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Sister Katie Serving at Hour Children

by Jeff Smith

The charism of the IHM sisters calls us to rejoice and to share in Jesus' redemptive mission to proclaim the Good News of God's universal love and to recreate the face of the earth. Each day, our sisters do this through loving, hospitable and self-emptying service to the people of God.

In Long Island City, New York, Sister Katie Sitja y Balbastro serves as Intake Coordinator and House Manager at Hour Children, an organization providing supportive services to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women and their children. As part of her ministry, Sister Katie visits women in Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in Westchester County, and helps them remain connected to their children. She shares the following story.

“At Hour Children, we are privileged to take part in the redeeming mission of Jesus through our work with women in the prisons and, after their release, in our houses and programs. Not too long ago, while visiting women at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, I met Ayeisha. She had just given birth to her daughter, Chelsea, who was living with her on the Nursery Unit at the prison. They were supposed to be together for the first year of Chelsea’s life. However, after just four months, prison officials informed Ayeisha that a disciplinary infraction demanded her daughter’s immediate removal from the unit. With no family member or close friend to take Chelsea, Ayeisha’s only option was the New York City foster care system, where, she feared, they would never see each other again.”

“This news set us in action. Phone calls needed to be made, clothes and baby supplies found, and a crib put together. The next day, several of us were at Bedford Hills waiting for prison officials to release Chelsea to Hour Children. A trained foster mother from our community had agreed to take her for as long as she needed care.”

“Chelsea is now eighteen months old. Since she has come to live with us, we have brought her to the prison every other week to visit her mother. These times are precious, as they play, hug, sing, read books, take part in holiday celebrations and celebrate Chelsea’s birthday."

“Despite the hardships of the past, Chelsea is a healthy, well-adjusted baby. Ayeisha has since earned a GED and is now taking college classes in prison. With continued loving support, the bonds that they have forged will strengthen over the next four years until mother and child are reunited.”

“This story of mother and child is truly a redemptive one. Redemptive is rooted in the word redeem, which can mean to hallow or to make holy. Each day, we at Hour Children are privileged to recognize the holiness of the bond between mother and child and to support it by providing practical and compassionate services to these--the beautiful yet wounded people of God.”

To learn more about Sister Katie’s ministry, visit www.hourchildren.org

katieBalbastro-grad-May-2019 copy

Graduation Day at Bedford Correctional Facility