Maria Garcia is a self-proclaimed extrovert who finds joy helping others.
“I draw my happiness from my faith. I love coming to church, I love helping others,” the 21-year-old college student said. “… I really do try to love everyone as much as I can and forgive everyone as much as I can.”
That hopeful attitude is a far cry from what she’s had to endure. Garcia came to the United States from Mexico at 5 years old and is a DACA recipient. While born and raised Catholic, she and her mother began regularly attending Mass again when Garcia was about 13.
“I had a very rough adolescence. When my parents separated I really dealt with a lot of anger and frustration and felt alone. I had to go to counseling and I was becoming suicidal,” she said. A counselor suggested she find involvement, and for Garcia, that meant her Catholic faith.
As a teen, she participated in diocese youth programs Búsqueda, Search and Catholic Charities Summer Institute and gave testimonies about her story.
As assistant director of faith formation at St. Theresa Church in Little Rock, Garcia has been able to minister in the parish and school. Using her pain, including enduring sexual assault, Garcia said she particularly enjoys ministering to young girls and women. She is studying to be a teacher.
“There’s a lot of people, especially girls, who have felt very worthless. Society expects so much of us. I try to help them understand we are worth more than what they think,” she said.
Garcia continues to manage her depression through faith work, drawing and also writing letters to God in her diary.
“God forgives you for anything that you do. He loves you no matter what mistakes you have and whatever background you have,” she said.
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