Toward Justice and Healing - A blog of the Initiative on Restorative Justice and Healing which presents substantive pieces at the intersection of restorative justice and Catholic faith.
Criminal Justice, Institutional Harm, Peacebuilding, Racial Justice, Restorative Justice

What a Lineup! The Breakout Sessions at the National Catholic Restorative Justice Conference

Join us at the University of St Thomas School of Law in October for the first, in-person national Catholic conference on restorative justice!

The breadth of  breakout sessions topics at the National Catholic Restorative Justice Conference expands the conversation and explores the many applications of restorative practices. We are excited to welcome folks from all over the country to Minneapolis for this event. Here’s more on the 18 outstanding breakout sessions on the conference schedule.  Be sure to check out the five plenary panel sessions that will also be featured at the conference; they are listed on this blog post.

Prof. Dan Philpott, who will present a breakout session on Friday afternoon, will also present a talk titled, Eucharistic Justice: A Catholic Politics, on Wednesday, October 4th at The Basilica of Saint Mary. Everyone is welcome and registration is available at the link.

Friday, October 6th  – 10:45 am till Noon

Opening our Hearts to Truth and Healing  with Sr. Georgia Christensen, Meg Paulino, & Jane Comeau, Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration

Getting RJ Moving Within A Parish with Andrew Prinzing, Partners in Restorative Initiatives & William Casey, Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church

Synodality and Restorative Practices: Forming a Listening Church with Bobby Ehnow & Marioly Galvan, Diocese of San Diego

The Art of Resilience: Accompanying People Affected by Trauma with Fr. Dustin Feddon, Catholic Prison Ministries Coalition

From Harm to Healing: An Archdiocesan Response to Clergy Abuse  with Fr. Daniel Griffith, Initiative on Restorative Justice and Healing at the University of St. Thomas School of Law & Justice & (Ret.) Janine Geske, Andrew Center for Restorative Justice at Marquette University

HEAL Humanity Now: Cultivating Change from Self to Society through Reflexive Restorative Practice. with LTomay Varlack-Butler & Darryl Varlack-Butler, Worth Justice, Inc

Friday, October 6th – 2:45 pm till 4:00 pm

Reconciliation: A Spirituality for Restorative Justice with Kevin Considine, Robert J Schreiter Institute for Precious Blood Spirituality at Catholic Theological Union

Eucharistic Justice and Healing with Dan Philpott, University of Notre Dame

Practicing Restoration and Integrating Social-Emotional Skills (PRAISES) with Lynne Lang, Restoration Matters & Dr. Frida Rundell, International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP)

Subsidiarity and Dialogue: Engaging the Church in the Work of Criminal Justice Reform with Cecelia Klingele, University of Wisconsin Law School/ Catholic Criminal Justice Reform Network (CCJRN) & Hon. Thomas More Donnelly, Circuit Court of Cook County/Catholic Criminal Justice Reform Network (CCJRN)

Healing and Accountability within Prison – The VOEG Model with Leonard Rubio, Insight Prison Project

Archives and Community Research: Confronting the History and Legacy of Catholic Native Boarding Schools with Allison Spies, Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Gabrielle Guillerm – Mahpiya Luta (Red Cloud), & Destiny Big Crow, Mahpiya Luta (Red Cloud)

Saturday, October 7th –  11:00 am till 12:30 pm

Restorative Justice Storytelling: A Catalyst for Systemic Transformation with Katlyn Toelle, Catholic Mobilizing Network & Andrea Hug, Chaplain, Storyteller & Victim Family Member

Accompanying Survivors of Clergy Sexual Abuse: Lessons Learned in the Trenches with Sara Larson, Awake

Filling in the Gap in Victim-Survivors’ Legal Rights: The Right of Access to Restorative Justice with Lynn Branham, University of Missouri School of Law

A Revolution of Tenderness: Restorative Justice in Our Prisons and Pastoral Centers with Tricia Worrell, Diocese of Grand Rapids & Jayna Hoffacker, Archdiocese of Atlanta

The Transformative Power of Restorative Practices in the Digital Realm with Joel Friez, National Association of Community and Restorative Justice (NACRJ)

Town and Gown: A Collaborative Restorative Approach with Amber Monroe, University of Notre Dame & Ellen Williams, Take Heart, Inc.

