Miscellaneous » Outreach Ministries (Hands of Mercy) » Prison Ministry

Prison Ministry

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.
For more information about our Prison Ministry, contact Georgia Burke at [email protected]
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. 

Giving Tree

Kolbe House was added to our Giving Tree ministry in 2022. We successfully donated heavy winter coats in appropriate sizes to be given to those who are released in the winter months.  Incarcerated individuals are typically released with only the physical possessions they arrived with so many clothes may no longer fit or be seasonally appropriate.  We look forward to collecting for them again in the future.