THE “THRIVE FOR LIFE” PRISON PROJECT – SUPPORTED BY THE ARCHDIOCESE OF NEW YORK – ENSURES FORMERLY INCARCERATED INDIVIDUALS REINTEGRATE INTO SOCIETY
—This Women’s History Month, The Archdiocese of New York is highlighting the work of Thrive for Life and Sister Katie Sitjay Balbastro, a mentor within the prison project who has spent her life serving marginalized communities—
New York City, March 2, 2023 – The Archdiocese of New York is proud to support and highlight the work of Thrive for Life, a prison project founded by Fr. Zach Presutti SJ that mentors incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals on their journey to reentry. With programs across six correctional facilities in New York and New Jersey, the organization has helped transform thousands of lives behind and beyond prison walls.
In 2019, Thrive for Life opened the Ignacio House of Studies, a transitional housing project for men leaving prison interested in continuing their education with one of their partnering colleges or universities. Since then, the Ignacio House has helped approximately 40 people take their steps to reenter society with the cooperation and support of the Archdiocese of New York.
This Women’s History Month, The Archdiocese of New York highlights the mission of Sister Katie Sitjay Balbastro, who works with the project overseeing their facilities and mentoring the men who come through the Ignacio House, “It’s all about building relationships,” she said. “We’re helping them at a time when they are really struggling. Some have been incarcerated for a long time, and we know society moves very fast. It is not easy to cope with those changes. We take the time to really listen. That is how the coaching begins.” The organization provides wellness, academic, technological, and career mentorship.
Born and raised in Argentina, Sister Balbastro got her college degree in Political Science and International Relations, traveled the world, and met people from all walks of life before finding her spiritual calling. Since then, she has spent her religious life serving marginalized communities.
“Sr. Katie is an indispensable member of the Thrive for Life family and enlivens our mission.” Fr. Zach Presutti SJ said, “Through her intentional mentorship of our resident scholars and diligence in helping us forge strong bonds of community, she sets an example of what true religious vocation is in daily life. I am grateful to her for all she does to bring life to our community and Church as work to transform lives.” Fr. Presutti concluded.
As a Latina, Sister Balbastro cares about tackling the racial disparity in the United States prison system, “We know that a large part of the prison population in the country is Latino, and an even bigger portion is Black.” Incarceration continues to be a problem that disproportionately affects people of color: over 30% of those in prison are Latinos, while almost 40% are Black (source).
Sister Balbastro invites those in the community who want to help fix this trend to volunteer as mentors with Thrive for Life, “You can help these citizens reintegrate and reconnect with their families,” she added. “Every person behind bars has a family – loved ones who care for them. We’re here to help them move forward, but we’re also here to help them regain a support system many of them have lost. Their success out in the real world depends on it. We all go through ups and downs in life and going at it alone is very hard.”
Thrive for Life counts with the help of approximately 30 volunteers. To get involved, make a contribution, or if you have a loved one behind bars, please visit thriveforlife.org
ABOUT THE ARCHDIOCESE OF NEW YORK
The Archdiocese of New York serves the pastoral and spiritual needs of 2.5 million Catholics in nearly 300 parishes throughout its three boroughs of New York City and seven counties to the north. The archdiocese includes 172 Catholic schools serving more than 53,000 students, helps more than 400,000 individuals each year through Catholic Charities, and provides compassionate care to patients and families through ArchCare, the healthcare ministry. The Good NewsroomTM is the digital news outlet of the archdiocese with daily updates and stories about the good works of the Catholic Church in our area. Learn more at thegoodnewsroom.org