Mission and Approach
What is the best part about doing what you do? To me, it is knowing that we have answered Jesus call to “serve the least of my brothers”. As stated above, the volunteers receive Graces that come from knowing that they have answered God’s call – even in such an insignificant way. This is not to say that we can smugly or even boastfully hold our head high knowing that we have done what Jesus has told us to do. Not at all. It is a humbling experience to be in the same room with men (or women) who have hit bottom and are searching for the Light. But for the Grace of God, go I...
To provide Catholic ministry to all persons incarcerated in area jails within Weekly access to Mass or Communion Service Weekly access to Catechesis or Scripture Study Weekly access to Ministry of Presence Facilitate regular access to Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Prison Ministers offer God’s unconditional love, compassionate forgiveness, and witness to the incarcerated through community worship, personal presence, catechesis and other varied activities.
Which prisons are you involved with? Volunteers visit incarcerated men, women and juveniles in the Johnson County, Kansas detention (jail) system. Those that we visit are either awaiting trial, or sentencing or transfer to a more permanent facility. We visit men at the Johnson County Detention Center in Gardner; we visit (mostly) women at the Johnson County Detention Center in Olathe; and at the Johnson County Juvenile Detention Center in Olathe we visit juveniles – both boys and girls under the age of 18. Recently we have been asked to visit youth at the Wyandotte County Detention Center. The visits are arranged through each facility and last for approximately one hour. Two volunteers are present at each session. One volunteer brings the Eucharist and we start each session with a Communion Service for those Catholics who want to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. Following Eucharist we “break open the Word” and the volunteers lead a discussion surrounding a Gospel reading that has been selected from one of the Liturgical Readings for the past or coming week. All sessions include personal petitions. The number of prisoners attending each weekly session varies. Some weeks there may be only a handful of prisoners and other weeks there may be twenty or more. WE HAVE NEVER EXPERIENCED AN INCIDENT WE FELT THREATENED OR INTIMIDATED IN ANY WAY. There is always a guard stationed in the area (who does not participate in the session). What we experience is heartfelt thanks from the prisoners. In addition, some volunteers participate in “one-on-one” sessions with prisoner who make such a request. Not all volunteers feel comfortable in such sessions, but we are fortunate to have volunteers who have both the time, the fortitude and the Spirit-inspired Grace to share Jesus with individual prisoners. We are in the process of implementing the Sacrament of Confession on a monthly basis. One of the priests in the Diocese will go out with the two volunteers and hear individual Confessions during the same session. We welcome any inquiries about our ministry. If you would like to learn more, please contact us. [website contact us link] Meetings are held on the third Monday of the month at the Church of the Ascension, 9510 W. 127th Street, Overland Park, KS – but we do not meet each month. Please contact us [link] or call John Stanley at 913-685-0351 to confirm that we are meeting on any given 3rd Monday. E-mails are sent out in advance to confirm meetings.
The St. Dismas Prison Outreach began in 2005 at Church of the Ascension at the request of pastor, Fr. Tom Tank. The outreach started through the social concerns committee and was headed by Ascension parishioner Ken Billinger who was the coordinator for over 6 years. The Ministry is named after the “Good Thief”, St. Dismas – who Jesus promised would be with Him in Paradise. The roots of SDPO, go much deeper than its humble beginnings in 2005. Louis Parre, a member of St. Paul’s Parish in Olathe began a ministry of serving inmates with Bible study, Eucharist and the message of Hope more than 20 years earlier. Louis regularly visited inmates at the county jails in Wyandotte and Johnson counties, as well as the State Prison in Lansing and the Federal Penitentiary in Leavenworth. Louie served as a mentor to Ken for five years until his untimely death in 2010. Ken Billinger said, "When I got the call that Louie had passed away, I was devastated. He was a mentor, friend and role model to me. It was then that I realized that God's plan for me was to fill Louie's very big shoes." He went on to say that, "Louie had a passion for helping others through the prison ministry, and his legacy will live on for many years to come." But Louie never took credit for all he did throughout his 25 years. In fact Parre always said, "It wasn't me, it was the guidance of the Holy Spirit." Indeed, we at SDPO owe our beginnings to this “Instrument of the Holy Spirit” – Mr. Louis Parre. Today, the ministry is coordinated by John Stanley, a member of Ascension Parish. The SDPO continues serving both the Olathe and Gardner facilities in Johnson County; and in 2011 began serving the Youth Detention Center for Johnson County in Olathe. The ministry is localized in Johnson County. In 2013 we will begin serving at the Youth Detention Center in Wyandotte County. In addition to Ascension Parish, volunteers come from many other parishes as well. The ministry is a way to bring the Catholic faith to those incarcerated, and to spread the message of hope for those who often times feel hopeless. Volunteers are always needed for this important ministry, and those who feel called are encouraged to contact us.