About 150 people attended from West End, San Bernardino, and Riverside vicariates of the Diocese. There were over 20 names of incarcerated persons shared for prayer intentions during the Mass. As the names were read, family members came up to receive a blessing from Father Albert Utzig, Pastor of St. Mary’s.
“I found the Mass was very touching to me in a spiritual way. I love that we are not forgotten but loved by others,” said Ana Martinez, a mother of an incarcerated son. “Being able to hear my son’s name and others being prayed upon really meant the world to me.”
Fr. Utzig gave a hopeful homily and called the families “the real heroes who have also endured great loss… especially those who have taken on single parenthood or the caregivers of the children with incarcerated parents.”
Victoria Aguilar served as a lector at the Mass where she also displayed a photo of her son. Adaline Garcia shared her testimony of finding hope and having a place to go when she discovered the “Keeping Hope Support Group” through the Office of Restorative Justice. She invited the families to attend the group and find peace knowing “they are not alone.”
Martinez also shared her testimony by reading a letter she had received from her son, Steven. He stated how much he has learned and how God has been impacting him to change and to become a better person since he has been incarcerated. This letter gave hope to families who do not have much contact with their loved ones.
The Office of Restorative Justice partners with Center for Restorative Justice Works through its Get on the Bus and Family Express programs to give families opportunities to visit their loved ones in prison, especially on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day; as well as provide resources for families who may need some type of support; such as counseling, needs for the home, help locating legal services and re-entry programs for those who will be released. My experience working with families of the incarcerated has been a blessed and fruitful time journeying with those who are also suffering great loss and pain. However, families are finding strength and hope through the companions they find on their journey. We ask that you continue to pray for an end to violence. Be a peacemaker, bring hope to those in need and practice love daily. As St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta says, “Works of love are works of peace.”
Anna Hamilton is the Associate Director of the Diocesan Office of Restorative Justice.