Faithful become instruments of mercy close to home through DSF

August 14, 2018

HOUSTON — The 2018 Diocesan Services Fund (DSF) launched in February continues to make its mark in the Archdiocese as the faithful participate and become instruments of mercy close to home.

Called by Daniel Cardinal DiNardo to extend the love of Christ to others by giving generously and becoming instruments of peace by supporting the DSF, this commitment enables 60 ministries to assist thousands of people living in parishes and neighborhoods located within the Archdiocese. Special attention is given to assisting those most in need, including the poor, sick, imprisoned, elderly, youth, and people currently facing a crisis, such as those impacted by Hurricane Harvey last year.

Bringing Jesus in the flesh to at-risk youth

One DSF-supported ministry making a tremendous difference in the Archdiocese is Special Youth Services (SYS), which assists at-risk youth and families to restore their lives and souls. According to Franchelle Lee Stewart, director of SYS, contributions to the DSF are used to fund SYS programs and services in local juvenile justice centers and facilities located in Harris, Fort Bend, Galveston and Brazoria counties, and the Gulf Coast Trade Center in Montgomery County.

Lee Stewart said SYS serves on average 3,000 youth annually that range in age between 10 to 17 years old. SYS is comprised of 125 staff members and volunteers that model the embrace of Christ through pastoral care, advocacy and faith sharing. One such volunteer is Deacon Dan Gilbert, an SYS pastoral minister.

“Thanks to DSF, we are able to reach out to parishes throughout our local diocese to get volunteers who are truly ‘instruments of mercy’ in real life,” said Deacon Gilbert. “They are able to bring ‘Jesus in the Flesh’ to these young people to help them see that God loves them despite what they have done. The young detainees look forward to the volunteers coming to see them each week; we could not provide the level of services we do to the least of God’s children without the help of DSF.”

Since many of the young people detained in the juvenile facilities have such low self-esteem, said Deacon Gilbert, the main role of volunteers is to help these youth understand that no matter what their race, religion, creed, color or financial status, that they are still valuable because they are loved by God.

“A lot of these boys and girls do not have a real identity and see themselves as oppressed and invaluable, so recently we introduced two new programs, Cinco de Mayo and Juneteenth,” Deacon Gilbert said. “These two programs helped the young people to see that with God on their side they can overcome any obstacles they encounter as an individual and as a people.”

A witness to the suffering Jesus

The following statement was recently made by another SYS volunteer, which demonstrates how the hearts of adults are often softened when they get involved and witness what the at-risk youth experience:
“Clanging, heavy metal doors, drab paint colors, buzzers and a static-filled speaker system dominate the environment. Detainees in unfashionable jumpsuits who are told to walk with hands behind their backs are the focus of attention.

These are boys and girls who for the most part are awaiting a court decision as to their eventual fate, e.g., certification as an adult, trial, or a decision to be sent home under the supervision of family. Because they are not adults there is no bail or release on their own recognizance. Often, they do not go home because their home is not considered suitable for return or the court, for other reasons, has decided they must remain in detention.

If you are interested in viewing an in-situ metamorphosis, then come down to 1200 Congress Ave. between 3 and 4:30 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon. Watch for a 66-year-old man entering and then exiting the building. You’ll see a normal looking person entering and a man with tears streaming down his cheeks upon exiting. That’ll be the telltale sign.

This is a man who only a year ago would have said those kids got what they deserved, but who, solely through the grace of God, now sees the face of a suffering Jesus in the eyes of every one of these children. He sees the pain, fear and despair that come with the loss of faith, hope and love. He is crying both for the pain suffered by these “Street Saints” as well as for the mercy and joy brought about by a merciful God. We are all sinners searching for the pathway to sainthood. With God’s grace these young people will someday turn the favor and help those who come behind them.” (SYS Volunteer, July 2018)

From the mouths of babes
From the viewpoint of at-risk youth in the SYS program, when asked if he had any advice to give to adults, one teen said: “Don’t judge a juvenile real quick. Get to know about him and his side of the story. Not all of us in detention are bad. Most of us want to succeed. They want to change, but feel like they can’t. We really need good role models or mentors in their life to keep them moving. Help them know you are there for them and give them information on how to keep going the right way. If they had a past history of negative things they did and they overcame, it would be good if they shared how they did it.”

Another at-risk youth stated when asked how SYS has helped/affected her: “… I had prayed to God to send good people my way, by that I mean positive people who would want to see me succeed in life and not fail. I thank God every day that I had an opportunity to meet my SYS mentors. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to find myself again and be able to forgive what I had put myself thru and my loved ones. Thanks to the inspiration they gave me, I look at life from a different perspective. Glad to know my inspiration to believe in myself came from kind and caring people. Thanks to them, Luke 15:32: ‘…I was dead and I’m alive again; I was lost and now I’m found.’”

To learn more about the 2018 DSF, SYS, and additional ministries supported by the fund listed below, go to †