From the USCCB blog, Deacon Arnaldo Antonio Santos from the Diocese of Camden reflects on his unique ministry in the inner city:
As a new deacon, I received a diocesan assignment to work in youth ministry. I expected it since I felt called to youth work even before becoming a deacon. As a former civil servant and newly retired police detective, I had always felt the call to help lost souls who long for someone to understand them.
Pope John Paul II’s 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio called for a new evangelization, a new mission work to those who know about God and His mercy, even if they are not fully engaged in their faith. As a deacon, I learned different ways to evangelize through retreats, to reach out to separated brothers and sisters, to help and guide youth, and to reach out to gang members. Yes, I said gang members.
I find it’s easier to reach individuals involved in gangs as a deacon than it was when I was a cop. Why? When a grave sinner feels rejected, judged and condemned by us, then the sinner is less likely to repent and return to God.
I have seen individuals lost to the gang world return to the church, repent, receive the sacraments and be freed from the bondage of the gang world. It happened when I was able to guide them with prayer, patience, moderation and brotherly love. As a police detective I was respected, but the advice that I gave troubled youth was not as easily accepted. As an officer, I was judged by the persons feeling condemned. They felt I couldn’t possibly understand or sympathize with them.
Ordination changed my life.
Read it all. Ad multos annos, brother!