“Kairos”, from the Greek translation...Godʼs Special Time.
In 1975, Tom Johnson, an attorney and Catholic Cursillista from Miami, Florida, attended an ecumenical Cursillo gathering in Atlanta, Georgia. Tom Johnson had been imagining a Cursillo program in prison for some months. During the Atlanta meeting Tom learned some of the delegates were planning a prison weekend in Iowa. Tom approached the Iowa delegate, Pastor Gene Hermeier and asked permission to attend. One week later, Tom was observing a Cursillo weekend in an Iowa prison. Excited by the experience, he returned to Miami determined to begin Cursillo weekends in Florida prisons. That first weekend was held at Union Correctional Institution at Raiford, Florida in the fall of 1976.
By 1978, six or seven states were presenting a Cursillo short course in prison. The national Cursillo office determined these Cursillo in Prison ministries should be supervised by a central authority and that their format be modified to more closely align with inmate needs. Cursillo asked the Florida group to design such a program.
The Nine Old Men
The history continues with nine volunteers, who were on the very first weekend — today affectionately referred to as the “Nine Old Men." They redesigned the program and renamed it “Kairos” from the Greek tranlsation..."Godʼs Special Time".
The first Kairos was presented in 1979. Following that first "Kairos" Weekend, Cursillo asked other areas who were doing Cursillo weekends in prison to stop using the Cursillo name and join Kairos.
Today Kairos Prison Ministry and it's groups are supported by a staff of 12 and have more than 30,000 volunteers donating three (3) million hours of service each year. These volunteers serve in more than 400 correctional institutions and 86 communities in 37 states and 9 countries: Costa Rica, Australia, Canada, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
Kairos Prison Ministry now has 3 Ministry Programs
KAIROS INSIDE represents the he first “Kairos” Prison Ministry weekend that was presented in 1979.
In 1989 a chaplain at the San Quentin State Correctional Facility in California asked Kairos to create a program that would minister to the female family members of the incarcerated. In April 1990 the second of the Kairos programs, KAIROS OUTSIDE, held their first weekend in Northern California.
The third Kairos program, KAIROS TORCH, had its first weekend in September of 1997 at a youth facility in Oklahoma. Kairos Torch was developed uniquely to address young people (25 and under) experiencing incarceration through one-to-one volunteer mentoring.