The multicultural population of St. Philomena Church was well represented Aug. 10 when the Carson parish celebrated a milestone: the dedication of its new rectory and parish hall.The church was nearly filled to capacity for the morning Mass of Thanksgiving with San Pedro Region Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Solis presiding. And the languages and colorful clothing highlighted the 11 different ethnic communities that call the parish home.The gathering rite featured Samoan men blowing concha shells, followed by incense and liturgical dance that preceded Bishop Solis and the concelebrating priests. Near the baskets of food items for the offertory, purple leis hung on a railing for distribution later. The Mass coincided with the Feast Day of St. Philomena, marking an auspicious day for worshippers.“It is a great occasion to give thanks as we gather around the table of our Lord,” said Bishop Solis. “Congratulations to you for living your faith and carrying on the message of St. Philomena. Recognize the presence of God in this church, in your lives, in your family, in your community. This is not just a celebration, however, but also a challenge for us to continue to build God’s kingdom in our midst.”The celebration included the singing of the hymn “Hail O Saint Philomena” and a Blessing of the Children in which all the youngsters were brought up to the altar. “Maybe we should also include this to mean all those ‘young at heart,’” quipped the bishop.After the final blessing, Bishop Solis, along with Father Demetrio Bugayong, pastor, and his associates, Fathers Niko Leota, Josef Mitek and William Ruther, processed to the rectory for its official blessing. This new building was completed earlier in the year with Father Bugayong and his associates having already taken up residence.From there, the procession traveled to the new parish hall, the former church which underwent 18 months of renovations. The building provides meeting space for the 60-plus ministries at the parish, parish offices and three large halls that will serve both parish and school needs. After the blessing and the ribbon cutting, parishioners entered the hall for lunch and refreshments. The high ceiling of the former church building gave the large hall an expansive, airy feel as parishioners gathered for food and fellowship.“This parish hall building puts an exclamation point on the community here and how we have built this together,” said Renette Scott, retired parish liturgy director, referring to the Filipinos, Samoans, African-Americans, Latinos, West Africans, Vietnamese, Chamorros, Koreans and Anglos who comprise St. Philomena’s community. “We are an urban suburban church and very diverse.” Longtime parishioner Jerry Rogers has seen the changes in the church and welcomes the new influence. “The church keeps growing and people from different races all work together here,” he said. “We bring together people and you feel like a family here — and it doesn’t make a difference if you’re black, brown, white or whatever. All are welcomed.”St. Philomena’s new church was dedicated in 2002. The old church building, transformed into a new parish hall, will no doubt soon be humming with activities to serve its nearly 5,000 families, although Father Bugayong estimates that nearly 20,000 individuals participate in some weekly liturgy, including 10 weekend Masses.As pastor since 1992, and having overseen the capital campaign and construction of the church, rectory and parish hall, Father Bugayong said Aug. 10 marked a great moment for the parishioners at St. Philomena. He’s especially proud that money raised for the construction projects (“Operation: Ownership”) came directly out of requests from the weekly bulletin, with no extraordinary marketing needed. The request was simply announced and the people responded, he said. “This day means we are passing on our church,” he said. “It’s our turn to continue the development needs of the parish and pass these buildings on to the next generation. The church is ours for now, but it is our children’s in the future.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0816/philomena/{/gallery}