"Archbishop Cupich has appointed Fr. Mark Bartosic to serve as the new director of Kolbe House and pastor of Assumption B.V.M. Parish" (more)

Fr. Arturo To Retire On June 30, 2016

After 13 years of serving in the jail ministry at Kolbe House and after 44 years as serving as a priest, I am retiring as Pastor of Assumption Parish and Director of Kolbe House on July 1, 2016. I’m asking you to continue to pray for and support Kolbe House, the jail ministry of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Sometimes I am asked how I started working in jail ministry. My response is simple. After a Sunday filled with celebrating Masses, hearing confessions, doing baptisms, and answering parishioners’ questions, an elderly woman quietly approached me. She asked if I could visit her son in jail.

Surprised by her request and unsure about my reply I said that I would check into it. She had scrawled on a piece of paper her son’s information and placed it firmly in my hands. The next day I called Kolbe House and spoke with Deacon Ron De Rose who made all the necessary arrangements for me to visit her son.

On the scheduled night, we met and he took me into the jail. My first impression of the jail was the sound of the heavy steel doors that slammed shut behind us after we entered the restricted and secured area. The correctional officers had me wait in what seemed a small room until the detainee arrived. It was then my claustrophobia started acting up.

Gratefully after a few moments the young man entered. I quickly distracted myself and fixed my attention on him as we sat down to begin our conversation. We spoke for nearly an hour. Afterwards Ron led me out and said that I looked like I was OK with everything. He asked me if I would like to return. He did not know of the claustrophobic feeling that I had hidden from him. I said “Yes” to his invitation.

There is a popular proverb that says if you want to make God laugh, tell God your plans. This certainly rings true in my case. Serving in Cook County Jail was never part of my plans, but ministering to the incarcerated has been an enriching experience of ministry. In many ways I came to see that all of my previous pastoral experiences prepared me to serve those in jail.

Archbishop Cupich has appointed Fr. Mark Bartosic, an every capable priest, as the new Pastor of Assumption B.V. M Parish and Director of Kolbe House. He is currently pastor of two parishes, bilingual, and has the pastoral sensitivity required for this work

I could not be more pleased with this appointment since I know that Mark feels called by God to serve as a priest doing jail ministry. I count on your prayers and support for him as he takes on the leadership of Assumption Parish and Kolbe House.

This ministry has personally enriched me by working with the dedicated Kolbe House staff: Fr. David Kelly, Deacon Pablo Perez, Ms. Gloria Hernandez, Ms. Rosie Astorga, and Ms. Maria Trevino. Our Kolbe House volunteers have given a tremendous example of faithfulness in serving the detainees in Cook and Lake County Jail as well as the Juvenile Detention Center. They bring alive the Gospel mandate I was in prison and you visited me.

We as a Church are all involved in this ministry. I am especially grateful to the all the parishes that have developed a special relationship with us at Kolbe House through these years. The support of their priests, staff, and parishioners has been a constant source of strength for us who are involved in this ministry.

In a particular way you and I have developed a special relationship through these letters. You have allowed me to reflect and share my own personal jail experiences in an effort to help you connect, visualize, and feel what it is like to minister in Cook County Jail. In doing so, I have come to realize how deeply these experiences have imprinted my life and through some of your comments, yours also.

I am now being asked: “So what will you do after you retire?” Hoping not to make God laugh, I plan to take a sabbatical from July until December in order to rest, pray, and reorient my ministerial life. I would like to return to Kolbe House and volunteer in the jail as well as initiate what I am calling – the I-55 Project.

Interstate-55/ (the Stevenson Expressway) is the road that leads to many Illinois prisons. This project will enable me to take road trips and visit some of the men that I write in prison. To be frank some of these men are in for life or if not, when they are released I will be dead. Most of these prisons are three to five hours from Chicago so I will need to stay overnight.

I ask that you make a donation to this Kolbe House I-55 Project. Your gift to this project will help defray the cost of gas, lodging, continued correspondence, and other expenses of these visits. You will also be supporting Kolbe House in a new effort to reach out to those in prison who are not visited often. Any gift you make will be used for this project and not for any personal items. Please make your check out to Kolbe House.

As July approaches I am more and more grateful to God for the blessing of having been called to this ministry. Your past help and support have been sources of profound encouragement and life for me, more than you will ever know. As I have often written you are held in prayer and heart with gratitude for your kindness. Please continue to pray for those that we serve through Kolbe House.

I remain

Your brother in the Lord,

Reverend Arturo Perez Rodriguez

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