There are many ways that we can all help “returning citizens” who are being released from prisons and jails.    One example is that on release they will not have the basic necessities to travel as they try to get home to      their communities.

The students from Newman Center of Southern Illinois University-Carbondale (SIUC) found a way and    traveled about 130 miles to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows to assemble thirty “St. Eugene Care Packs.”

The “St. Eugene Care Packs” are given to inmates at Southwestern Illinois Correction Center (SWICC) so that  when they leave and travel by bus, train or car to reach their destination they would have the basic  necessities (hygiene products, soap, towels, socks, shaving items etc.) as they begin a life as a “returning  citizen.”

The Newman Center students wanted to help those that were under-served and searched for an appropriate project for the “Year of Mercy.” The leader of the group, Jennifer Kramper, a campus ministry intern at the Newman Center contacted Fr. Chris Reuter (Coordinator of Prison Ministry for the Diocese of Belleville) and he suggested to contact Geri Furmanek (National Director of Mission Enrichment). Geri has an ongoing project in prison ministry to prepare adult care packs for men who are exiting SWICC in East St. Louis, IL.

The connection worked and a nine member group of students from the Newman Center worked all day to assemble thirty “St. Eugene Care Packs” that would be given to the men during the coming month when they leave SWICC as they travel back to their home community.
Prison ministry is an Oblate tradition going back to St. Eugene de Mazenod. The items that go into the care packs are all donations from friends, family, co-workers, Oblates and Oblates Associates. The various items have been cleared by Internal Affairs of SWICC and the total cost of each care pack is estimated at $50.
This is just another example of how needs communicated will surface many men and women who want to serve in prison ministry and many times do not know what and how to go about this service. We always welcome inquiries from clergy, deacons and lay volunteers and are always able to make connections with the many needs of the incarcerated men and women and those who are “returning citizens.”

Reference: Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate – United States Province
“University Students Spend Service Day with Oblate Prison Ministry”