Kolbe House is the agency of the Department of Parish Vitality and Mission of the Archdiocese of Chicago that serves individuals and families affected by the criminal justice system. Compelled by the Gospel mandate, “I was in prison and you visited me,” Kolbe House at Assumption BVM — a parish-based jail ministry — is a sanctuary for those impacted by incarceration. We seek to promote restoration and reconciliation through outreach, support and accompaniment. We follow the example of St. Maximilian Kolbe to love and hope in the midst of evil and despair.
You can learn more about Kolbe House on the Archdiocese of Chicago's website.
Click here to read about Mary Drill Hermanek's experience...
I have been a parishioner for over 20 years and I was a St. Josaphat school parent, coach and Athletic Director for many years. When my youngest moved on to high school, I took a break from my involvement with the parish to focus on my business. I also got involved in a friend's foundation that provides programming and events to support and inspire South-side mothers. Ultimately, the goal of this foundation is to empower these moms to become positive role models in their communities and promote positive change. I also became a mentor to a single mother (Sara) and it has been a rewarding experience. In contrast to Sara, I had a strong Catholic family upbringing. Both of my parents were at almost every concert and sporting event of their 7 children. To say I had a lot of support is an understatement. Sara grew up with a supportive father but a drug-addicted mother and at least one brother who was incarcerated for several years.
When the events of George Floyd sparked civil unrest, Sara and I discussed the local and national riots and marches and what positive solutions might come of the events. We talked about South-side crime, gun violence, the daily survival instinct so many in her community rely on every day, and how sometimes just living one day at a time is the only way to avoid hopelessness. It wasn't hard to see how easy it would be for the young men and women of these neighborhoods to consider this environment normal. They grow up there then they raise their children there. For generations it is cyclical with the exception of cases of “divine intervention” or those very brave parent(s) who pack up their family and move away from all their friends and relatives. The situation seems impossible.
This was very frustrating to hear. Why isn't someone doing something to help stop this vicious cycle? I felt a strong calling to make a difference, but I didn't have a background in social work, and there were so many organizations trying to make a difference that I wasn't sure where to start. When I heard about Kolbe House Jail Ministry I knew it was my chance to help. If I could affect even one person, it would be worth it! I first got involved by sending birthday cards to incarcerated individuals who had signed up for the program. The idea is to send words of encouragement and hope on their birthday and to tell them you are praying for them. I have sent 6-8 birthday cards in the last 6 months. Recently, I decided I could handle a bigger commitment with the Letter Writing Ministry, so now I also write one letter a month to my assigned incarcerated pen pal, Mario.
Georgia Burke, our parishioner who manages our relationship with the Archdiocese’s Kolbe House Jail Ministry, is so helpful and organized! She easily got me started on letter writing with guidelines, tips and hints! I am just getting started with Mario now and literally just got a notice this morning that he has sent a letter back to me (through a secure portal.) I feel like my prayers for him and words of encouragement could help him change his trajectory! It is a great feeling to think I could maybe affect even one person, one life.
Mary Drill (Hermanek)
Birthday Card Mission
Kolbe House needs our help sending birthday cards to their incarcerated clients. Beginning in May, 2021 we began our Birthday Card Mission. Each month, Kolbe House sends us a list and our volunteers will receive a name, address and guidelines for writing to people who are incarcerated. Cards should be joyful and inspirational.
Our 2021 Lenten Mission
In 2021, we began our Lenten Mission to help those individuals and families affected by the criminal justice system. Compelled by the Gospel "I was in prison and you visited me", Kolbe House is a jail ministry, for those impacted by incarceration. Kolbe House, a St Josaphat Unity Award recipient, seeks to promote reconciliation through outreach. There are two ways you can help this Lent:
Become a Prayer Partner - You will be "matched" with a Kolbe House "re-entry" client, an individual who was recently released from jail or prison and you will commit to praying for them during Lent. You will receive information about your partner and prayers throughout Lent to increase your understanding of the barriers to re-entry. If you are interested in becoming a prayer partner, please contact Kelly Smith. We need at least 25 partners by Ash Wednesday.
Provide donations for care packages - We will be collecting white wash cloths and puzzle books (crossword, sudoku, activities) to be included in care packages for women incarcerated at Cook County Jail. Ideally we would like to make 100 care packages. Please drop these items off at the rectory by March 19th. If you have any questions please contact Kelly Smith.
Our Annual Christmas Mission
Want to get rid of those extra, unused Christmas cards in your house? Fr. Francis collects Christmas Cards and stamps to bring to Kolbe House Jail Ministry to give those imprisoned the opportunity to send cards to their friends, family and loved ones. Please drop off your donations at the rectory or back of church no later than a week before Christmas.