo approached Terri to join the team at SWICC after reading Terri’s article in the The Word Among Us. Terri said: “Consuelo Munoz, a fellow parishioner at St. Nicholas Church in O’Fallon, IL, read my article and called me one day in the spring of 2012. I didn’t even know her.”
She asked if I would help her with the 180 program and possibly take over when she planned to move to Texas. That was the start of my prison ministry and God’s powerful action in my life. I put my heart and soul into serving the Lord. Ever since I was in junior high, I pledged to serve the Lord all of my life. I married and had two sons and was a stay at home mom while they grew up. Terri reflects, “I think God was preparing me for prison ministry by learning the beauty of the Bible and what I love to do is share the Bible with the prison inmates. The Bible is so rich in God’s love for us and I wanted to pass that on to them.” That was in 2012 and Terri has been a volunteer here at SWICC now for over five years! Terri is one of our best regular volunteers; please join me in congratulating her and accepting SWICC’s nomination for Volunteer of the Year 2017. Terri said in a corresponding email, “Thank you for selecting me as Volunteer of the Year. It is a very great honor to be chosen. I believe it is God’s way of urging me on.”