Joseph Ciccone is a member of our White Collar Support Group that meets online on Zoom on Monday evenings. We will celebrate our 250th weekly meeting on Monday, March 29, 2021, 7 pm ET, 4 pm PT; all Fellow Travelers are invited.
What a Journey Indeed by Fr. Joe Ciccone, Saint Joseph Mission Church
Time and numbers are such a powerful thing. Think about this, 250 meetings, 5 years of coming together in community. A shared story, most often a painful one, for most of us. Tremendous regret, sorry, and unimaginable loss. For many of us that story is transformed into one of new beginnings, second chances, and the opportunity to make a difference in the world. That is what the Rev. Jeff Grant has giving to us, his fellow travelers in this Prison Ministry and White Collar Support group. I love the fact that I get to wear a “white” roman Collar now, after my journey. However, I love even more these fellow travelers who continue to show their support, their kindness, and the need to make a difference in the world. If we have learned anything from this terrible pandemic, it is the challenges of isolation, of lose, and and despair. This group come together sharing what those feelings are like for a lifetime after making a mistake in the hope of criminal justice reform. Of the need to have personal and community growth, but most of all in the chance to shed a stigma of deep regret, shame and suffering and how to become a beacon of hope, compassion and tolerance!
I would once again like to share my personal growth and story. This past January will mark 20 years of an indelible mistake where I lost the trust and power given to me by the people who elected me to office. This occurred in the midst of a politically charged time and place that has forever stop me from pursuing jobs that would allow me to reach and help others due to the stigma of the label of white collar or political felon. These ties to my past have prevented me from being able to fully provide for my family, my local community and even the church congregation who I have done my best to serve over these past two decades.
I have lost many opportunities both in education and in ministry due to the label placed upon me, which has damaged the ability to move from an emerging ministry and towards a thriving ministry that can allow others to engage with me without fear of the burden of my past. It was an event that halted even volunteer ministry and service for me after years of service and goodwill. These hardships can be alleviated by a shared embrace of a community such as the one I have be privileges to be a part of with Progressive Prison Ministries, the Rev. Jeff Grant and all of those who seek to do good and recognize that every human person has value and worth.
I was the Sheriff of Bergen County, an elected position that I held from January of 1999 until my resignation on Jan. 11, 2001. I take full responsibility for my actions, and I wanted to share this part of my life. There was nothing I loved more than being a police officer and helping others. I followed in my Dad’s footsteps into Law Enforcement and I have had to find a new path in the midst of the trauma of that departure. I left office after a political scandal, which unfortunately was tied to my status as a gay man elected to my position, contributing to the fervor for my resignation and prosecution. At the conclusion of a 20 year career as a police officer, public official and community leader, I personally accepted responsibility for allowing politics as usual within my office, which I was a part of. I permitted my staff to continue past practices of that office. I acknowledged full responsibility for several mistakes that occurred and left in disgrace. I still continue to make those amends to this day, and will continue to until my last days.
First and foremost, the result of all of these experiences were a tremendous lesson in humility. One of the major reasons is to honor my father and mother who both dedicated their lives to public service in the New Jersey. I followed in both of their examples, first as a public servant, and now I am trying to be a servant to God’s people, that this stigma has prevented me from doing fully. My experience, from the political to the human tragedies in the stories I have come to hear over the past 5 years, has led me to fight even harder for social justice, criminal justice and political reform. This indeed has been a blessing from this dark and sad event.
I would like to congratulate the Rev. Jeff Grant for leading the way of self-reform, change, forgiveness, as well as how the impact of a criminal record and the need for some reform for non-violent offenders, and especially political crimes and the impact it has on our inability to labor and service ever again, especially in not being able to help others in a call to God’s service. I loved working with this amazing fellow travelers making the world a better place in the midst of loss and grief together we hope that everyone can learn to temper justice with mercy and offer love and forgiveness.
Fr. Joe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.