GARZA: Bringing God’s love to juvenile detention facilities during pandemic

August 17, 2021

In the midst of challenging times, we find comfort in knowing our Father is always with us and Jesus Christ is ever-present in the Holy Eucharist. How empty our lives would be without this constant company.

We, too, are called to be present in the lives of others through listening, empathizing and loving. The pandemic may have brought obstacles to this calling, but we have found ways to continue our mission with the use of technology.

Last September, my family started a virtual Bible study so we could meet safely and allow out-of-town family members to join us. We discuss the upcoming Sunday’s Gospel and study topics such as Mass and the Rosary. We help each other understand God’s message and how we can apply it to our lives. These gatherings have led us to cherish each other’s presence in a way that we had not before. One member shared that the time we canceled affected his entire week. He needed to talk about the Word of God in a safe, supportive setting and to receive the God-centered advice we all share.

Bible study has helped us grow together spiritually and has become a valuable activity in our lives. At Special Youth Services (SYS), we understand the value of breaking open God’s Word and sharing the Good News with others, so Bible study is a staple service we provide to our youth who are in juvenile detention facilities.

Our volunteers make weekly visits to facilities to share Sunday readings with youth who choose to join the group. Like my relative, some kids feel an absence when there is no Bible study that week because that is their only time to have respectful conversations about God and how He works in their lives. The volunteers provide a consistent presence in the chaotic life of a young person, and the youth value that.

The pandemic has unfortunately stopped us from being physically present in the facilities. So, SYS got creative with how to remind the youth of God’s constant presence in their lives. Our wonderful volunteers came up with Bible study handouts that contain reflections on the readings and word activities.

We organized virtual events for the youth: Saintly Saturday, a day of praise and worship; an ecumenical Christmas party, including crafts and donated Chinese food; and a facility staff talent show, which we used to inspire the kids to use their own talents for the good of God’s kingdom. Our youth are thankful for these distractions from their time in the facility, but they tell us they really appreciate that people care about and pray for them.

In a time of advanced technology and with a determined spirit, we can overcome any obstacle in order to be present in the lives of others. Our hard-working volunteers and your DSF contributions have allowed our ministry to do just that. If you feel a calling to, or would like more information about SYS, please visit us at , our Facebook page, or email us at †

Alejandra Maya Garza is an associate director for Special Youth Services.