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​Think about who you can help with your witness and your presence, archbishop tells incarcerated at

February 10, 2020 | posted by Today's Catholic newspaper

Topics: Archbishop, In the Press


Think about who you can help with your witness and your presence, archbishop tells incarcerated at annual Christmas liturgy

Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, celebrated his annual Advent Mass at the Bexar County Adult Detention Center on December 18, sharing with the men a story about St. Joseph that they may have not thought about previously.

Concelebrants at the liturgy included Father Jose R. Perez-Martinez, pastor of St. Lawrence the Martyr Church in San Antonio, and Father Alejandro del Bosque, associate pastor of St. Luke Church in San Antonio.

The archbishop was assisted at the altar by Deacon Bob Leibrecht, director of Criminal Justice Ministry for the archdiocese, and four recently ordained deacons, including Deacons Matthew De Leon, Ricardo Ramirez, Blayne Riley, and Ian Robbins, all from Assumption Seminary.

At the liturgy, the Gospel reading from Matthew was the story of Gabriel coming to St. Joseph in a dream. He came to proclaim Mary’s pregnancy by the Holy Spirit and the coming of the Lord Jesus.

“It is a truly amazing story, but I think sometimes we do not take the time to put ourselves in Joseph’s shoes,” explained Archbishop Gustavo. “This woman that he loved was pregnant, and it was not his baby. He was confused, and he must have been disappointed. Mary had told him what happened, but it must have been so overwhelming. Mary could have been outcast or even killed in those days if people found out. Joseph had no peace and he was afraid. So when the angel came to Joseph, he brought a great gift. He brought the gift of peace.”

Gabriel told Joseph, “Do not be afraid,” a common proclamation by God and his angels. “Do not be afraid.”

“It is just as important a message for us today as it was for Joseph back then,” the archbishop emphasized.

The angel reminded St. Joseph of very meaning of the name Emmanuel: “God is with us.”

“This is why Joseph could be at peace. He was to take Mary into his home, and he was to welcome God into his household – ‘God with us.’ This is the reason we should be at peace as well. The Lord has made his dwelling among us,” the San Antonio prelate continued. “We are in this special season of welcoming Christ into our hearts once more by the power of the Holy Spirit. We do not need to be afraid. No matter the circumstance, no matter the struggle, no matter our mistakes in the past. The Lord has made his home with us, and we can be at peace. And, we have been called to share that peace with others.”

Pope Francis spoke to a group of prisoners on Holy Thursday two years ago. He told them: “It is easy to be at peace with those we love and with those who do good for us; but it is not easy to be at peace with those who have wronged us, who do not love us… Ask the Lord, in silence, for the grace to give everyone, good and bad, the gift of peace.”

The Missionary of the Holy Spirit told that men that, just like Gabriel did all those years ago, we are called to give the gift of peace to others who have none or who are scared, because no matter who they are, they deserve to hear the Good News.

He stressed to the incarcerated that even here in this place they have this calling. “You know better than I do how difficult life in here can be. You know the pain of separation from the ones you love. You know the burden of regrets and painful memories,” he said. “But you are here as missionaries of hope and missionaries of peace. Think about who you can help with your witness and your presence. Think of how God is calling you to give the gift of peace to others.”

Archbishop Gustavo urged his listeners to ask the Lord to show how they can share this gift here in this place and in this time. “Do not be afraid,” he repeated.

He assured the prisoners of the church’s love for them. “This is why we always have this Mass here every year. Never forget that we love you and that you are not alone,” he concluded. “Thank you for the gift of your faith, keep your hearts open to the transforming love of God and follow his ways. May God bless us all and keep us unified in prayer, hope, and peace.”

The archbishop then asked the Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe, to pray for them and keep them close to her heart. “May she and St. Joseph help you with their prayers to receive once again the one who was promised. Jesus our Lord, Emmanuel, ‘God is with us.’”

Sheriff Javier Salazar spoke to the men at the conclusion of the liturgy, and Sister Teresa Carter, CSB, Catholic chaplain at the Bexar County Detention Center, led the attendees in singing “Happy Birthday” to the archbishop in advance of his December 21 birthday.