The Hilde Project
In March 2013, St. Matthew’s parish member Rosemary Bratton traveled to Germany as part of a pilgrimage to St Hildegard’s Homeland. In Germany she learned with amazement what Hildegard accomplished in her life as a cloistered nun living closely with other nuns. As she walked through the ruins in Disibodenberg and stood in the small space that was Hildegard’s home, she was reminded of the incarcerated women at the Women’s Center in Lusk. She began to see the correlation between cloistered women and incarcerated women and to see Hildegard and her life as a model for her own life and for women who are incarcerated or disenfranchised by poverty, criminal involvement, homelessness, drug and alcohol issues and victim/survivors of domestic violence.
"St. Hildegard serves as a model for women who are incarcerated or disenfranchised by poverty, criminal involvement, homelessness, drug and alcohol issues and victim/survivors of domestic violence."
In Wyoming, like most states, funding for prison education programs is tight. Current programming includes adult basic education, which is mandatory for inmates without a high school diploma, as well as some college credit courses. Several years ago, a team of University of Wyoming professors saw a need for greater college-credit offerings. Despite limited funding, Gender & Women’s Studies Program faculty members, along with Rosemary Bratton of the Wyoming Women’s Business Center, created a successful partnership with the Wyoming Department of Corrections (DOC) to deliver more educational content, starting with the Wyoming Women’s Center in Lusk. The Wyoming Pathways from Prison Project was the result of that partnership. Begun in 2015, in-depth interviews were conducted with 40 incarcerated women in Lusk and 28 women on probation to determine the challenges to community reintegration faced by the women. The needs assessment resulted in 12 evidencebased recommendations, including many of those implemented by Rosemary at the Lusk facility.
The vision for The Hilde Project began for founder and director Bratton with the trip to Germany. Inspired by the life and teachings of St Hildegard, The Hilde Project’s mission is to empower women to achieve self-sufficiency through jobs, education, life skills and mentoring. The Hilde Project provides education and support services for disenfranchised women.
The Hilde Project’s mission is to empower women to achieve self-sufficiency through jobs, education, life skills and mentoring.
The original vision to teach knitting, crocheting and sewing skills, provide small business development education and have a marketplace where women could sell their creations as a way to support themselves and their children has evolved and changed as Covid and staff shortages at the facility limited in-person visits and hands-on interaction. Even Zoom has been difficult as it requires staff presence to set up and monitor Zoom rooms. “Nevetherless, she persisted” and Rosemary continues to advocate fiercely for the women incarcerated at the Lusk Women’s Center. Currently The Hilde Project provides the women with donated yarn for their Project Love Creations, delivers boxes of books from the Albany County Library, and in 2020 delivered about two hundred plants for the flower gardens. The funding for the plants was provided by the Foundation for the Episcopal Church in Wyoming and Rosemary made several trips to Lusk with her car filled with flowers. Rosemary developed curriculums for reentry and domestic violence classes and facilitated both until 2019 when Covid happened.
Currently Bratton facilitates Women for Sobriety and Living Compass. Women for Sobriety is a recovery program designed for women and focuses on 13 acceptance statements which provide direction and guidance on how to change a habitual way of thinking and shows the way for change to happen. Living Compass offers the women an opportunity to pause and check their bearings as to where they are heading in different aspects of their lives and themselves and asking “Am I heading in the direction that I desire for myself?” Whole person wellness examines all dimensions of life Heart, Soul, Strength and Mind. One of the dreams that has not been attained is a mentoring program for formerly incarcerated women in Wyoming.
Women leaving the prison in Lusk or their local city or county jail are usually returning to their communities, often in rural areas of Wyoming where they frequently lack social bonds and support networks. This vision provides a mentoring program for women who have the hope, desire, drive, ambition and potential to achieve specific goals with mentors who have the know-how, experience, wisdom and resources to assist them toward the achievement of their goals. Episcopal churches across Wyoming could be instrumental in making this dream a reality.
For more information on The Hilde Project, contact Rosemary Bratton at firstname.lastname@example.org