The Faces of God:St. Martha Church

The pastor of St. Martha Parish in Valinda, Father Mauricio Goloran, says that his parish models itself after St. Martha, the patron saint of hospitality. He and others in the parish are proud that theirs is definitely “a welcoming community,” a truly multi-cultural parish that works at inclusiveness and working together to make a better church community.

In meeting with parish groups, Father Goloran often reminds them that they are the face of the parish to those who visit or come to events. “You are the face of hospitality to people,” he says. “The joy of being together overflows. People are welcoming here.”     

During the weekend of May 4-6 the parish celebrated its fiesta. At the Lifeteen booth several young people selling snacks greeted those who came to buy donuts and coffee. Yolanda Gonzales, a moderator of the 350-member teen group, has been involved in St. Martha youth activities since her daughter, now 32, was in confirmation class. Last year her grandson was confirmed and he still helps with teen retreats. 

Why is she so involved? “When I see the youth, I only see God’s love for them and God’s presence in their lives,” replies Yolanda.” It makes a difference.” 

And why at St. Martha’s? “Because they accepted me for what I was, and through that passion I learned to make God actively a part of my life every day,” says Yolanda. “They are in the same boat I was in.”  

It is this type of heartfelt involvement that makes such a difference. Teresita Ortiz says that her friends and family often tease her as she heads off to St. Martha’s (“So you are going to your other home?”).

 “I try to see God in every member of the family,” says Teresita, a member of the parish for 42 years in which she and her husband (who died last November) raised two children. “The parish is a big family to me and to others. That’s the way it is supposed to be, an extended family. We gather. We work together. Some carry a heavier load than others. But that is what happens in a family. At times it isn’t perfect, but we try. We’re human.”

Teresita, the liaison with St. Martha’s Spanish-speaking community, says they work to develop fellowship and camaraderie with everyone in the parish, participating in the fiesta and in outreach to the homeless.

“It is a family,” she reiterates. “We try to excel in everything that is asked of us. We treat each other warmly. We evangelize. The spirit of this church is unity.”  

As says these efforts to work together do pay off. 

“People are involved in this parish because they want to contribute to the community and feel a sense of belonging,” says longtime parishioner Perla Veneracion, parish finance council secretary. “We are a more integrated parish now. We have our ministries — Spanish ministry, Filipino ministry — and at the same time we work together more cooperatively. If there is a celebration in the church, both the Filipino and Spanish ministries work together to make the celebration better. If we need help for a Filipino celebration, we ask the Spanish community to help, and we do the same for them.”  

With that same attitude Javier Sandino, a 35-year parishioner, has run the parish fiesta for the last 25 years. “With the dedication I have, it doesn’t stress me,” smiles Sandino, originally from Nicaragua. “I do it for the parish. I do it for the community. Every year for me is a new experience — new adventure, new objectives, new ways. I enjoy it.” 

Sandino is on the board of St. Martha School, which his children attended (“I got involved because I wanted to know who was around my kids”), and last summer helped to build the kindergarten. He notes proudly that his daughter just graduated from Cal Poly and is assistant coach of the soccer team, and his son is a freshman at USC.

“I am here every Sunday for 6:30 Mass,” he adds with a smile. “The Sunday I do not come here, it is like I miss my own house.” 

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