A Letter of Gratitude

By: Miriam Hernandez
Coordinator for Youth Ministry

JC as we call him is one of the most inspiring people I know.  I was eleven years old when I joined the youth group at Saint Dominic Savio parish. This was also the year JC was hired to be the coordinator of the youth ministry. He only spoke Spanish and wore funny clothes at the time but the way he related to youth was amazing. He did not need to speak to make us laugh and enjoy his company. It was hilarious teaching him to say words like turtle or bear, beard, beer. He played sports with us, introduced us to all the Salesian brothers and priests of the community, and memorized all our names. JC is someone who understands youth and accepts them for who they are. He always makes time to talk and listens with an open heart.

Juan Carlos has a huge heart for service. He served as a volunteer in the Amazon for a year and told stories about his time in missions. At the age of fifteen, he invited me on my first short mission trip to Tijuana, Mexico. Throughout my time in Savio youth ministry, he taught me how to experience God’s love through service. He was always around to listen to me in times of developmental crisis such as mood swings and when I questioned my competence. I remember one time specifically when I was a freshman in high school. I attended SYLC, a leadership training program, and my group decided I should present the morning prayer in front of the entire camp. I broke down because I thought I could not do it. I had to go up and speak in front of 100+ teens. They were all youth leaders and I felt that I was going to pass out. JC pulled me aside and asked if I was okay. I told him how afraid I was, and he let me know he had full belief in my capabilities. By this age, he had built such a strong bond with me I knew he was not just saying that. Like Don Bosco, Jc has empowered so many teens to write their own stories and step out of their comfort zones.  

I am thirty-one years old now and a youth minister myself. He inspired me to want to make a difference in the lives of others through Salesian charism. He is someone that I can always count on being there for me like the time during my confirmation retreat, Jc took the time to write letters for all who do not receive a parent letter. I was one of those teens, although I was a little upset no one in my family took the time to write to me while I was away, I felt I had a constant friend that would never let me down. 

I have known JC for twenty years now and there are so many stories I can share of ways he has changed my life but above all JC has helped me and so many other young people build a relationship with Christ through ministry. He guides youth with love and kindness, treats others with dignity and respect, and is Christ-centered. I am grateful for Jc because he has provided me with tools, compassion, and the support I needed to be who I am today.

Thank you so much JC and Happy Birthday!!