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By Marciano Avila

 Each year, the Office of Restorative Justice coordinates a Christmas Card drive with the intention of distributing them to prisons within the Diocese so inmates can have Christmas cards to send home to their families.

 The cards are given to the Catholic Chaplains in the prisons who then plan out how they will distribute them. Sometimes this is done after the weekly Mass or Communion Service, faith-sharing group, or bible study. Or sometimes the Chaplain will organize an extra special event.

 Through their presence, activities and programs, Chaplains “bring glad tidings to the poor” inside the prisons in our Diocese. They coax a smile, ease the pain of isolation, separation, and despair, and remind our incarcerated brothers and sisters that they remain children of God intact with their God-given dignity.

 The Christmas Card program lets inmates know that the wider Church does not forget about them, and, indeed, journeys with and prays for them. This year, through the generosity of parishioners, we were able to distribute 13,000 Christmas Cards to five prisons, the Women’s Camp in Victorville, and Patton State Hospital.

 The Evangelist Luke tells us that at the beginning of his ministry, Jesus visits a synagogue and when he gets up to read, he reads from a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He reads the following “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

 This Christmas Card Program and the Ministry of Restorative Justice as a whole strives to model this Gospel.

 Marciano Avila is the Director of the Diocesan Office of Restorative Justice.