While there are many types of restorative practices, the foundational practice known as circle process (also called restorative circles or peacemaking circles) can be particularly applicable in ministerial spaces.
This dialogical process engages intentional seating, a talking piece, ceremony, and structured prompts to address harm and conflict in community. Because the talking piece moves in the order of the circle and allows all voices to be heard, circles invite deep listening, connection, shared power, and creative possibilities.
Increasingly, Catholic parishes, schools, and ministries turn to circle process to build community, reflect, learn, and foster encounters rooted in human dignity.
For generations, Native American and Indigenous peoples around the world have used participatory and inclusive processes to address conflict and make decisions in community. We are particularly grateful to those who have shared the wisdom of the peacemaking circle tradition and seek to elevate it with integrity.
It is important that any non-Indigenous practitioners understand and acknowledge these connections.
Users of this guide may find circles as a meaningful avenue for:
Engaging with the guide as a group to build trust, reflect on learnings, discern next steps, and reflect on engagement.
Addressing harms, needs, and conflict within the church environment.
Welcoming new members of a community or reintegrating members who have been separated.
Celebrating joys, achievements, and milestones.
Processing pain and trauma of current events.
Exploring issues of concern and processing next steps.
Reflecting on Scripture as a group.
Many of us have likely been part of sharing or prayer circles in the past. Depending on your experience, the restorative practice of circle process may feel very familiar or distinct due to the particular elements involved.
Key elements of circle process include: a talking piece, a centerpiece, established values/guidelines, guiding questions, a circle keeper, and an opening/closing ceremony.
Circle processes also aim to balance relationship building and problem solving by placing equal emphasis on first getting acquainted, then building trust, followed by addressing the issue, and finally developing a plan.
We encourage readers of this guide to explore the multitude of resources dedicated to explaining the particular components of circle process.
Precious Blood Center's Peacemaking Circle