Sr. Teresa Doherty was recently recognized by the Los Angeles Probation Department with a plaque in appreciation of her 40 YEARS of ministry as Catholic chaplain at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall, which is a prison for youth under 18 years of age.
Javier Stauring, director of the Office of Restorative Justice for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles suspects that Sr. Teresa is the longest serving chaplain at any detention center in the USA, if not the world. He writes about Teresa: “She has accompanied three generations of incarcerated youth through the most difficult of times, and has not slowed down a bit. She walks through the Units, calling the kids by name, asking them about their parents, their court dates, blessing them, and inquiring if they would like to be baptized or make their first communion, and if they might need her to write a letter to their judge? It’s obvious that the kids feel her love and appreciate that they have someone genuine in their corner.
On any given Sunday, inside the chapel at Los Padrinos you will see between 5-10 youth standing around the altar, surrounded by grateful parents and God-parents. Moms and Dads had tears in their eyes because they were so proud that their children are now receiving the Sacraments. Juvenile Hall is not an experience that anyone would wish for their children. However, it is at Juvenile Hall that Sr. Teresa offers a light of hope that many of the youth would not encounter if it were not for their incarceration. Through their sacramental preparation many of the kids come closer to God than they ever have. They learn about faith, but more importantly, through their relationship with Sister Teresa and her volunteers, they learn what unconditional love feels like. Sister Teresa exemplifies Light in the Darkness. I am proud to walk by her side.”
Teresa met another surprise was when she went home to Foxford on her vacation. When she visited her parish church, the pastor, Fr. Padraig Costello, heard that Teresa grew up in Foxford and entered the RSC’s in 1952. The pastor quickly calculated that Teresa was celebrating her Diamond Jubilee! Since it is the Year of Consecrated Life he began preparing a celebration, putting a notice in the parish bulletin. He offered Mass for Teresa and the celebration continued in the local restaurant, The Mayfly. The Pastoral Council organized everything and O’Hara’s Bakery provided a beautiful cake. Fr. Padraig presented Teresa with a beautiful picturesque book on Co. Mayo that his brother had produced. Other priests that attended were Fr. Wolk, a German priest in residence, and Father Joyce.