"People tell me that they feel as comfortable in the parish as in a pair of old slippers,” smiles Ursuline Sister Marie Ellen Kuhel, pastoral associate and responsible for RCIA at Blessed Junípero Serra Church in Lancaster. “These are strong people, who are trying to make Christianity a lifestyle.”Congregation of St. Joseph Father Leo Dechant, pastor, says the common dynamic of a of a commuter lifestyle greatly affects the people of his parish. "So it is important that the people find it a safe place, a place of meaning and welcome,” he explains. “They are open and willing to try new things."And learn. Last Advent, about 75 people stayed after Sunday Mass to discuss changes in the new Mass translation. And during Lent, many stayed after Mass to hear a short talk on “A Holier You.”"These people thirst for God, for belonging to the larger community,” says Father Dechant. “They want to be one parish and to do whatever is needed to make them a relevant, supportive, positive parish."Very frequently, baptisms are celebrated during Sunday liturgy. "And the people love it,” declares the pastor. “They are interested in supporting other families." “I just love it here," says Sister Marie Ellen. "There is a welcoming spirit among the people, an excitement about being Church, about being community. We have fun being Church. When we meet, we eat. Sharing food together means we are able to do Eucharist better as community. That's the thing — it's not about the food. It's about community.”"We embrace everything as a family,” adds Rosa Mosich, director of faith formation who oversees RCIA and in religious instruction. “We emphasize to the children that we are a church family. Everyone participates in the baptism and that's why we usually have the baptisms at Sunday Mass. We share the vision of Father Dechant, and it makes the entire parish staff come together, too.”With a virtual "explosion" of families and children in the Antelope Valley area, religious education classes are at capacity at the parish, especially in non-sacramental programs. "The parents in our parish want Catholic education for their children," says Mosich. "And many parents are finding their way back home to the faith, too. So as a welcoming parish, we facilitate the walk back home. We embrace whole family catechesis. We bless the family as they leave their home and we bless our church family. Catechists always bless the children as they come to class and the children bless each other as they leave for home. We are a tight-knit community.” That was evident following a recent Sunday Mass at St. Elizabeth Mission in Lake Hughes, administered by Blessed Junípero Serra Church. As Eucharistic Ministers Ralph and Sara Salcido joined altar society members Lu Bole and Mary Borjon in straightening up the small church, they were asked by a visitor if there was a shorter route to Los Angeles than back through Lancaster.Ralph Salcido gave very clear directions that helped to avoid the 40-mile trek. Then he placed his right thumb on the visitor's forehead, traced a cross and said, "May God go with you and be with you on your way."{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/0824/serra/{/gallery}