The Saving Grace of Jail Inmates Since 1983
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. As a community steeped in hospitality, we seek hope and reconciliation through outreach, support and accompaniment. Through our ministry, the merciful love of the Father is shared…
… with the incarcerated, whom we serve as God’s beloved daughters and sons.
… with their families, to strengthen them as they too “do time” with their loved ones.
….with those called to the difficult, dangerous, crucial vocation of working in corrections.
… with the larger culture, inviting all to see in the incarcerated our own brothers and sisters.
Kolbe House is the agency of the Department of Parish Vitality and Mission of the Archdiocese of Chicago that deals directly with those involved in the criminal justice system. We provide one-on-one visits, counseling and religious services inside jails. We stand with ex-offenders — individuals reentering society after incarceration — and family members, providing them with emergency support and referrals to social services.
Kolbe House recognizes that the incarcerated are often victims themselves and that the system is larger than any of the individuals in it. On any given day, an estimated 8,000 adults are locked up in Cook County Jail, another 600 adults in Lake County Jail, and approximately 275 juveniles at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center.
Kolbe House works for change through educating the public about the reality of the criminal justice system and about those caught in it. We want the voting public to be as informed as possible about the complexities of justice questions. Kolbe House chaplains offer talks to interested groups, and we create and publish Making Choices, a journal that we mail to those in prison and to those released from prison.
Pastor and Director
Fr. Mark grew up in a small town in Ohio. He graduated from college with a theatre degree, and moved to Chicago in 1983 to pursue a career in acting. In 1989 he answered God's call to study at Mundelein Seminary. He was ordained priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1994.
Fr. Mark's first assignment was as Associate Pastor of St. Agnes of Bohemia and served there for six years. He was named Pastor of St. Frances of Rome in Cicero in 2001. In 2009 he became Pastor at Our Lady of Charity in Cicero, while retaining duties at St. Frances of Rome.
Fr. Mark was appointed Pastor of Assumption Parish and Director of Kolbe House in 2016.
Kolbe House Chaplain at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center
David Kelly is a Catholic priest of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood. He is the Executive Director of the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation (PBMR), a restorative justice project/community in the Back-of-the-Yards/Englewood communities. PBMR strives to be a resource to other groups and communities who seek healing and reconciliation.
David has worked for Kolbe House since 1985. For more than 30 years he has worked as a chaplain in Cook County Jail and Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. During that time, he has also worked in inner-city parishes.
David received his B.S. in Bio-Chemistry from St. Joseph’s College. He went on to receive a Masters of Divinity and Masters of Arts in Cross Cultural Studies. He also holds a Doctor of Ministry (D.Min) with a cross-cultural concentration from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. His doctoral thesis is entitled: Responding to Violence among Urban Youth: A Restorative Approach.
He is trained and certified as a mediator through DePaul University and received training in the restorative practice of Peacemaking Circles. He has published articles and spoken on reconciliation, restorative justice, and jail/detention ministry.
Deacon and Associate Director of Kolbe House
Kolbe House Chaplain at Cook and Lake County Jails
Deacon Pablo Perez joined our staff in September 2008. He was ordained a deacon in February 2008. Pablo volunteered at Kolbe House during the summer of 2006 as part of his diaconate formation. "I fell in love with jail ministry and knew then that I'd come back to be a jail chaplain," Pablo says.
Pablo was born in Guatemala and came to Chicago when he was four-years old. He grew up on the north side and graduated from Senn High School in Chicago. Pablo ministers at St. Bede the Venerable Parish on the Southwest side of Chicago, and he counsels couples and trains Eucharistic ministers and lectors, as well. He has been married for 24 years and has three children: two adults and one teenager.
Pablo says, "I was lucky to meet Fr. Larry Craig — it was the week before he died. He told me that as a volunteer I'd have to be able to go into jail and see Christ's face in those I'd visit. His words inspired me. Since then, I've seen the Holy Spirit moving us during the chapel services."
Coordinator of Outreach and Formation
Raised Catholic in rural Nebraska, Emily began developing a social consciousness throughout her youth and then young adulthood as a student at Creighton University. While serving as a post-graduate volunteer in Peru, she discovered a vocation in pastoral ministry. She then attended Catholic Theological Union, where her studies in Intercultural Ministry drew her toward restorative justice and reconciliation. She received training in peace circles and served her practicum at the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center with Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation.
Emily and her husband and family joined Assumption BVM Parish in 2016, drawn to the ministry of Kolbe House. Emily had been working in family ministry in a Southside parish and sought to dedicate her professional life more explicitly to restorative justice. As a staff member at Kolbe House, Emily hopes to connect more of the Catholic community through ministries of reconciliation that will provide a sense of hope and belonging to individuals and families affected by incarceration.
Emily also enjoys swimming, reading, gardening, and exploring the world at home and in the outdoors with her toddler.
Gloria Hernandez became the Kolbe House office manager in the spring of 2012. She has been a parishioner at Assumption B.V.M Parish for 25 years where she taught Religious Education and served on the Finance Council. She became familiar with the work of Kolbe House through her involvement in the parish.
After Gloria took an early retirement from J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, she came to work for Kolbe House. She says: “This is a ministry that may be viewed as one where time or effort should not be expended. However, this is exactly what makes this ministry so important. Having lived in the area where Kolbe House is based, I am familiar with what incarceration does to a family and the impact Kolbe House has to that situation.”
Gloria was born and raised in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. She brings specialized knowledge in information technology as well as well as years of corporate experience to Kolbe House. Gloria is thankful for this opportunity to gain a deeper understanding and contribute in some way to the jail ministry – a ministry she describes as one that is “truly served from the heart.”
Maximilian Kolbe was born in Poland in 1894. He entered the novitiate of the Conventual Franciscans in 1910. In 1914, he helped organize The Militia of the Immaculate Virgin Mary. In 1918, he was ordained to the priesthood in Rome. In 1922, he began publishing the magazine “Knight of the Immaculate,” first in Polish, and then in other languages.
With property donated by a nobleman, in 1927, he began building a town outside Warsaw. Called “Town of the Immaculate,” it was a center for training lay and ordained people to become apostles of Mary. In 1920, Kolbe opened a Marian publication apostolate in Nagasaki, Japan.
In 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland, arrested Kolbe and sent him to Auschwitz. Two years later, in July 1941, it was revealed that a prisoner had escaped from Kolbe’s block. All the prisoners from the block were assembled in the yard. They stood at attention the whole day. By the end of the day, the escapee had not been recovered. In consequence, 10 others would be chosen at random to die in his place.
One of the 10 chosen to die was Francis Gajowniczek. Mr. Gajowniczek cried out, “My poor wife, my poor children! What will happen to my family!” That is when Kolbe came forward, asked to exchange places with Gajowniczek.
Father Kolbe was sent to the starvation bunker. He led those with him in prayer. After two weeks, on the morning of August 14, 1941, he was injected with a lethal dose of carbolic acid.
He was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 10, 1982.