Bonilla and his wife Juana --- who lost their 19-year-old daughter and 15-day-old granddaughter in October 2010 after they were killed by the baby’s father --- represented the victims of crimes during the April 24 Easter Sunrise bilingual (English/Spanish) service sponsored for the third consecutive year by the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative (JRJI). The liturgical service also offered an opportunity to advocate for passage of senate bill SB9 or California Fair Sentencing for Youth Bill, which will give an opportunity to those sentenced to life without parole to review their cases after serving between 10 to 25 years in prison, with a possibility of earning a lower sentence or parole consideration for those offenders who have proven to have changed and are not a danger to society.“This is all about healing,” Jesuit Father Mike Kennedy, JRJI’s executive director and co-chaplain of Sylmar’s juvenile hall, told the assembly. “And Juana and Tomás are part of the healing.” Minutes before 5 a.m., the Bonillas and other victim families were joined by parents, relatives and friends of incarcerated youth in different juvenile facilities and by ex-convicts who shared a word of hope and forgiveness during the two-hour long Sunrise liturgy. “We are here to see how God can bring life out of death,” Father Kennedy told participants after reminding them that they are one community who have lost their loved ones, either to crime or because they are locked up in prison. The Jesuit priest started the service by reading a letter from Armando, an incarcerated juvenile. “I grew up out of my mischievous ways,” he wrote. “I know now that my parents’ love is unconditional. I deal with my adversity in life, but have never given up.” Based on those words of hope and reiterating the healing purpose of the event and the importance of forgiveness, Father Kennedy asked the assembly to pray the “Our Father” and then had the Bonillas bless a large candle sitting on the sanctuary symbolizing Jesus. “Our Father’s prayer invites us to forgive,” Juana Bonilla said after blessing the candle. “We need to seek in our hearts and forgive; forgive our loved ones for their faults.” As a sign of solidarity, participants then lit candles handed at the beginning of the service naming each of their loved ones fallen through crime or serving time in prison. Participants were strongly touched when formerly incarcerated men shared their testimonies. “I feel like I’m living a double life,” said Franky Carrillo, released from prison barely two months ago after serving 21 years for a crime he says he did not commit. “I am a victim, but was also incarcerated,” he remarked. People became very emotional when he reminisced about his “lonely days in the cold cells.” “This cold [early morning] weather reminds me of those sad days when I felt very lonely. Only God could sustain me during those hard times,” he choked. “God is the only candle inside of us,” he continued, once he composed himself. “Bad things happen in life, but we need to remain strong supporting our loved ones,” he said, after sharing in the midst of his uncontrollable tears how he missed his father’s funeral 11 years ago because he was in prison. Carrillo said the different elements used during the service symbolizing hope reminded him that although difficult, in the end justice prevailed in his case and he praised Father Kennedy and his team for moving forward “in wisdom” to support people behind bars. “It’s symbolic how although I am not at the same place, I am standing at the same environment where I started my sentence as a juvenile,” said the 37-year-old man who received two life sentences accused of a murder at the age of 16. After the testimonies, the dead victims were honored with a time of silence. Weeping, Clara Gómez said Carrillo’s testimony touched her and “shook her spirit.” “While he [Carrillo] was talking I just imagined my son hungry and cold in his cell,” said the mother of David Gómez, 21, who is serving a four-year sentence for attempted murder. On the positive side, she said her son was lucky to have received a short sentence and that his time in jail has been an opportunity for change. “I’ve noticed he has matured and he is even taking college classes,” she said proudly. “God always gives a second chance,” said Javier Stauring, co-director of the archdiocesan Office of Restorative Justice, echoing Gómez. He urged participants to sign a petition letter of SB9 approval, which will be handed May 18 to John Perez, speaker of the state assembly, by a restorative justice committee. For more information about the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative, call (310) 559-0777 or visit For the archdiocesan Office of Restorative Justice, call (213) 438-4820.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/0506/sunrise/{/gallery}