Bishop David O’Connell started the SoCal Immigration Task Force more than five years ago, when he was a pastor in South-Central Los Angeles. So far locally, members have helped some 60 unaccompanied minors like Daniela Luna, and hope to sponsor many more.

“It’s become a beautiful effort of just very good-hearted people from the archdiocese and our schools helping these children and young people who have fled horrendous circumstances in Central America and Mexico,” he told Angelus News. “And Daniela is the first to graduate from a local Catholic high school.

“So I’m so proud of her. Despite all the suffering she’s gone through, she knows God loves her. She’s stayed positive. She worked hard. And despite everything in her background, she’s kept her poise and dignity. I couldn’t be more proud of her. She’s wonderful,” O’Connell said.

He added that local Catholic schools have really taken on helping unaccompanied youth as their mission. “It gives them great energy to help these youths,” he noted. “And these young people, like Daniela, have gotten new lives. They feel loved and they feel wanted. Imagine the life they had before. And now adults have surrounded them, hugging them and loving them like the teachers and administrators at Sacred Heart; making sacrifices so they can have a good future.

 “For me, it really is a labor of love,” he said, “because this is, I think, what our schools and parishes are all about. Not just for unaccompanied minors but for all our children. There’s an epidemic of hurting children, even the ones who have too much. They feel we’ve abandoned them. And the migrant youths have become a metaphor for our whole society.”

For more information on the SoCal Immigration Task Force, contact Lucy at Bishop O’Connell’s San Gabriel regional office in Irwindale at 626-960-9344, or email [email protected].