It is easy to be struck by two things about St. Maxmilian Kolbe Parish in Westlake Village. The parish church and grounds are quietly nestled away in beautiful hills surrounded by winding roads. And as one enters the parish church for liturgy, it very definitely reflects its surroundings — a warm atmosphere and a place of beautiful, thoughtful worship.“It is a hidden diamond,” smiles Father Jarlath Dolan, pastor. “The faith community is very gracious, and highly educated. They are supportive and loyal to their church.”It is a parish with a very rich past, he adds, owing to the legacy of founding pastor Msgr. Peter O’Reilly “who did so much.” And it has the capacity for a rich future for which it is poised to make wise decisions.Although St. Maximilian has no elementary school, there is Kolbe’s Korner Pre-School under director Paula Kruer. About 95 children, 45 a day, come to pre-school in the morning during the course of a week. “They have such a sense of God,” marvels Kruer. “They just glow and get excited. They are all about something very simple — like bringing flowers and saying thanks to Mary for giving us Jesus. And often they bring their parents back to church. Children live in the moment and they teach us. They teach us how to teach them.”Under the leadership of Laura Diaz, older parish youth are involved confirmation preparation, Youth 2 the MAX (high school age), Max Pax (junior high) and such activities as “A Brush of Kindness” (cleaning houses and grounds for the elderly and incapacitated who are unable to keep their homes in good repair) and “Christmas With Santa.”Such generosity is definitely a hallmark at St. Maximilian Kolbe, in the tradition of their patron saint, a priest who traded places with a Jewish man at Auschwitz and died so the other man would live. St. Max parishioners give their all, primarily through 10 adult outreach ministries overseen by co-chairs Bill Cole and Bill Figge. Figge recalls the words of Deacon Chris Laliberte to those in Outreach Ministries on a recent day when two families were present to accept two new homes built by St. Max parishioners through Habitat for Humanity: “The people we assist are a greater gift to us than we are to them,” said Deacon Chris.“We walk away so enriched by the opportunity that we have,” says Figge. “It’s not always easy to help. There are lots barriers that get in the way of assisting people. But these ministries are the ones that have made it easier for all of us.”This August the parish will bless its fifth Habitat for Humanity house in Oxnard. Other Outreach Ministries include Cerebral Palsy Home Ministry, Detention Ministry (at Camp Kilpatrick for men and Camp 13 for women), Employment Ministry (assisting the unemployed), Homeless Breakfast (for 200 on the second Saturday in Ventura in conjunction with another parish), Project Response (distributing food, clothing and personal supplies four times a year), St. Michael’s “Sister” Parish (collecting food, assistance, Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, gifts and school supplies for 550 children at the South L.A. parish), St. Vincent de Paul Society (material and financial assistance to those in need), Prayer Shawl Ministry (bringing comfort and support to those who are very ill or have suffered great loss) and Bereavement Ministry.A veteran parishioner, Figge cites “great leadership” at St. Max for helping make outreach possible and thrive. “Father Jarlath asks lots of questions. He asks if we are doing the right things. Can we do them better?”Moreover, he adds, the parish’s ministries are not meant to provide “a hand out, but rather a hand up. And our parishioners are generous to the max. They always want to know what else they can do. And when they are asked, they respond.” {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/0713/stmax/{/gallery}