In the 1920’s and 30’s, my father and some of my uncles who lived in Texas got involved in trafficking illegal liquor from Mexico to the U.S. side of the border. They would then sell the illegal liquor in the U.S. My uncle, Eleno Rojas, got caught and was sentenced to 3 to 4 years in jail and served his time in El Paso, Texas. Being in that jail was a frightening experience. Terrible crimes were committed there, not only by the inmates but also by the jailers. My uncle feared for his life and wondered whether he would survive in that terrible jail. Uncle Eleno had learned about Padre Pio through his parents. At the time, Padre Pio was a young priest. My uncle prayed all the time that God would protect him. One night as he was praying, his cell became filled with a beautiful fragrance of roses. He felt a great sense of peace. He saw Padre Pio standing in front of him. Padre Pio communicated to Uncle Eleno that everything would be all right. Shortly after that experience, my uncle was released from jail. He never failed to thank Padre Pio for coming to his aide and for the rest of his life he would talk about Padre Pio to anyone who would listen. He often spoke of, “the miracle that happened in his cell.” Uncle Eleno’s whole life changed after that experience with Padre Pio and it changed the lives of the rest of the family as well. We all became very devoted to Padre Pio.
All of my uncles left their former lifestyle behind them and they all became successful merchants. My uncle Eleno passed away in 2006. He was 100 years old. Isn’t it strange that I work at Central Jail in Los Angeles and I see what many inmates go through. I see their fear and loneliness. I used to see them wearing their rosaries until a rule was made that no longer allowed it. I would tell the prisoners, “Don’t just wear it around your neck, pray the Rosary as well.” I see that for many who are incarcerated, the only thing that can sustain them is their faith.
– Hortencia Perez