Note: This schedule was last updated on September 14, 2023! 
Criminal Justice, Institutional Harm, Peacebuilding, Racial Justice, Restorative Justice

Speaker Spotlights! The Plenary Panel Schedule

We are excited to welcome folks from all over the country to Minneapolis for the first, in-person national Catholic conference on restorative justice next month! Registration closes soon and there are a variety of options, including full, three-day passes; one-day passes; group registrations; and scholarships. Here’s more on the five outstanding plenary panel sessions on the conference schedule.  Be sure to check out the 18 breakout sessions that will also be featured at the conference; they are listed on the conference registration site.

Signs of the Times
 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM, October 5
In Gaudium et Spes the Second Vatican Council calls upon the Church to “read the signs of the times” that we may interpret them in the light of the Gospel and respond in ways that build God’s kingdom. In this plenary session, we hear from four prominent leaders in restorative justice and the Catholic Church as they offer context and call for addressing the urgent needs for healing in today’s world and Church.

  • John Carr, Founding Director, Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown
  • Cheryl Demmert Fairbanks, Esq. (Virtual), Attorney and Tribal Court of Appeals Justice, Tlingit-Tsimshian
  • Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ (Virtual), Renowned Anti-Death Penalty Advocate, Bestselling author of Dead Man Walking, River of Fire, and others
  • Sheryl Wilson, Executive Director, Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution
  • Moderator: Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, Executive Director, Catholic Mobilizing Network

Catholic Social Tradition and Restorative Justice
 4:00 PM – 5:15 PM, Oct 5
There is a fruitful relationship between Catholic Social Tradition and restorative justice. Both aim at attaining and restoring justice as right relationship and both include a prophetic dimension that names harm and injustice, fosters accountability, and opposes social structures that perpetuate exclusion. Join us as panelists ground our learning about restorative justice within Catholic social, spiritual, and sacramental tradition.

  • Rev. Richard Cogill, School of Theology, The University of the South-Sewanee
  • Dr. Amy Levad, Associate Professor of Theology, University of St. Thomas
  • Dr. Stephen Pope, Professor of Theology, Boston College
  • Gloria Purvis, Host, The Gloria Purvis Podcast
  • Moderator: Fr. Daniel Griffith, Founding Director, Initiative on Restorative Justice and Healing, Pastor/Rector, The Basilica of Saint Mary

Historical Harms and Racial Injustice
 9:00 AM – 10:30 AM, October 6
Racial Injustice and Healing Harms Against Native Peoples
Racism is a sin and a life issue. Centuries of harm and racial oppression continue to have destructive impacts in our institutions and our everyday lives. Panelists will explore the history and legacy of slavery and Native American Boarding Schools and invite ways that restorative justice principles and processes can chart a path for truth-telling, accountability, and transformation for all of God’s children.

  • Most Rev. Shelton Fabre, Archbishop, Archdiocese of Louisville
  • Monique Maddox, Incoming President, GU272 Descendants Association, Georgetown University
  • Dr. Samuel Torres, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition
  • Moderator: Dr. Yohuru Williams, Founding Director, Racial Justice Initiative at University of St. Thomas

Clergy Sexual Abuse and Healing
 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM, October 6
Clergy sexual abuse is a source of deep wounds and profound loss of trust for many inside and outside the Catholic Church — through both the specific violations and widespread cover-up. This survivor-led conversation will call upon the Church to address the continued need for acknowledgement of these harms and to initiate repair at the individual, parish, and institutional levels.

