9.16 Pastor's Message

Last Monday we kicked off our Seminar Series for our Financial Wellness Program as a Parish. This is a project of our Finance Council headed by our Chairperson, Novie Medina and assisted by Ronnie Espinosa.

As part of our Vision and Mission as a parish which calls for responsible stewardship, our Finance Council has been restructured to reflect a more dynamic system of assisting our community to reach its objectives and beyond. Over the past months we have streamlined our systems which allows us to respond to the needs of the Church.

First, we have created a committee on Financial efficiency which is tasked to oversee our fiscal responsibilities on a more comprehensive way. Composed of members of the council who are involved in accounting and corporate management in their own private lives, this committee allows us to have a more strategic approach in the way we look at our finances. In the past months they have not only screened our books but had initiated the formulation of goals which would explain the underlying reasons for the proposed budgets of our subsidiary units. In short, they are making sure that our operations reflect our vision and mission as a Parish.

Secondly, we have created a committee on Plants and Facilities which assists the pastor in the major capital improvements of the church and school campus. While the council as a whole advises the pastor on the financial feasibility of capital projects, this committee focuses on the projects themselves, reviewing them in behalf of all the stakeholders of our church.

Lastly, we have our Financial Education committee which provides support for our parishioners to be responsible stewards themselves. The abovementioned seminar series is the brainchild of this committee.

These various activities are driven by selfless and dedicated volunteers led but not limited to the Finance Council. For example, our financial wellness program is run by volunteers from various parishioners who are in this field. Our Plant and Facilities people are supported by volunteer engineers and architects.

We are all trying our best to be “responsible stewards of His gifts” (from our Parish Vision and Mission Statement). If you feel that you have something to share in these stewardship committees then feel free to get in touch with me. Our Parish runs on the love and support of volunteers. I am grateful for those who had stepped forward to support our Church in various ways. I hope this article for this week inspire you to reflect on being a volunteer. Thank you.

Fr. John

9.9 Pastor's Message

The overwhelming response from our Parish groups to join hands in prayer this coming Friday, September 14, for a Day of Reflection and Penance is a source of encouragement for us all. About a week ago, I had decided to gather the parish in prayer on the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross, to pray for the Church especially those who are reeling from sexual abuse from the clergy.

I had a rude awakening about this thorn in the flesh of the Church when I first came to the United States in August of 2002, just two months after the drafting of the Dallas Charter of the USCCB, the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. It was the time when the news on this controversy was blown wide open. Coming from a course in seminary formation in Italy and I had heard stories from my American classmates about their experiences about being shunned by people while wearing their Roman collars. At times they could not even smile at children without frightened parents clutching their kids close out of fear.

Their experiences were so foreign to me that I did not take them to heart until I landed in JFK in New York. On my way to Manhattan, riding in a yellow cab, the driver introduced himself as Catholic from a Latin American country. He did so because I was wearing a clerical shirt. After a few pleasantries, he started to berate me in relation to the sexual abuse cases committed by priests. This was one of the most unpleasant cab rides in my life. It was my first time in the United States and I was out of my element. I just sat there, quietly taking it all in. Then, after reaching my destination, the driver gently reminded me of his 15% tip.

As a priest who had ministered to young people for over 34 years, the news of these sexual abuse cases had rocked me to the core. It had caused a lot of anger and bewilderment on how many lives were scarred because of these breaches of trust. It seems unfair for the entire clergy to be cast in a bad light because of a miniscule number of offenders but such treatment is a small cross to bear in the light of the wounds it had caused in the heart of the Church.

What can we do as a Parish community in the midst these new revelations on past cases that were thrown into the public sphere?

First, is that we should not shy away from it. We have referred to it in our homilies, social media postings and general conversations. The devil loves shadows and so, “let there be light!” This had encouraged parishioners to talk about similar wounds in a faith filled way.

Secondly, we shall renew our commitment to protect our children. I am glad to be in an era wherein we have systems in place to safeguard our children. Virtus training, fingerprinting and intentional procedures had prevented any new cases since 2002. I would like to commend our parishioners who had dedicated themselves to this particular ministry. Let us not tire of this facet of our Church life.

Lastly, let us pray together. I am inviting all of you to join us this Friday. Drop by the Church and join our various communities in praying alongside the relic of the True Cross. We shall have a day of intense prayer from the beginning of the day till the 6:30 PM mass. On that weekend, we shall heed the call of the Archdiocese to pray for this particular concern of the Church in all our masses.

