When Father Anthony Gonzalez arrived for his first Mass at St. Clement Church in Santa Monica seven years ago, he was surprised and delighted at what he saw: a church on a hill looking out on the ocean. After vesting in the sacristy, with an image of the Holy Spirit on his chasuble, he began that first Mass by greeting parishioners: “Welcome to the beautiful church of St. Clement-by-the-Sea!” From that day forward he has called St. Clement Parish home, just as many parishioners for decades have faithfully attended this simple church that bears many signs of its patron saint: ship anchors on the wooden doors, a seaman’s bell outside the sacristy, an image of St. Clement with an anchor. It is a varied community of people, from areas of affluence and need, who accompany each other on their faith journey.“There is a very family oriented spirit here, a joyful spirit, a strong spirit,” says Father Tony. “People know each other and greet those they don’t know, and that is one of the joys of a small community.” All share in providing for the parish, as well as the community. Some parishioners volunteer and help out at St. Joseph Center in Venice that serves the needy of the community to the south of the parish, while others take Communion to the homebound and those in care facilities. And many are involved in parish organizations like the Guadalupanos, Oaxacan Natividad and Adoration Group.Former parish bookkeeper Camille Conway, at 98 years young, still works as an accountant, and is brought to Sunday Mass and various appointments by parishioner Celeste Rodriguez. Richard Tray, a parishioner since 1964, assists in the sacristy, helps with music as needed, and is always ready to help. Norma Lyman is a part-time sacristan, visits incarcerated youth in camps, “and is always grateful to God,” says Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet Joyce Gaspardo, the director of pastoral care.“This is a very welcoming faith community that truly cares about each other,” adds Sister Joyce. “The people support each other, and those who have been here for years and years welcome visitors and newcomers to the parish. The spirit is so wonderful. I love it here.”Old and young alike have a place in this parish by the sea. Cindy Del Rio, at 31, has been a parishioner since she was five years old. She remembers how she “did not care for” religious education and confirmation classes. But through personal experience she has learned how young people can be taught and become involved in their parish. Today she is DRE, coordinator of confirmation teachers, director of the youth group, in charge of altar servers and, with Lucy Navarro, is responsible for “Safeguard the Children” in the parish. Navarro, Suzy Lupercio and Magali Ramirez are part of the confirmation team that helps youth become aware and involved. “We try to get teens to really understand their faith and what they are here for,” says Del Rio. “We work with them, guide them, open the path — if it hasn’t already been opened for them — in their relationship with God. What I want to show youth is that God can be fun. It is really hard, but we get there.”The youth group is involved in parish celebrations and programs — dressing as the apostles and washing parishioners’ feet on Holy Thursday, participating in the parish Passion Play, and assisting as needed in everything from parish festivals to cleaning the church. It gives Del Rio great hope for the future.“I love this job and this parish. It is my second home,” she smiles. “I don’t see myself anywhere else. I have gone to other churches, but I feel out of place. This is my place. The church community is small, but comforting and welcoming. I wouldn’t go anywhere else.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0816/stclement/{/gallery}