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Michel Sturm was warned when he wanted to work with homeless youths. One social worker told him, “Walk away from this. If you don’t, it will break your heart.”

But he persisted, and in 1991 he started Pathways to help homeless teenagers in Fort Wayne, Ind. Currently, Pathways collaborates with Villages of Indiana, focusing on kids in their late teens. They are placed in transitional homes, where they are able to finish high school while learning daily life skills.

“In the early years, we didn’t have any place to send older kids, so many of them came home with me, and I got to know them well,” said Sturm, father of five and a member of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral Parish. Today, Sturm, 51, focuses his efforts on fundraising. “But it’s harder to convey how bad the problem is without putting a face on it,” he said. “So I try to get over and visit and keep current with the kids we’re working with.”

For Noreen Begordis, one of the greatest joys of prison ministry is to see the change when angry or depressed inmates come back to the sacraments.

“It’s wonderful to see how God can work once they open up a little bit and they turn their lives around through prayer,” said Begordis, a member of All Souls Parish in Englewood, Colo., who has visited Arapahoe County Detention Facility for eight years.

A Eucharistic minister, she holds Communion services and meets with inmates one-on-one to talk and to pray. She has also sought donations to provide prisoners with Bibles, prayer books and rosaries.

A trip to El Salvador allowed Jim Mischler-Philbin, 34, to tell his classes at Holy Names Academy in Seattle that “discipleship is still alive” in the church and in El Salvador.

Mischler-Philbin, a theology teacher, was one of six delegates chosen for the 1998 trip sponsored by Catholic Relief Services. Mischler-Philbin attended Mass in the chapel where Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated. The group learned about the Community Banks program, which provides loans to poor communities, and met with local teachers to discuss peace and justice issues.

After sharing his experiences with his classes, Holy Names agreed to participate in the Rice Bowl program for Lent this year with a special focus on El Salvador.

Send suggestions for Keeping Faith to Teresa Malcolm at NCR. Her E-mail address is tmalcolm@natcath.org

National Catholic Reporter, April 2, 1999