History

Our Brothers’ Keepers of Southern Illinois grew out of the dreams of several ordained and lay prison ministers in the Catholic Diocese of Belleville, Illinois. After several years of experience inside the prisons of southern Illinois and with an ever-increasing awareness of parolees’ recidivism, they concluded that ministry only during incarceration is not enough. They decided that action needed to be taken to help the released avoid returning to prison as well.

Recognizing the need for a “returning citizens’ reentry house in St. Clair County, retired Bishop Stanley G. Schlarman and Father Christian Reuter, O.F.M., undertook a four-pronged initiative. First, they communicated their idea to fellow Catholics active in prison ministry. Second, they contacted St. Leonard’s Ministries, Chicago, IL, a residential housing facility providing services and programs for formerly incarcerated men leaving the Illinois prison system and returning to the community. These contacts resulted in Victor Gaskins (Program Director) becoming a member of our Advisory Board to assist us in programs and reentry services. Third, they visited numerous parish organizations and Knights of Columbus councils to heighten awareness and enlist potential support. Fourth, they communicated the dream to the Most Reverend Edward K. Braxton, Bishop of Belleville, to seek his advice and support. This approach yielded immediate fruit. On October 17, 2013, a group of about twenty-five Catholic prison ministers, social service providers and potential volunteers, met at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows to hear representatives from St. Leonard Ministries and to begin the first stages of planning. A “planning committee” of six was formed to take the first steps.

For both theological and practical reasons, the committee members realized immediately that the reentry project must be ecumenical. At the suggestion of Bishop Braxton, they began reaching out to the Lutheran and Episcopal communities. Bishop S. John Roth (Central/Southern Illinois Synod (ELCA) became a member of Our Brothers’ Keepers Advisory Board and Michael S. Davis, Executive Director of Prisoner and Family Ministries of Lutheran Social Services of Illinois a member of  the Board of Directors. To eventually include participation of other churches and community agencies, the planners are also in dialogue with the Community Support Advisory Council (CSAC), United Congregations of Metro-East (UCM), and other groups.Our Brothers’ Keepers of Southern Illinois was incorporated in the State of Illinois under the General Not For Profit Corporation Act as of August 25, 2014.

In an effort to reverse Cain’s abdication of responsibility (Genesis 4:9), Our Brothers’ Keepers of Southern Illinois was incorporated in the State of Illinois under the General Not for Profit Corporation Act as of August 25, 2014. OBK also has received tax exempt status from Federal income tax under section 501 (c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code on June 25, 2015. In addition, a set of OBK By-Laws and an OBK Policies and Procedures Handbook were completed. The OBK operations are handled by a professional Board of Directors. Whenever the obstacles have seemed too great, the OBK team has been inspired by the example of Pope Francis, who reached out to prisoners at the very beginning of his papacy.

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Helpful Links

Illinois Prison Project

Catholic Prison Ministries Coalition

Catholic Mobilizing Network

Waysidecross Prison Ministry/

Catholic Conference of Illinois: Prison and Jail Ministry

Disciple Bible Outreach of IL

St. Leonard's Ministry

Southern Illinois District Prison Ministry

Dismas Ministry

Contact Us

Email: kpeterson@obkministry.org

OBK Reentry Office:
614 N. 7th Street,
East St. Louis, IL
62201-3085

Office Phone: 618-271-7821

Agency Director:
Kirsten Marie Peterson
kirstenmpeterson25@gmail.com

Program Director:
Mike Schuette
obkpmschuette@gmail.com

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    Remembering Father Christian Reuter, O.F.M.

    By SUZANNE KOZIATEK
    Staff writer

    A year ago, the men and women who serve southern Illinois inmates’ spiritual needs lost their leader, Father Christopher Reuter, OFM.

    It’s been a year of poignant reminders and a determination to continue to fulfill Father Reuter’s vital work, says Louis Slapshak, associate director for prison ministry for the Diocese of Belleville.

    “He will never be replaced,” Slapshak says. “He will never be forgotten, since he lived his legacy that will carry on through each of us who lived it with him.”

    Read the Messenger article…

    Remembering Father Christian Reuter, O.F.M.

    Father Christian Reuter, OFM, is being remembered for his early work in the Civil Rights Movement and his admirable work with inmates in southern Illinois prisons and with ex-offenders. Father Reuter died June 30, 2018, following complications from back surgery. He was 79. In a statement, Bishop Edward K. Braxton said: “As we pray for dear Father Reuter, we are mindful of his joyful, unselfish, and tireless ministry on behalf of the imprisoned and the marginalized. From this perspective, it seems providential that the name given to him at baptism was “Christian.” His life truly embodied the teachings and example of the Christ-centered ministry of his patron, St. Francis of Assisi. Father Reuter reminded all of us, including the Bishops of Illinois, to become more aware of and to become more responsive to the needs of those in prison. He taught us forcefully that the person in every prison cell is Jesus Christ himself. ‘When I was in prison you visited me. Now enter into the joy of my Father!’”

    Read the article…

    Father Christian Reuter, OFM, –
    Celebrates 50th Anniversary as a Franciscan Priest

    Fr. Christian Reuter celebrated Eucharist at his 50th Priesthood Anniversary on Sunday, June 26, 2016, at 11:00 AM, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church (411 Palmer Road, Columbia, IL.). Co-celebrants were Bishop Stanley Schlarman (Diocese of Belleville Bishop in Residence), Fr. William Spencer, OFM Provincial Minister (Sacred Heart Province, St. Louis, MO) and Fr. Carl Scherrer (Immaculate Conception Pastor). Fr. Chris was especially grateful to all who participated in the liturgy and in particular Otto & Mildred Reuter and the many family members, fellow clergy & religious, parishioners, students, and colleagues who spanned 50 years of priestly service, especially those who can only be with us today in spirit. After the Eucharist all gathered for a luncheon in the Fellowship Hall.

    Read more…