Ever since I was six years old my family and I have been a part of Saint Dominic Savio Parish. Here is where I grew up attending mass and other activities. As I got older I entered youth ministry and “Savio”, as we call it, became my home. I got involved as much as I could in all events, retreats, workshops and of course Camp Savio. I spent more time at Savio then I did at home. Here I made lifelong friends and learn a lot. I learned how to be a good leader, negotiate, have good communication skills and had lots of responsibilities. Most importantly I was having fun! My family wasn’t very functional and the High School I attended wasn’t the best but I was lucky to have a place like Savio. Here Don Bosco’s preventive system made a difference in my life.
I didn’t realize it at the time that I was living Bosco’s dream I was just having fun with friends and taking challenges and responsibilities. Juan Carlos, or “JC” as he is called, the youth ministry director, took us on short missionary trips to Tijuana and Miami every year and promoted volunteer service. Gio Garcia became a Salesian Lay Missioner the year before I did and after hearing about his experience I felt the call. Something inside of me told me that this was for me. I wanted to go and leave everything to make a difference, so I talked to JC. He then contacted me with the SLM director and I began my SLM application.
I have to admit when I got accepted I was nervous. Not only that I was both excited and scared. I was excited because I felt like I was going to apply everything I had learned and knew, I was doing God’s will. Not all of my friends were very supportive because I was going to take a break from school and they just knew I wouldn’t be the same person when I got back. This decision also meant leaving my family, my friends and my whole comfort zone. I was going to the unknown. Most of all I was scared of failure. What if it was too much and wasn’t able to handle it. All I could do was offered it all to God.
While I was in TJ I didn’t feel as lonely as I thought. At times I did miss my family and friends but there was so much going on that I was focused on the now. As an SLM I wore many hats. I had to make sure the oratory stayed clean, I had to assist making sure no one tagged, smoked or drank, I help prepare for mass etc. I taught two English classes and helped with catechism. In the mornings I helped in the office with printing or typing and took the kids out for recess. I was also the one who held all the keys and lent the playing equipment. Being in Tijuana gave me many gifts, especially growth in my faith and a big reality check. I grew in faith by trusting in God that I wasn’t alone that he was there with me even when times were rough.
It has been a month since I came back home now and I wish I could have stayed longer. One year went by so fast and I feel that it’s too short of a time to really make a noticeable difference. After this year I feel that I could do anything and that I need to do more. I am back in school planning to major in psychology. My biggest plan is to be committed to Savio again and promote missionary service. JC has talked about starting a missionary group at Savio and I am really excited to start.