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Jail & Prison Ministry aiding man with recovery

Mentor, circle of support play major role in successes

By Dan Russo
Witness Editor

MASON CITY — Thanks to hard work, prayer and aid from Catholic Charities’ Jail & Prison Ministry, a father and son have been reunited.

Shawn Rockwell, a participant in one of the agency’s Circles of Support and Accountability for people who have recently been released from incarceration, has been making great strides on the road to recovery since getting involved with the ministry in July of 2019.

“Catholic Charities is No. 1 in my book,” said Rockwell when speaking about his journey. “The positive support from my mentors and being able to break down my goals step by step has been so helpful.”

After being arrested and charged with drug related offenses, Rockwell was offer­ed a chance to participate in a drug court in the Mason City area. The special initiative, in operation in some counties in Iowa and others around the nation, gives people facing sentences for nonviolent crimes stemming from their addictions an alternative to jail. Instead, they are offered a spot in a 12- to 18-month program. To graduate, participants must undergo intensive treatment while fulfilling a requirement to work and meeting other conditions.

It was through this drug court that Rockwell met Jacob Shepard, Catholic Charities’ Jail & Prison Ministry coordinator for the western part of the Archdiocese of Dubuque. Shepard connected Rockwell with his mentor, John Roisen, who spends time with him one-on-one. He also began attending meetings with his “circle.” The regular gatherings give the core member the opportunity to get feedback and guidance from other members who are volunteers from the community.

“You come to a point where you surrender and you allow people to help you,” said Shepard of his experiences with Rockwell. “You do whatever it takes to change.”

At the time Rockwell began the drug court program, his son was in the custody of the Department of Human Services, but the father has since been able to get to the point where he is now living with and caring for the child once again.

Shepard helped Rockwell find housing, and Catholic Charities assisted with paying for a security deposit. The day he got his apartment was a major milestone.

“I’m glad God was with us that day,” said Shepard.

Presently, Rockwell is happy to be back with his son and is making progress. He still has more to do before graduating from the drug court program. Shepard is optimistic and hopes Rockwell’s circle and mentor will continue to play a positive role in his life.

“(Rockwell’s) transparency and his accountability set him apart,” said Shepard.

For more information on how to volunteer with Catholic Charities’ Jail & Prison Ministry or how to support the agency in other ways, visit


(Left to right): Audrey Wolf (circle member), Shawn Rockwell (core member), John Roisen (mentor/circle leader), Dianne Roisen (circle member). Rockwell became involved with a mentor and Circle of Support and Accountability through Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque in 2019. (Contributed photo)