FABIAN’S (not his real name) hands were shaking when he saw the image of Sto. Niño visit them in the Cebu City Operation Second Chance center for minor offenders yesterday.

The 18-year-old was one of 214 persons in the rehabilitation center who were overjoyed by the annual visit of the Child.

“His Holiness is my inspiration so that by the time I am released from here, I can walk with steady knees and an unwavering resolve to be of service to Him by following in His footsteps,” he told Sun.Star Cebu, in tears.

He was only 16 when he first set foot in the rehab center after facing a case for theft and has been teaching the younger ones how to pray the rosary.

Mass

A mass was offered inside the facility among the minors, jail officers and social workers at 9 a.m. yesterday as part of the church’s tradition.

It was the first time for newly-installed Prior and Rector of the Basilica Minore Del Santo Niño, Fr. Pacifico Nohara, OSA, to preside over a mass in front of the teenagers.

Mas makakita pa ko sa mga dagko nga naa sa simbahan nga magtabi kaysa sa mga bata. Naminaw sila ug nikanta and I didn’t expect that from them (I often see the adults talking in the church rather than these kids. They listened to the homily, sang the songs and I didn’t expect that from them),” he said.

Clad in orange and yellow shirts, they also performed a 10-minute dance in front of the image to the delight of the priests and personnel from the Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS).

When they were given a chance to kiss the image, most of the girls cried, including 18-year-old Angel (not her real name), a young mother.

Unta dunggon ni Senor Sto. Niño ug ni Papa God ang among pag-ampo nga amo na gud mabalik og kauban ang among mga pamilya especially sa akong anak nga mao akong gihug nga inspirasyon diring kalibotana (I hope that Señor Sto. Niño and Papa God will hear our prayers that someday, we will be together with our family, especially my baby who is my inspiration in this world),” she said, crying.

She was 16 years old when she entered the center for qualified theft and was already carrying her baby girl, now a year and five months old.

Moved

Vivian Nardo, a social worker, expressed her joy when she saw how the children warmly welcomed the Sto. Niño.

Ang mga bata ni-prepare gyud sila sa ilang kabutbut-on sa pag abot sa Sto. Niño diri. Dako ni ang effect sa ilang kinabuhi ang pag-ari sa Sto. Niño sa pag-realize nila sa ilang kinabuhi (The children prepared a dance in their own initiative for the visit of Sto. Niño. This visit will have a big effect in their realization in their lives),” she said.

Warden Supt. Corazon Noel said it has been six years now that the image has visited the rehab center.

She said it greatly contributed to the spiritual awareness of the teenagers despite their problems.

The image of the Sto. Niño also visited the female dorm and spent the night inside the male dormitory of the Cebu City Jail before going back to the basilica.