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Mercy lived in first person. The diocese in Oakland, an “outgoing Church”

The bishop, Monsignor Michael Barber, occasioned a set of initiatives at local level in an area with the highest crime and social-exclusion rates in the United States. Some of the activities in support of families, misfit youths, migrants, poor people, are now part of a multimedia project

A mosaic of stories depicting a whole community; a collage of authentic experiences; a collective document. It’s the multimedia project (http://jubileeofmercy-eb.org/) launched by the diocese of Oakland in California (United States), coordinated by the Bishop, Monsignor Michael Barber, to transform the Jubilee of Mercy into a new beginning, made of spiritual and material activities. The documentary highlights stories of youths likely to be involved in juvenile delinquency, attorneys that relieve the suffering of families whose children have been killed, pensioners who become educators at the service of young convicts in prison, mothers who run soup kitchens for immigrants, immigrant students who take steps to improve the quality of life of children in their home countries. Stories of engagement and generosity in an “outgoing Church” that becomes a “field hospital”, summarised in the words of Monsignor Barber: “When love meets suffering it becomes mercy.”

Victims of violence. A lawyer and a nun. Doctor David Stain and Mother Marina are apparently a “strange” professional couple. He is serious and smartly-dressed, she is down to earth with pared-down style. They are both Catholic – she is from the Saint Columba parish in Oakland, he is from Saint Isidore –. They share the same mission: to help families who recently lost a relative as a result of violence, notably by gangs that turned Oakland into one of the most dangerous cities in California and in the whole Country. “We feel like Mary beneath the Cross, these families’ suffering is unbearable”, said Sister Marina in one of the mini-videos that form part of the documentary. “Help can be offered even though the situation cannot be changed. What’s important is to be near the family members and listen to their woes.” The lawyer helps families obtain legal assistance. “These people have to resort to all their strength when they are called to testify in court”, said David Stain. In the course of my career, in the midst of so many tragedies, I have experienced acts of incredible virtue, forgiveness, courage and sacrifice.

“When you witness all of this, you know that God can’t be far away.”

Youths at risk. Another team with an ambitious mission is the one formed by Danielle Amadine and Javier Orango. Sons of migrants, Hispanic, like the other protagonists of the documentary they live in the bay of Saint Francisco. As teenagers they both walked on troubled waters, and risked jeopardizing their future. For Javier, former member of a gang, things went worse. Victim of a shooting, he escaped death by a hairbreadth, and now he’s in a wheel chair. Yet both have reversed course, putting themselves at the service of teenagers at risk, just as they were. “I assist young people who cause violence to others or are victims,” said Danielle Amadine. “We help them pass their exams, find a lasting job, take a driver’s licence. I’m their teacher, their life coach, and friend. In any case they know they can rely on me. I refrain from all judgement. I try to love them unconditionally.”

The Gospel for a new beginning. In his words, for Ken Landon “being a good person” was no longer enough. He wanted “to do good deeds.” After having moved from San Ramon to Byron, a city in the Bay area, Landon, recently retired, decided to offer his services as volunteer at the Byron Boys Ranch. Despite its name, which recalls that of a golf club, the Byron Boys Ranch is a juvenile prison, where youths aged 14-18 spend several months, according to their sentences. “Time ago, in those difficult teen-age years, I was fortunate to find people who guided me along the right path”, Landon said. “I risked ending up in a place like the Boys Ranch myself.” Ken and his fellow educators meet the youths once a week, in the evening, they read passages from the Gospel and the following Sunday they try to give a contemporary interpretation of the Scriptures. “I have been volunteering in this juvenile detention facility for several years. I have met many young people there”, Landon said. “If I managed to give good counsel to one of them only I would be satisfied. And it probably happened.”

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