God bless you all.
-Fr. John

Corpus Christi

I had always been raving about the people of the Parish.  However, this is not the only reason for my sense of gratitude for my assignment here as your Pastor.  The other star in that firmament is the neighborhood itself. 

When I came from Salt lake City last March, where I attended the installation of Bishop Oscar Solis, some parishioners picked me up from the airport.  As a token of my gratitude, I invited them for a snack at the home of my brother in Playa del Rey, near the airport.  My sister in law instantly whipped a small feast to the delight of my companions.  Playa del Rey, as a seaside community near LAX, is a nice and comfortable neighborhood with yearlong pleasant weather due to its proximity to the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean.  On the way back, one of my companions shared a question in his head: where would he like to live, that beach community or the locale of our Parish?

Answering that question was the subject of our conversation while traversing the 105 on the way back home. I am a sucker for cool weather so instinctively I was leaning towards the beach.  That neighborhood was in fact one of my very first official residences within the Archdiocese, having been assigned there for a few months with the late Msgr. Gabriel Gonzales in the Parish of Saint Anasthasia.  However, in the end, I said I too preferred our corner of the county.  My reason?  The food!.  There are very few communities that can rival the combination of restaurants and supermarkets that dot the landscape of Artesia, Cerritos and even our portion of Lakewood and Norwalk.  I don’t have to detail here why I feel that way (maybe I should start a food blog as suggested to me for years!) but let me say that within a three mile radius from the Church, there is such a concentration of great places to eat that there is no need to go elsewhere.

Allow me to balance my fascination with good food with my fascination of what food means to the larger picture.  In the end, good food is just one of the threads that bind the community.  It solidifies fellowship. It deepens friendships. 

Today we gather in celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi.  We acknowledge today that indeed the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  We, however, cannot fail to see that that God had chosen to frame the source and summit of our Christian life in the context of a meal.  The Eucharist, in a sense, highlighted the special power of a meal. 

Aside from taking instagram-worthy pictures of our meals, are we attentive to the people with us at table?  Do we strengthen our bonds as we enjoy the comfort of our food or are we so engrossed with our own devices (figuratively or literally) that we become self-absorbed robots?    Do we savor our God given food with gratitude or are we simply indifferent to it?

May this Feast of the Body and Blood of Our Lord open our hearts and minds to the wonderful gifts that are lavished upon us, not only in the Eucharistic meal but in the bonds of charity forged in our tables of fellowship. 

- Fr. John

Trinity Sunday

Last Friday, I had lunch with a friend of mine, the Pastor of the Concordia Lutheran Church on the end of 183rd St. in Cerritos.   I became fast friends with him and we decided to make this lunch as regular part of our monthly schedules.

In our conversations I learned a lot about Lutherans.  There is a reason why there is a lot of positive dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans and that is, we agree on a lot of stuff.  I had told him that one of my favorite YouTube channels is Lutheran Satire and a lot of their videos (a lot but alas, not all) can be used to defend our own catholic beliefs, albeit with a lot of humor.  We often have a picture of Martin Luther as the ultimate anti-Catholic demagogue but a close study of his belief reveals that if you brush aside his hot headed German side, we are closer than we think.

I had been mentioning before that I have a brother who is a Pastor of an Evangelical Church.   It is obvious that we do not agree on certain doctrinal matters (we have much more things in common with Lutherans) but I am quite close to my brother.  Instead of highlighting the things that set us apart, we talk about our common ground.

Our world today is torn by a lot of violence and hatred.  We would think that our “global village,” made even smaller by the burgeoning internet, would be more understanding of each other.  Instead, we have spawned an army of people who are trolling each other because of competing beliefs, politics and ideologies.

Today is Trinity Sunday and we are given the opportunity by the Church to reflect on this great mystery of our God, whose innerlife is revealed to us by Jesus in the Gospels.   We believe in a Triune God – three persons in one God.  Our imagery of God reflects that one thing we lack as Christians and as human beings, unity.  Jesus himself prayed: “so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us” (John 17:21).

We will always have common ground.  It can be expressed in different ways in our lives but we will always have something in common with each other.  Let us seek that which binds us rather than simply pointing out our differences.  If that is so, then we can all take a step closer in being in the image of our God, three persons, One God.

- Fr. John