BISHOP OSCAR SOLIS, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles, made his first visit to Cristo Rey and administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to 31 teenagers and 29 adult members of our parish. (We have 41 teenagers and 37 adults in preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation, which will be administered on May 14, 2016).
Bishop Solis with the Recollect community at Confirmation.
DEACON ASCENSION ESQUEDA accompanied the parish theatrical group, “Cristo Siempre” for their annual picnic on June 20 at Griffith Park. This is the 41st year in which this group has been active in the parish with three annual performances.
FR. MICHAEL STECHMANN celebrated the Mass of Christian Burial on July 8 for Senaida Kane, sister of Bishop Alphonse Gallegos, at St. Cornelius Church in Long Beach. “Sena” was known by many members of our Province, and, growing up at San Miguel in Watts, our religious saw how she cared for all of the family members, especially a young Alfonso, and with their prompting, she began many years of catechetical service to the parish. She was the last surviving sibling of the Gallegos Family.
ON JULY 26 our parishioners were afforded several opportunities to continue showing their generosity with the “Bundle Sunday,” sponsored by the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and participation in the Mission Cooperative Appeal of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Our parishioners filled the truck with usable clothing and household items. They were especially generous in responding to the appeal of Sister Sophia of the Daughters of Mary of Tanzania. We had coordinated with their contact person here in the United States, since she didn’t speak any Spanish, Deacon Ascension Esqueda assisted her with the mission appeal, and he communicated very clearly the details of their work and mission. She endeared herself to our parishioners, especially when she sang a song of blessing in Swahili, which was met with a thunderous applause at each Mass. There was an equally enthusiastic response from our people when she responded with the only Spanish word she learned: ¡Gracias!
FR. MICHAEL STECHMANN went to Kansas for a week at the end of July to attend the 45th reunion of the graduating class of St. Joseph High School in Shawnee. There was a good representation of classmates present for the occasion, which began with the Saturday Vigil Mass in the parish church and a special remembrance for all of our deceased classmates.
THE SUNDAYS OF AUGUST were occupied with registrations for Catechism/Confirmation classes. Mr. Jose Torres, Director of Religious Education, coordinated the process with the help of several family members. All of our volunteer catechists have returned for this year, and two sessions of classes are held six days each week. Fr. Michael hosted the meeting for the catechists on August 25, and we are especially fortunate that additional volunteers have responded to our invitation to assist in the program. Students from our Confirmation program and Youth Group have proven to be enthusiastic in their approach and delighted to have the opportunity to teach classes. The Opening Mass for catechism classes was held on September 12 and immediately afterwards the students and their families met briefly with their respective teachers.
José Torres registering students.
The Opening Mass for catechism classes.
THE EXTERIOR OF THE CHURCH was painted during the month of August after repairs were made to the numerous cracks and fissures. The preparation, repair and painting went very smoothly and also included painting and repairs to the exterior of the parish hall and walls surrounding our property.
CRISTO REY HOSTED a fingerprinting session on August 22 as part of the Safeguard the Children program of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. There was a tremendous response from our community and surrounding parishes, and three live-scan machines were operating continuously for seven hours. (The only downside was the weeks of telephone calls for persons registering and inquiring about the process and scheduling appointments).
FR. MICHAEL STECHMANN has been invited to participate in the Good Leaders/Good Shepherds program that will meet six times during 2015/2016. He, along with 28 priests from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Orange, have received scholarships for this through the generosity of the Hilton and Leavey Foundations.
A TRIDUUM in preparation for the Feast of St. Ezekiel Moreno was held in the parish, and, following the Mass on the evening of August 1, Fr. Juan Jose Guzman administered the Anointing of the Sick. Deacon Ascension Esqueda assisted and presented the relic of St. Ezekiel for veneration. Many parishioners are imploring the intercession of St. Ezekiel for family members with serious health concerns.
THE SECULAR AUGUSTINIAN RECOLLECTS, under the director of Fr. Juan Jose Guzman, continue to meet regularly for Evening Prayer and Mass, followed by a conference and social. For the Solemnity of St. Augustine they gathered in the parish hall to view a recent video on his life, interspersed with quotations from his Confessions.
AN APPRECIATION DINNER for parish volunteers was held in our parish hall on Sunday, September 27, with the local community hosting the event. More than 100 catechists, choir members, lectors, ushers, Eucharistic Ministers and other volunteers joined us for a festive meal of Italian fare and entertainment. The surprise gift from our community to the parish volunteers was the presence of Bryan Muñoz, a 13 year-old mariachi singer who had been present at the parish festival in May.
