On Christmas Day, the front pew of the jail chapel was empty — reserved for Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and his entourage.
But when Villanueva arrived, he chose a spot near the back. The VIP pew eventually was filled by some of the nearly 200 inmates who had gathered to celebrate Mass with the archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose H. Gomez, at Men’s Central Jail.
The novel seating arrangement was another sign that Villanueva intends to do things differently.
Since shocking the local political establishment by winning the November election over incumbent Sheriff Jim McDonnell, Villanueva has fired the department’s top brass and required hundreds of others to reapply for their jobs.
But for those serving time or awaiting trial, life behind bars — the monotony, the dangers, the small humiliations — remains largely unchanged. Spending Christmas in a jail jumpsuit can provide a jolt of motivation to avoid past mistakes.
In Gomez’s homily to the inmates, he spoke of new beginnings.
“We are again very important to God,” he said. “For God, we are also like a newborn baby.”
For some inmates, there may not be a second chance.
In gold robes, with a gold miter perched his head, Gomez visited some of the most hardened residents of the 4,000-man jail.
Some were awaiting trial for murder, while others were in the K-10 unit because they posed a threat to other inmates or jail staff.
As a small choir sang carols and inmates called out to each other, Gomez paused at each cell, speaking through the bars and handing each man a book: “Friendship With Jesus” by Michael Kennedy.
Speaking to reporters, Villanueva explained why he had sat in the back of the chapel.
“In the house of the Lord, everyone is equal,” he said. “I wanted the people who live here to sit in the front row.”
Full story at The LA Times.
Good for the sheriff. That’s a man who knows how to clean house right from the start. Wish Gomez would learn from his example and clean up the Religious Education Congress. A man with courage and conviction doesn’t wait. He acts.
I meant the men need to dress attractively but modestly too.
This was meant to go under another article, so it makes no sense here. I am sorry for the confusion.
I know of a good and faithful Catholic man, a dedicated LA County Sheriff chief, who was let go for no other reason than he was campaigning for former Sheriff Jim McDonnell. I do hope these men incarcerated are touched by the Love of Christ and change their stony hearts to hearts of flesh. +JMJ+
If you know anything about the archdiocese, then you also know that the chancery office could use some cleaning up too. And I’m not talking about housekeeping. The office of religious education is particularly bad. They run the Religious Ed Congress. Clean up that office, and the other problem gets solved too. Don’t clean up that office, and you won’t see any improvement in the Congress.
Yes I agree Becky, please Arch Bishop Gomez please clean up the religious congress . We wrote you in advance a kind letter requesting that it be cleaned up. Maybe just maybe one year we would get a reply back. I teach my children to always reply back ! thank you .
And the least shall be first….
Were the men offered confession prior to mass ?
Villanueva is the scofflaw sheriff kicking ICE out of LA county jails.
The book Gomez passed out to inmates is by Michael Kennedy, Jesuit and (Restorative) Social Justice Warrior.
This will bring momentum this year.