• East St. Louis Planning Commission (October 19, 2016)
  •  Introductory Remarks by Fr. Reuter
  • East St. Louis Planning Commission (October 26, 2016)
  • Closing Remarks by Hon. Milton Wharton
  • Concluding the Year of Mercy (November 6, 2016)
  • Remarks by Fr. Reuter
  • National Catholic Prison Ministry Conference (November 10-11, 2016)
  • “Concluding the Year of Mercy Behind Bars”
  • Presentation by Fr. Reuter on National Prison Ministry Organizations
  • Presentation on Prison Ministry – Diocese of Rockford, Illinois
  • “The Light of Christ Shines through the Dark Night of Prison”
  • Letter from Apostolic Nunciature United States of America (Sept. 12, 2016)

East St. Louis Planning Commission (October 19, 2016)

(Reference: OBK Returning Citizens HOME – October Progress Report)

Introductory Remarks by Fr. Reuter

Fr. Christian Reuter (OBK Treasurer) gave a brief introduction to the ESL Planning Commission on October 19th based on a short quotation from the Long Walk to Freedom, the autobiography of Nelson Mandela:

“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails.”

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Planning Commission:  I am Father Christian Reuter, a resident of East St. Louis for 15 years, Prison Ministry Coordinator for the Catholic Diocese of Belleville, a Director and Treasurer of Our Brothers’ Keepers of Southern Illinois.

Shortly after I saw the “inside” of our criminal justice system, I realized that our ministries must also extend to the “outside” – especially to the critical time of transition from incarceration to responsible citizenship. It became painfully apparent that here in our part of the state we have very little supervised housing for our returning citizens. The statistics on offender recidivism bear this out.

Thus began our faith-based initiative to provide this “missing piece” in our local community. Unlike the guilty Cain after the murder of Abel in the biblical story, we accept the responsibility of being “Our Brothers’ Keepers”. We have done our homework – careful research and planning, competent personnel and consultants. We are legally incorporated, financially sound, insured, and professionally staffed; we even have furniture, appliances, and household necessities waiting in storage! The only thing still lacking is a suitable property and building.

We appear before you this evening not just to receive a rubber-stamp approval from the Commission, but to ask you to join us as partners in the realization of this dream. This will surely serve as a model on how civic and private sector leaders can cooperate to make effective and lasting reforms.

Nelson Mandela not only was a personal success story, but he was also instrumental in dismantling the evil system Apartheid in South Africa and reconciling all parties. He said:

 “A nation should be judged not by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones”.

I believe that, working together in East St. Louis, we, too, can rise to that level.


East St. Louis Planning Commission (October 19, 2016)

(Reference: OBK Returning Citizens HOME – October Progress Report)

Closing Remarks by Hon. Milton Wharton

The OBK house might only serve 5-7 men and you might see that as a very small help to the community. I would like to tell you that if we save only one man that would be the greatest gift we could give to the community. Since that one person will be able to restore a family and also give back to the community. This will also allow the man to contribute to the economy and also to have a job that would in the end benefit the community.

My other observation about the criminal justice system that operates here in East St. Louis is that men in jails are required to pay bond money to get out prior to their court appearance. Most of the times they don’t get the money back. They appear in court and then are afraid to come back and get the money since they believe they will be charged with something else. This is a robbery of the East St. Louis people. The money collected is not returned to East St. Louis, but is put in the general fund of St. Clair County and spent on County projects.

I would like to express my strong thanks and support of the dedicated men and women of OBK who are working to help our African-American brothers and sisters. It is about time that we address our returning citizens who will come back to this community. They will be in need of supportive housing and services that allow them to reenter their family structure and also contribute to our own community. The OBK group does not just talk about change they are putting things into action for our African-American brothers and sisters.


Concluding the Year of Mercy (November 6, 2016)

Remarks by Fr. Christian Reuter, O.F.M.

(Sacramental Minister, Immaculate Conception Parish)

On Tuesday, November 6th, our nation will be mercifully delivered from an election year that all will agree has been the most polarizing in memory. Somehow, after the decisions have been made at the ballot box, we must all come together for reconciliation and healing. That, too, will be long and difficult; but I am confident that our nation’s character is strong enough to meet the challenge.

Often you can evaluate candidates just as much by the issues they avoid as by the ones they address in their speeches and debates. Perhaps I missed it, but I recall no serious discussion of criminal justice reform in this year’s campaign rhetoric. I understand the reasons for the silence, but I have to say that it is very troubling for those of us who work in prison ministry. From the statistics of incarceration and the costs of operations we know how badly broken is our system. Even worse, we see the devastating effect on prisoners, families and communities.

