We begin anew with another IVC year. Hopefully, summer provided time to rest, reflect, and recharge.
As I enter my second year in IVC, I reflect on my first year. I am filled with gratitude for the friendships made, knowledge learned, and insights gained. Of these many blessings, one stands out as one of the most profound in my faith journey. And, it is all because of my connection with Get On the Bus (GOTB).
I first learned of GOTB from my parish. St. John Fisher raises money for GOTB through an annual candy drive. The program brings children to visit their incarcerated mothers and fathers for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. It is a unique program serving an often vilified group – the incarcerated and their families. I thought the program was wonderful because it helps the most marginal of the marginalized.
Lo and behold! Years later, I myself was presented with the opportunity to volunteer for GOTB through IVC LA. I was very excited to be “on board” with Get On the Bus. I met Amalia Molina (Executive Director of the Center for Restorative Justice Works, which administers GOTB). During this first meeting, I felt compelled to share something that had not crossed my mind for many years, let alone tell someone I just met.
My own father was incarcerated. Suddenly, a part of my life that I had forgotten about came flooding back. For all the years I was aware of GOTB, I would think, these children deserve to see their incarcerated mothers and fathers. They should not be punished. They are not guilty of the crimes of their mothers and fathers. “They” turned out to be me. I was thunderstruck.
I am one of these children!
You may wonder, how did I not make this connection before? I ask myself the same question. My parents divorced when I was in the sixth grade. Sometime after the divorce, my father was incarcerated for embezzling funds from his company – the desperate act of a man afflicted with a crippling gambling addiction. I never knew where he was and for how long. I never got to visit him. I buried the memory, pain, and shame of my father’s incarceration deep in the black hole of his absence from our lives growing up.
As I reflect further on the past year in IVC, I am seeing God’s loving hand at work. Last summer, I attended my first IVC LA meeting. Fr. Greg Boyle was the speaker and our celebrant. He talked about kinship. In his book, “Tattoos on the Heart”, he writes, “Kinship -not serving the other, but being one with the other. Jesus was not “a man for others”; he was one of them. There is a world of difference in that.”
Little did I know hearing Fr. Boyle that day would prove prophetic. Months later, I would find myself in that fateful meeting with Amalia Molina. God opened my eyes to see I am truly in kinship with the children, their caregivers, the volunteers, and staff of Get On the Bus! In a recent article, Bishop Robert Barron writes, “God’s providence is a mysterious and wonderful thing.”
This is just the beginning. Bishop Barron further writes, “One of the most potent insights of the spiritual masters is that our lives are not about us, that they are, in fact, ingredient in God’s providential purposes, part of a story that stretches infinitely beyond what we can immediately grasp.” I do not know where this revelation will take me. I pray for healing and forgiveness for the sins of my father.
In sharing this, I hope to encourage you. Be open to what God may reveal as you embark on your IVC journey. Perhaps, the next year will bring much of what you’ve prayed for, and something very much unexpected. Enter the mystery of God’s providence. You may be blessed with that beautiful moment of revelation, leading you to “the slow but sure unfolding of the divine plan.” (Barron)
Arminda, her husband and their two teen sons live near Los Angeles. She previously worked in public policy.