  • Regina Boyd, Catholic Marriage & Family Therapist, Boyd Counseling Services
  • Juan Carlos Cruz, Global advocate for survivors of clerical abuse, Pontifical Council for the Protection of Minors
  • Most Rev. Bernard Hebda, Archbishop, Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis
  • Barbara Thorp, Consultant, Support and Accompaniment of Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors
  • Moderator: Mike Hoffman, Chair, Hope and Healing Committee, Archdiocese of Chicago

A Transformed Criminal Legal System
 9:00 AM – 10:30 AM, October 7
The U.S. criminal legal system is deeply broken and plagued with violations of human dignity. Transforming this unjust system from punitive to restorative will require breaking the cycle of violence, and responding to harm in ways that promote accountability, hope, and healing. Hear from those working inside, alongside, and outside of the legal system.

  • John Choi, County Attorney, Ramsey County Minnesota
  • Leonard Rubio, Executive Director, Insight Prison Project
  • Sr. Janet Ryan, OSF, Education Lab Manager and Circlekeeper, Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation
  • Aswad Thomas, Vice President & National Director, Alliance for Safety and Justice & Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice
  • Moderator: Mark Osler, Robert & Marion Short Distinguished Professor of Law, Univ. of St. Thomas (on leave, 2023-24), Deputy Hennepin County Attorney, Director of the Criminal Division (2023-24)
Criminal Justice, Institutional Harm, Racial Justice, Restorative Justice

Save the Date: A National Catholic Restorative Justice Conference, October 5-7, 2023

Save the date! A National Catholic Restorative Justice Conference will be held October 5-7, 2023 that brings together Catholic ministry leaders, legal professionals, people directly impacted by harm, crime, and incarceration, to build capacity within the Church to advance healing approaches to harm, crime, and injustice. Join us on the campus of the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis to build relationships, knowledge, and skills for engaging restorative justice practices in light of the Catholic tradition and experience.

Conference Theme: “Journeying Toward Restoration”

Co-hosted by Catholic Mobilizing Network and the St. Thomas School of Law Initiative on Restorative Justice and Healing, the conference takes on the theme, “Journeying Toward Restoration.” Ever aware of past and ongoing violations of dignity and relationships, “Journeying toward Restoration” signifies renewed promise for restorative justice as an instrument for human flourishing both within and beyond the institutional Catholic Church.

Focal Areas

By gathering in the Twin Cities, a locus of national and ecclesial wounds, the conference invites participants to create pathways of renewed encounter and human flourishing in the following areas:

  • Criminal Legal System Transformation 
  • Sexual Abuse in the Church and Healing
  • Racial Injustice and Healing 
  • Harms Against Native Peoples

Watch for updates on the conference schedule as well as registration, sponsorship and exhibitor opportunities.




Restorative Justice

Honoring Veterans with Restorative Justice – Hank Shea

Veterans Day will be celebrated throughout the country on Friday, November 11th. For some, it will just be another day at the end of the work week.  For others, it will be a paid holiday from their jobs. But we hope for many that it will provide an opportunity to, in some way, honor all American veterans, living or dead, in gratitude for their service and sacrifice on behalf of all of us.

There is one group of veterans particularly deserving of our collective attention and action. For as long as veterans have returned from war, some have brought their war home with them, bearing invisible wounds in the form of post-traumatic stress and other traumas. Untreated, these echoes of war – manifesting in substance and alcohol abuse and addiction, often leading to self-destructive and harmful behavior – reverberate through society, destroying not only the lives of these heroes, but victimizing their families and the communities they fought to protect.

As a result, large numbers of veterans in past generations have fallen into and been left behind in the criminal justice system upon their return home. Do you know that roughly one-third of U.S. military veterans report that they have been arrested and jailed at least once in their lives?  (

For far too long our nation failed to honor our millions of veterans who served in Vietnam. We must not allow that grave error to occur again. For the last 18 years, a new generation of veterans has been returning from Afghanistan and Iraq and bringing their war home with them, creating the risk of an unprecedented public health and public safety crisis if left unaddressed.