Pope Francis, by contrast, has made no secret of his commitment to justice for all people; and he repeatedly shows his compassion for the incarcerated in both word and action. Today in Rome he is celebrating a special Mass for prisoners as part of the conclusion of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. He has asked, moreover, that every diocese in the world create a lasting memorial in the form of an ongoing ministry.

Our Brothers’ Keepers of Southern Illinois is one of the efforts we are making in the Diocese of Belleville to respond to the Holy Father’s request, and we are so grateful to Immaculate Conception Parish (Columbia, IL) for supporting our proposed prisoner reentry home in many creative ways. And our efforts are beginning to be noticed in other parts of our state and country.

The God of Mercy is anxious to heal and bless our nation and world. We must remember that in the end there cannot be both winners and losers. We are members of one human family who share a common home on this fragile earth.


National Catholic Prison Ministry Conference (November 10-11, 2016)

Fr. Reuter speaks about the current situation of National Catholic Prison Ministry


In recent years there have been two organizations that purported to gather Catholic prison ministers at the national level: the American Catholic Correctional Chaplains Association (ACCCA) and the National Convocation of Jail and Prison Ministry (NCJPM). The ACCCA, a largely male group, billed itself as the “official” body for chaplains and focused on their professional certification. It collected dues, elected officers, held annual meetings, had a newsletter, and maintained a website. The NCJPM predominantly female prided itself on having no formal structure and held only annual gatherings. Both organizations suffered from declining membership and participation in the past fifteen years. The NCJPM last met several years ago, and the ACCCA was officially dissolved in August of 2016. The demise of these two groups has created a void and leaves Catholic criminal justice ministers without a home of their own.


We have arrived at a moment of decision. We can either reinvent another version of the structures that have become obsolete and failed us, or we can imagine and create something altogether new. We must have the courage to chart a new course that reflects both our unity and diversity. In managerial terms it’s called “networking.” Which is nothing else than what we proclaim theologically of the Body of Christ – one Church with many unique members. Our new “National Catholic Criminal Justice Ministry Network” (or whatever we choose to call it) must be built on a carefully maintained balance of vertical authority and horizontal collegiality – which we have long recognized as “the Principle of Subsidiarity” in Catholic social justice teaching. The crisis of crime and punishment in America calls for nothing less from the institutional Church, its various agencies and jurisdictions, its organizations and members. Our new creation must have both the structure to endure and the flexibility to respond to the ongoing challenges of mass incarceration. Our bishops have called us to this ideal and in their pastoral letter Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration, and Pope Francis has clearly shown us the direction to take.


Presentation on Prison Ministry – Diocese of Rockford, Illinois

“The Light of Christ shines through the Dark Night of Prison”

“The Light of Christ shines through the Dark Night of Prison” was presented on October 27 at St. Rita Parish (Rockford, IL). Fr. Reuter described the “darkness” in criminal justice and why the Catholic bishops labeled it “a broken system.” Fr. Reuter was joined in the discussion by Brian Nelson on the effects of solitary confinement, Laura Ortiz on her calling to prison ministry, and Lou Slapshak on the critical role that faith-based community support plays for a successful transition back into society for the returning citizen. He also highlighted the prison ministry leadership curriculum available through the theology department of Lewis University (Romeoville, IL).


National Federation of Priest’s Councils (contact Mr. Alan Szafraniec)

NFPC works through priests’ councils to promote and ensure the intimate sacramental brotherhood of priests throughout the entire U.S. presbyterate, supporting bishops and priests to serve in communion, brotherhood and solidarity. Fr. Reuter was asked and is preparing a 2000 word article on prison ministry for the NFPC Touchstone newsletter. The theme would be on general awareness of prison ministry and the need to focus on prison reentry in terms that each returning citizen needs a parish to welcome him. (Reference: www.nfpc.org)


Letter from Apostolic Nunciature United States of America (September 12, 2016)

Fr. Reuter received a letter from Archbishop Christophe Pierre (Apostolic Nuncio) that came from the Congregation for Clergy (Pope Francis) that requested communications on the state of pastoral care for those in prison and to learn about the life and ministry of priests who dedicate themselves to caring for prisoners. Fr. Reuter responded with a 24 page report that provided insight on the current state of prison ministry in the U.S.