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Minnesota writer helps incarcerated women pen stories of hurt, hope


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NEW BRIGHTON, Minn. (CNS) -- Five years ago, Joannie Moses was in her late 60s and widowed.

Her husband, Terry, had died of pancreatic cancer. She thought that after a long stint as a caregiver, and nearly 30 years as the religious education director at St. Maron Maronite Catholic Parish in northeast Minneapolis, it was time to reinvent her life.

"After he passed away, I met with a psychologist every single week," Moses recalled. "(St. Maron pastor) Chorbishop Sharbel Maroun refused to accept my retirement, saying, 'I will not accept this until you tell me what you're going to do with your life.'

"I thought that was the smartest thing ever, because that gave me something to focus on," said Moses, 72, who has four daughters and nine grandchildren.

In 2005, Moses and a friend visited a women's prison three times to lead a writing group. It was the activity that kept climbing to the top of her list.

A year after graduating from the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute in 2014, Moses decided to look into the Residential Re-entry Center of Roseville, a facility operated byVolunteers of America. She asked center officials if she could start a writing group for women.

"They were delighted, and the women were delighted to do it. It's personal writing about their past, present and future, Moses told The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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