The community with Bryan Muñoz.
Parish volunteers enjoy the dinner and entertainment during the Appreciation Dinner.
DEVOTION TO ST. RITA has certainly increased in the parish and the supply of prayer cards near her image are being replenished almost daily. It is interesting that the Armenian community which comprises nearly 60% of nearby Glendale has special devotion to St. Rita and word has spread that her statue is present in our church, prompting frequent visitors to light candles and present their petitions. On October 1 at the Vatican during the General Audience, Pope Francis blessed a large statue of St. Rita which is to be placed between the towns of Cascia and her birthplace in Roccaporena, Italy. Pope Francis invited everyone during the Year of Mercy to “reread her extraordinary human and spiritual experience as a sign of the power of God’s mercy
THE LONG-AWAITED ANNOUNCEMENT of the appointment of three new auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles was met with great enthusiasm. On September 7, Frs. Michael Stechmann and Juan Jose Guzman attended Vespers on the eve of the episcopal ordination of Bishops Robert Barron, Joseph Brennan and David O’Connell and also participated in the ordination at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on the following day. Fr. Michael attended the Mass of Installation for Bishop Brennan on December 19, which was held in North Hollywood.
Fr. Michael, Bishop Brennan, and Fr. Juan José at the cathedral.
THE MONTH OF NOVEMBER was especially busy with meetings and Frs. Michael and Juan Jose continuing to assist at hospitals and nearby parishes. Cristo Rey hosted the regional deanery meeting for priests on November 13, and the following week we organized the prayers at San Fernando Mission for our deceased religious, followed by lunch at the parish. In the midst of all of this we were in the novena in preparation for the Solemnity of Christ the King, with several families participating in the nightly presentation of flowers and different individuals leading the novena meditations, and the homily for each of the evenings was on a rotating schedule among the three of us. The feast of Cristo Rey was observed with great enthusiasm on November 22 with the traditional street procession accompanied by the Banda “Nueva Ilusión” and a very successful parish festival.
CRISTO REY hosted a meeting of representatives from other parishes in preparation for the 2016 Archbishop’s Appeal, “Together in Mission,” which will begin in January. The theme for this year is “Though we are many, we are one.” Another training session was held here for those who have volunteered to speak at neighboring parishes.
Mr. Anthony Sciacca, Director of Archdiocesan Appeal, recognized Fr. Michael Stechmann and the Cristo Rey community for their continued generosity for the annual campaign.
ACTIVITIES DURING DECEMBER include the novena in preparation for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, with enthusiastic participation each evening for the Mass, presentation of flowers, homilies specific to the feast and parishioners leading the novena prayers. Each night of the novena was especially well attended and spirited because of the varied selection of hymns by the choirs each evening. The celebrations on the feast began at 4:30am with the serenade to Our Lady by the Banda “Nueva Ilusión” prior to the 5:00am Mañanitas and Mass. The Guadalupanas of the parish in their customary generosity gifted the parish with the mariachi for the Mass and entertainment in the parish hall afterwards, along with tamales, pan dulce and champurrado for everyone present.
LAS POSADAS celebrations began on December 15 and continued nightly after the 7:00pm Mass. Deacon Ascension Esqueda took responsibility for the procession, arranging the choral singing, and leading prayers in the parish hall before the festivities. Parish groups and individual families were very generous in volunteering to host the celebration for the nine days of ample refreshments and providing several piñatas each night and “take home goodies” for the children. Every evening had a different spirit and enthusiasm because of the sponsors. The parishioners were especially delighted with the “baile folklórico” dances.
Dancers during the Las Posadas celebration.
THE ADVENT SEASON found a good number of parishioners attending daily Masses, which was very encouraging. Families were eager to volunteer for the lighting of the Advent candles at each of the Sunday Masses. There was an especially good attendance at all of the Christmas Masses, and the parishioners are still expressing their delight with the repaired figures from the original nativity set. The end of the year found a steady stream of people from all over visiting Cristo Rey to offer thanks to God for the gifts they have received and to ask blessings for the year to come. Of course, the doorbell rang continuously with everyone wanting candles. Cristo Rey is one of the few churches to offer 7pm Masses on Christmas and New Year’s with overflow crowds in attendance (and lining up outside of the sacristy for candles!)