Youth Day '98 was an exciting experience for three young people invited to share the homily at Mass in the Arena of the Anaheim Convention Center with the presider, Bishop Joseph Sartoris. Los Angeles Detention Ministry staff and volunteers are proud that a young man, Michael, presently incarcerated at the Dorothy Kirby Center, was one of the guest homilists. Michael was well received by thousands of youth who applauded him several times. Here are his words:
Hello, my name is Michael and I am 16 years old. I am a ward of the Court and currently incarcerated in a probation facility in Los Angeles.
When I was growing up, I was being raised in a Catholic home. I remember going to catechism as a little boy. When I turned 8, however, my life changed. My mother started using drugs and my father went to prison. I felt totally lost. I would pray to Jesus to help my family, but nothing ever got better. As a matter of fact, they got worse!
I began to model the behavior in my home. I joined a gang when I was 13 years old. I started using drugs, got arrested and sent to Camp when I was 14. All this time I continued asking Jesus to help me, but I didn't think He cared for me any more.
Since my family was not there for me, I created my own. My daughter was born on August 13, 1996. I was in Camp at the time. After I got out, I continued making poor choices. I was placed in a group home since I did not have a home of my own.
I ran away from the group home and was arrested again and sent to the Dorothy Kirby Center where I am currently serving my time. I began to attend Mass and met Sr. Claudia, the Catholic Chaplain. She helped me understand that Jesus has always loved me, and that He led me to Kirby Center.
I am currently attending high school, working on my diploma. I recently completed a job-training program and now I am able to provide financially for my daughter. I see my daughter on a regular basis and I am participating in a teen fathers program so that I learn skills to become a better parent.
I now realize that Jesus has never forgotten me. He has led me to people who care for me. When people ask, 'Who is Jesus to me?' I tell them that Jesus is my protector because there were many times I could have been killed. Jesus is my family, even when my real family was not there for me. Jesus is my friend, even when I felt all alone. Jesus is also my guide, even when I felt lost.
I also tell people that, to me, Jesus is Sr. Claudia. Jesus is my Probation Officer. Jesus is my daughter. And Jesus is even my homeboys! The all love me, accept me, and they do not attempt to judge me. I see Jesus in each of them.
My future is full of hope and dreams of a better life with my daughter. And Jesus by our side! Thank you.
Sr. Claudia Romero, O.D.N., is Coordinator of Parish Contacts at the Office of Detention Ministry.
Copyright 1998 Office of Detention Ministry -- March-April 1998
With permission from the Dorothy Kirby Center