THE 75TH ANNIVERSARY of the foundation of Cristo Rey Church was a highlight of this year’s activities. The Augustinian Recollects have enjoyed a long and wonderful history here and it was through the vision of our community that permission was given for Fr. Jesus Domench, O.A.R. to begin ministering to the Hispanic Catholics in the Atwater Village section of Los Angeles. The small community joined with the Glendale Fiesta Association to raise funds to purchase land for a church. The first meeting in 1939 was held on the Feast of Christ the King and the enthusiastic members of the local community hoped that if their fund-raising activities would be fruitful that they would eventually be able to construct a church and desired that it be called "Cristo Rey," a title which is so dear to the Hispanic community.
Masses were celebrated outdoors and in various locations for several years before construction began on the church. It was a joyous occasion when Archbishop John J. Cantwell dedicated the new church on March 12, 1944. The beautiful statue of Christ the King in the sanctuary is a replica of the image in the Recollect church of the Sacred Heart in Manizales, Colombia. The numerous and beautiful statues that adorn the church are an inspiration to the people and a fascination for visitors. A recent issue of the Atwater Village Residents Association described the mission style architecture of the church and the unique interior as well worth a visit.
Several of the Augustinian Recollects with Archbishop José Gomez and Bishop Gerard Wilkerson prior to the anniversary Mass.
Archbishop Jose Gomez was the principal celebrant of the 75th anniversary Mass on Sunday, November 23, the Feast of Christ the King. He was joined by Auxiliary Bishop Gerald Wilkerson and members of our Province who were able to attend.
During the initial planning, Fr. Michael Stechmann, O.A.R. pastor, had invited the Archbishop to participate in the street procession following the Mass. The presence of so many parishioners, led by the young members of a “banda” created an enthusiasm throughout the neighborhood that is still very much a part of conversations. Archbishop Gomez enjoyed the enthusiasm of the day and remained afterwards for over an hour being photographed with parishioners. The festivities continued with a festival and food booths sponsored by various groups and parish families.
The anniversary celebration was included in the religious and secular press and photographs posted on the Facebook page of Archbishop Gomez were viewed by more than 41,000 persons. Certificates were received from the California State Legislature and the City of Los Angeles and are displayed in the church entrance.
The distribution of a brief parish history and commemorative holy cards was welcomed by the parishioners. A good number of former residents of Atwater Village returned for the celebration and it was a delight to welcome back those who called Cristo Rey their “home” during these 75 years.
The Presentation of the Gifts during the liturgy. (Overflow crowds viewed the Mass in the parish hall via a video feed.)
FR. JUAN JOSE GUZMAN and members of the Movimiento Familiar Cristiano took advantage of the feast of All Saints and All Souls to prepare altars for a “Dia de los Muertos” celebration in the parish hall. Parishioners brought photographs to place on the designated altars and following each Mass there was a procession to the parish hall and prayers for our beloved deceased. The parishioners were delighted to share in this tradition and are looking forward to it next year.
A MARATHON OF NOVENAS began in November in preparation for the Feast of Christ the King and this was followed by the novenas in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Las Posadas. All of the novenas were extremely well attended and met with an enthusiastic response.
LAS GUADALUPANAS continue to be a very active group in the parish with their regular meetings, Sunday breakfasts and cleaning of the church. Prior to the anniversary celebration, they purchased a new rug for the sanctuary area and made a generous gift to the Annual Appeal of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the parish. In addition, they provided the mariachi for the Mañanitas on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as well as entertainment and plentiful refreshments in the parish hall after the Mass.
FOLLOWING TRADITION, the first regional day of recollection was held on November 20 with the religious of the Western Region gathering at our community plot in San Fernando Mission Cemetery with prayers for our deceased friars. Immediately afterwards the community of Cristo Rey hosted lunch for the friars.
CRISTO REY hosted a training session on November 8 for volunteers from various parishes in the region who have volunteered to assist members of their own communities in preparing for the written examination in order to obtain a California driver’s license. The sessions throughout the Archdiocese of Los Angeles were being held after Assembly Bill 60 was signed into law and required the Department of Motor Vehicles to begin issuing driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants after January 1. Deacon Ascencion Esqueda, O.A.R. coordinated the volunteers from our parish and directed the training session for a group of thirty-five parishioners on January 10th. The afternoon of instruction provided the participants with the information necessary on how to complete an application, supply required documentation, complete forms and also included several practice examinations.
Deacon Ascencion and several volunteers assisted parishioners wishing to obtain a California driver's license.
--Father Michael Stechmann, OAR
More pictures of the 75th Anniversary of the foundation of Cristo Rey Church: