Excellence in Volunteerism Award Winner
Orange County Probation Department
Volunteer In Probation
Office of Restorative Justice/Detention Ministry
Sister RoseMarie Redding, CSJ serves as a Catholic religious volunteer, working with incarcerated teens at the Orange County Probation Department’s Juvenile Hall and Theo Lacy Juvenile Annex.
Since becoming a Volunteer In Probation (VIP) in 1993, Sister RoseMarie has logged more than 9,000 hours of service. Over the years, she has provided 7,000 one-on-one visits and prepared approximately 400 minors to receive Sacraments of Initiation. Additionally, she has conducted 565 Bible study classes and a similar number of Sunday Communion services.Through her volunteer endeavors, she reflects the presence of someone who is loving and compassionate. She genuinely cares about the person before her, whether that person is a troubled teen, another volunteer or Probation staff. Sister RoseMarie responds to the call of the Master himself, “I was in prison and you visited me.” Mt.25:36.
The impact of Sister RoseMarie’s actions upon the youths she serves is often transformative. Robert Lanphar, a fellow VIP, shared a poignant story that took place several years ago, involving a minor by the name of Sergio who was housed in Juvenile Hall’s Unit T and was experiencing intense anger over his sudden incarceration. His religious preference form indicated that his was Catholic; however, Sergio refused to attend Bible study classes or Sunday services. Sister RoseMarie would not let this deter her. She visited his cell and while dropping off a holy card, she whispered, “Remember that God loves you always.” This heartfelt act of kindness deeply touched the young man. He began to attend religious services and eventually received the Sacraments of Initiation. In addition, he encouraged others to attend Bible study. Unfortunately, Sergio was sentenced to a forty-year term; however, on the Sunday following his sentencing he stood firm in his religious commitment and received First Communion. The young man was asked how he was coping with such life-changing events. He spoke clearly and profoundly about his journey through life, saying, “God had prepared me for what is to come.” He also reminisced about the holy card that Sister RoseMarie gave to him and said, “It was the first kindness, the first spiritual knock, the first encounter with a loving God in my entire life.”
Deacon Anthony Carrasco is a former Catholic Chaplain who shares an enduring friendship with Sister RoseMarie. When asked his thoughts about this remarkable woman, he said, “She has been an inspiration to me and countless others for she is always ready to go the extra mile.” On one occasion, she arrived at Juvenile Hall after suffering a serious injury that resulted in several broken bones. The injury may have slowed her down, but it did not deter her from visiting the minors. Sister RoseMarie can be counted on to fill in for other volunteers at a moments notice. If she discovers that a Communion service may be cancelled because the scheduled volunteer is unable to preside, she readily steps forward to prevent any disruption of the Sunday service. Her care for the minors extends beyond the walls of Juvenile Hall to families who often face challenging situations. When a minor who had no insurance and required dialysis was released, Sister RoseMarie collaborated with her religious community, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange at St. Joseph’s Hospital, to arrange for his care. According to Deacon Carrasco “Sister RoseMarie’s service while I was chaplain was filled with care and kindness for the minors, Probation staff and other volunteers. Her dedication and faithfulness in ministering to troubled youths is legendary.”
Many who have had the pleasure and honor of working with this outstanding volunteer will agree that the following words of Edith Wharton capture the essence of Sister RoseMarie, “There are two ways of spreading the light: To be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” Sister RoseMarie has been both a candle lighting the way to the Lord and a mirror that reflects God’s love for each person whose life she has touched. In her quiet, unassuming way, she is an advocate for the minors, always looking out for their special needs. Most recently, her concern for a minor who had been in foster care and was soon to be released brought her to the realization that he had no place to call home. This prompted her to investigate what options and programs would be available, especially in providing support for the young person as he transitioned back into the community.
Sister RoseMarie is a tremendous asset to the Restorative Justice/Detention Ministry. She is an outstanding example of the organization’s mission of reaching out and being present for the imprisoned and offering a listening ear and a caring heart. She believes strongly that each minor is a child of God, and she looks beyond the offender’s record and into his or her heart. She gives generously of her time and lets nothing stand in her way in connecting with incarcerated minors to provide spiritual guidance, friendship and support.
Find out how you can volunteer with the Orange County Probation Department.