Lessons from my father

By Miriam Padilla

When I was growing up my parents, who immigrated from Jalisco, Mexico, instilled in me a love of justice and for the poor.  As children, my dad would have us stand outside on the day our garbage was picked up, waiting for the truck so that we could distribute snacks and water to the men, while he explained how hard these men had to work to earn a living and provide for their families.

My father continuously encouraged us to pursue an education, while never forgetting our roots and once attained, our achievements had to be used to help those less fortunate.  So after receiving my bachelor’s degree in psychology and completing my graduate work at the Catholic University of San Diego, I worked as a counselor providing therapeutic support and advocacy for immigrant women who had been victims of domestic violence and rape.  That experience helped me to understand that there was much to be done for our Hispanic community on a systemic level and I began working as a faith-based community organizer focusing on immigration issues. 

Aside from the political advocacy work, I realized it was necessary to host forums where people on both sides of the issue and with differing faith traditions could come together and peacefully dialogue about their differences on the issue of immigration.  Much healing can take place when a safe space is provided for people to express their fears and concerns openly.   

Through my work, I discovered that many immigrants suffer from a deep sense of rejection.  I felt called to work with immigrants not only in this country, but to offer consolation to those who had been deported and were now homeless and imprisoned across the border. I worked in Tijuana on the streets and in the jail with deported immigrants.  Armed only with a desire to live out Mother Teresa’s charism which calls for an intimate encounter with Jesus by serving the poorest of the poor, I found true happiness serving my brothers and sisters in their experience of utter rejection and desolation. 

Currently, as the director of religious education in the Diocese of San Bernardino, I have worked to raise awareness on the plight of the less fortunate.  In the past year, our children have brought in over 6,000 canned food items to serve the needy in our parish.  In addition, they donated items for backpacks that would be distributed to men and women who were deported.

There is such a need for Latino leadership in this country and I consider it is a great injustice when a person is unable to achieve their full potential. It saddens me knowing that many Latinos, especially our youth, are unable to change the video that seems to be playing in their minds.  Each one of them has a dream of doing something great for humanity, but my experience has been that many of them do not feel worthy to pursue that dream at any cost. 

It is imperative that our youth achieve their potential and take their rightful place among the leaders in this country.  I hope that young people understand that they are worthy and capable of attending universities and graduating with honors while at the same time honoring the example of humility and service that the Lord set for us. It’s what I learned at my father’s knee and what I hope to instill in others.

For reflection

What valuable lessons have you learned from your father or mother? In which ways have these lessons determined your life’s direction?


06 Oct07:50

We should never forget our

By Daniel-L

We should never forget our roots. We should encourage each to pursue an education. to make our neighborhoods safe and our families happy. We should not give up our hard work and all of your work will pay off some day.


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