By Gordon Nary
Gordon: When were you appointed Chaplain and Coordinator Families of the Incarcerated at the Archdiocese of Los Angeles - Office of Restorative Justice, and approximately how many people does you ministry serve?
Imelda: I became a Chaplain (Religious Service Specialist) for immigration on August 2, 2004 at San Pedro Detention Center until November 23, 2007 for the Jesuit Refuge Service National for average of 800 men and women annually. In February 11 2008, I served as the Catholic Chaplain for the Los Angeles Sheriff Miraloma ICE Detention Center in Lancaster. Where I served 1300 men annually until the center closed in November, 2012. On July 1, 2013, I became the Coordinator of the Families of the Incarcerated Office of Restorative Justice Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
At this time, our data base serves over 500 families,
Gordon: Please share with our readers information about your Victim Awareness workshops.
Imelda: The Office of Restorative Justice has three entities; Chaplains, Families, and victims. There is a coordinator for victims who works as a first responder with the City of Los Angeles, who implemented the Parent Academy and various other programs.
Gordon: Please share with our readers information about your Finding the Way in Jail program
Imelda: Finding the Way in Jail is program with 23 folders. In the jail, we hold a group session with 10 to 25 inmates per session. Working through each session with the men or women sharing what the information is telling them. We also have correspondence with men and women in various prisons throughout the state of California or men and women who want to continue and complete the program when they are released from the County Jails. The men and women get two certificates. Once when they complete 10 folders and another certificates when they finish the whole program.
Gordon: What are some of the immigration challenges facing the Archdiocese of Los Angeles?
Imelda: Education. Not all immigrants are Latinos and as Catholic we should welcome the stranger as Joseph, Mary, Jesus were welcome when they had to flee to another country. People do not leave their countries because they want to leave but because they have to leave for many reasons.
Gordon: What have been some of your most rewarding experiences in your ministry?
Imelda: As a Chaplain, making the men and women forget where they were at Christmas. In San Pedro, I would spend Christmas eve with the women, we hold first have a Communion Service and then we would have a little fun with a CD players with English and Spanish Christmas songs, sing and dance until I had to leave at 10 pm for count.
In Miraloma Detention Center, I would hold different religious services. I asked permission to hold religious concerts. But the my most rewarding experience was when I had the men become actors and performed a 30 minuet play called La Pastorela. One man with a goatee played the part of Mary. One man played the devil and the angel. Five men played the shepherds. One man carried the Star. They dressed as shepherds, angel, and devil with material and ponchos I was able to bring from home. The audience included the 1000 detainees and officers. One officer asked if they were professional actors. The detainees said it was the best play they had ever seen and each thanked me. The actors said thank you for the opportunity to be an actor that brought joy and laughter to the other men for at least one night.
Gordon: Thank you for sharing your experiences with our readers.