“I’m really enjoying my time here,” says Father Gustavo Castillo of St. Frances of Rome, the east San Gabriel Valley parish he pastors, whose active and vibrant community belies its century-plus age.“These parishioners are excited to live out their faith and share it,” continues Father Castillo, citing the increasing emphasis on outreach to others and the ongoing collaborative spirit for which he and others credit Father Edward Landreau, pastor emeritus, who continues to serve in the parish after almost 30 years.Indeed, Father Castillo frequently uses the word “we” in regards to what the parish does, for he gives himself wholeheartedly to his parishioners. Having served three years as administrator and three as pastor, Azusa has become his home because he, too, is an immigrant. The parish has many multi-generational parishioners who have seen Azusa grow from its early citrus farms to today’s busy suburban area. Like Inez and Pete Gutierrez, married 57 years ago at St. Frances of Rome, and a big part of this multi-generational community. Six generations of Inez’ family have called the parish home. She (a longtime employee of the Azusa Unified School District and a member of its board of trustees for 30 years) and Pete (a retired mold polisher) have raised their children in the parish, are now great-grandparents, and have been involved in multiple ministries (RCIA, bereavement and more). Inez chairs the Pastoral Council Advisory Board; Pete is a member of the Knights of Columbus. And Inez still remembers the day she saw Pete for the first time — in St. Frances of Rome Church. She was 15; he was 19 and recently arrived from Mexico to work at whatever he found. They married three years later and have lived their married lives in the house in which Inez was born 76 years ago.For them, stability, hard work and love of community, family and church are at “the core of our lives,” says Inez, who is as busy and active at the parish as she’s ever been.She recalls the recent retreat for ministerial leaders. “I felt empowered and received a lot of information so that I can help others,” says Inez. “That’s what it means to be church. Father Gustavo has been very receptive to input from those in ministry, those who build up our church. We have a suggestion box in church, and he takes the time to read the suggestions. He’s visible and he’s accessible.”Joining the longtime parishioners in ministry are younger members like Jacob Israel Villalobos, director of music and youth ministry for the past 11 years, and his assistant Richard Dumelle. Villalobos, a teen minister since his junior year of high school, sees youth ministry as invaluable to a parish which is why he, his mom and a brother started a youth group with no physical or financial resources available. “But we had the willingness and the goodwill of the kids,” he says. “At the heart of youth ministry at St. Frances, we offer teens a positive influence with their church so that wherever life takes them, they can always call St. Frances ‘home’ and be accepted. Home is the place you can always come back to. I want St. Frances to be their spiritual ‘home.’ That is the unconditional love Jesus has promised us.” {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/0902/frances/{/gallery}