Unlike prior generations, this group of 3 million veterans, which include 300,000 women, has fought the two longest wars in our nation’s history – mostly simultaneously. Without the draft that we relied on in past wars, the burden of serving and fighting has fallen on fewer shoulders of an all-volunteer force, with many vets of the current generation serving multiple combat tours – translating into much higher rates of post-traumatic stress and other traumatic injuries than prior generations. Our nation trained these ordinary citizens to serve our country by fighting and even killing others in distant lands and they bear deep visible and invisible wounds as a result. The suicide rate for veterans remains a national calamity. Every hurting veteran needs and deserves our collective help in the form of therapeutic treatment of their ills. Veterans Day gives us the chance to recognize their needs and our obligation to act on their behalf.

Minnesota already is leading the way. ( ) On June 30, 2021, the Minnesota Legislature passed the Veterans Restorative Justice Act (VRJA).

It represents landmark legislation for healing and restoring veterans who become involved in the criminal justice system. It substitutes court-supervised treatment and rehabilitation for purely punitive measures to offer the veteran a path to redemption – and restoration as an asset to the communities they served.

The Veterans Defense Project (VDP), a Minnesota-based non-profit veterans advocacy group, was instrumental in the drafting and passage of the VRJA. (   The VDP now is helping fully implement the VRJA throughout Minnesota and expand all or part of its groundbreaking aspects to other states.

On Veterans Day, the University of St. Thomas School of Law’s Initiative on Restorative Justice and Healing ( and the VDP will co-sponsor a special event “Honoring Veterans with Restorative Justice” at the school’s downtown Minneapolis location from 4:00 – 6:00pm. The event also will be livestreamed throughout the country. The program’s purpose is to highlight why so many veterans need restoration and healing from their service-related traumas. Ramsey County Attorney John Choi and VDP President Brock Hunter, who both helped draft the VRJA, will describe the role that veterans’ treatment courts and Minnesota’s new law can play in meeting that need. The audience will hear from Rep. Sandra Feist and Sen. Zach Duckworth how the VRJA became law in a divided legislature through dedicated bipartisan efforts, something our country clearly needs more of right now. Finally, Berlynn Fleury and Tony Miller, two Marine and Army veterans who have graduated from local veterans’ treatment courts, will tell their inspiring stories of overcoming substantial challenges to lead meaningful, productive lives. The event is free but registration is necessary here. ( )

We hope that many fellow citizens will take the time to attend or watch this worthwhile event. If you do, you also will be able to hear about the transformative powers of restorative justice from others, such as Monsignor Chad Gion’s dual role as a Chaplain for the North Dakota Army National Guard and the Pastor of North Dakota’s Catholic Indian Mission.

If you attend in person, and attend the reception following the event, you will be able to meet and thank Vietnam and other veterans who have never received adequate recognition for their service. You will be able to speak with Lawton Nuss, a Marine veteran, VDP board member, and a former Chief Justice of the Kansas Supreme Court, who gave up his top-ranking judicial position in mid-term in order to devote all his time to helping justice-involved vets. Finally, you can meet and express gratitude to Dominic Skawiniak, a 2020 St. John’s University graduate, Army National Guard officer, and first year UST Law student, who during August 2021 led his platoon in guarding part of the Kabul airport in Afghanistan, not far from where a suicide bomber killed 13 of his fellow American servicemembers and 79 Afghan civilians.

As a nation, we will never be able to fully repay the debt that we owe our veterans but as you contemplate how to spend your time on Veterans Day, we leave you with the words of President Abraham Lincoln in his Second Inaugural Address, adopted in part as the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs motto:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all … let us strive to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle… .”


Hank Shea is an Army veteran, a senior distinguished fellow at the University of St. Thomas School of Law and a fellow at its Initiative on Restorative Justice and Healing, and the Vice Chair of the Veterans Defense Project’s board of directors.