Kolbe Group — for loved ones of people in jail or prison to listen to, encourage each other


Do a search on the web for “support group” in Mid-Missouri and you will be amazed at how many support groups are out there!

It is encouraging and hopeful that so many people who share a similar burden can come together and share their stories and support one another.

Now, imagine that you as a parent have a child who is incarcerated.

Or imagine one or both of your parents are incarcerated.

Imagine if a loved one was locked up behind bars.

Who would you talk to? Who do you let know that this is a reality for you?

Where is your support group in Mid-Missouri?

For some who have just read these opening lines, you do not have to imagine, because it is a reality for you. And, we believe that this is a reality that up to this point, you may have had to carry alone.

Kolbe Group wants to change that.

Kolbe Group is an ecumenical faith-based support group using the structure of the ancient Peace-Keeping circle.

It allows people to come together in a caring and safe environment to share stories, experiences, be listened to, be supported, and do the same for others who are in a similar situation.

Let’s break that sentence down a bit.

“Kolbe Group” is named after a man named Maximilian Kolbe.

Maximilian was a Roman Catholic priest who, like many, was arrested during the Holocaust.

During his captivity, one of his fellow captives escaped. Because of the successful escape, 10 men were randomly chosen to be put to death.

When one man was selected, he begged for his life because of his family that was awaiting him upon his release.

Maximilian witnessed this and said, “Let me go in his place; take me instead.”

In the end, he sacrificed his own life so that a person who was in prison could be reunited with his family one day.

What a great story of hope and encouragement for family members who have a loved one who is incarcerated!

Maximilian Kolbe is our role model; our witness.

While it is true that Maximilian Kolbe was a priest, this does not mean that Kolbe Group is only for Catholics. It is for anyone who has a loved one who is incarcerated in any county jail or prison.

Members of Kolbe Group can be of any faith, searching for a faith, or a person of no faith.

Please realize as the next part of our sentence states, that we are a faith-based group, so one will hear prayers, be invited to pray (silently or passing is okay, too) and will honor the space within that is open to and accepting of all God has done for us.

The format of the Kolbe Group is the Peace-Keeping Circle, which was originated by our indigenous brothers and sisters.

They realized that when problems came up that were caused by a person in the tribe, it was not good for that individual or the tribe for the person to be exiled. Instead, they asked a very different set of questions than our justice system asks today.

They asked: “What is the harm?” “Who caused the harm?” “Who was harmed?” and “How can the harm be repaired?”

Peace-Keeping circles are used for many other reasons besides conflict resolution. It is a very effective way to set the tone and environment of a group so that every person in the circle feels valued and can trust others enough to speak freely and share their own life journey and stories.

This does not happen by accident. It happens very intentionally.

Every Peace-Keeping circle that follows a set of Circle guidelines will be a safe, caring environment where stories and experiences are shared; a place where listening occurs and support is given.

The Peace-Keeping Circle will act as a support group for those who have loved ones incarcerated.

When you did your Google search of Support Groups, you probably didn’t find one of these in Mid-Missouri. That’s sad.

People who have loved ones that are incarcerated in jails or in prisons should not suffer alone. They should not have to keep it a secret or be fearful or ashamed to talk to anyone about it.

As St. Paul says in his First Letter to the Corinthians, “if one member of the body suffers, all suffer.”

We know members of our body are suffering in silence, and Kolbe Group means to bring that to an end.

People with loved ones who are incarcerated deserve to have their story heard and be listened to and have caring people who are going through similar situations support them as they provide support to others.

If you or someone you know has a loved one who is incarcerated in either a jail or correctional center, tell them about Kolbe Group.

The next meeting will be: from 7 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 28, at the West Ridge Event Center, 219 Murphy Ford Road in Centertown.

Kolbe Group is part of Prison Ministry under the umbrella of Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri.

Dr. Lepper, a member of St. Michael parish in Russellville, is an associate research professor at the University of Missouri School of Social Work.