Ed. Note: Approximately 1,500 men, women and youth will receive their sacraments of initiation at the April 7 Easter Vigil, having participated in the Rite of Christian Initiation process at parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. This week, The Tidings spotlights one of our new Catholics.Guided by a great-grandmother’s love and the birth of her first son, Elizabeth Flores of Upland looks forward to this weekend’s Easter Vigil when she will be welcomed fully into her parish, St. Frances of Rome in Azusa. For this 27-year-old, the journey to embrace the Catholic community resonates deeply in familial ties and a desire to spiritually connect.

Born and raised in a Jewish family in East Los Angeles, Flores recalls that religion did not play an important role as a youngster. “I think I maybe went to temple once or twice by the time I was 10,” she says. Her father wasn’t part of the picture, but Flores --- an only child --- recalls being close to her mother, and especially her great-grandmother who lived with her family on and off during her childhood.

Even though religion wasn’t a big part of her early days, Flores was surrounded by friends, most of them Catholic. She sometimes accompanied them to Mass and her friends explained what was happening during the celebration. It was an eye-opening experience for her.

Flores admits there were traumatic moments in her childhood, making her life back then “very hard,” but she remembers that her great grandmother --- who was Catholic --- always encouraged her to pray. “She would tell me, ‘If you need anything, you can pray; prayer will help you, especially if you pray to our blessed mother, Mary.’” 

At a very low point in her childhood, Flores was faced with a desperate situation and decided to heed her great grandmother’s advice and pray. “Within two weeks, my great grandmother came to live with us and the situation at home got so much better,” she says. “It was then that I knew God was with me if I only asked.”

To have faith in a dark time is so important. I want to help people see that light and be open to that light just as I have done.---Elizabeth Flores

Through her high school and college days as well as her work with the L.A. Unified School District as a teacher’s assistant, Flores says she continued to pray and come to terms with her Catholic connection. “When I prayed, I found a little more strength each time,” she says. 

In 2005, she met her future husband Ricardo, a practicing Catholic. She started to going to Mass with Ricardo and his family at St. Frances and found a welcoming community there. Elizabeth and Ricardo were married in 2006 and last year welcomed their first son, Javier, now 14 months old. (When the time is right, Flores aims to go back to school to earn her B.A. and credential to teach.)

Despite her happiness, however, “something was missing in my life, something that I needed, but I couldn’t quite figure out what it was --- a little thing nagging in my head.”

With the birth of her son, Flores realized that she wanted Javier to be “raised with more faith in his life than I had. I want my son to be involved in his religion and teach him how to give back to the community.”

Flores also knew that her great grandmother was very influential in her decision to enter the RCIA process at St. Frances last year. “She was a big, big reason to do this, especially since her health was starting to go,” she says of her great grandmother who was living in Mexico at that time and quickly approaching 100 years old.

Last December, her great grandmother died. “But I know she is here,” says Flores. “She has made her presence known and I can feel her with me. I wouldn’t be here today without her in my life.”

On Holy Saturday evening, Flores imagines all sorts of emotions going through her, but she knows that feeling of “something missing” will disappear. Becoming a Catholic doesn’t mean that she will never face hard time again, she knows, but now she will have a place to turn to and find comfort and strength. 

“In this economy so many people are suffering and have questions about why,” she says. “But I know now that God doesn’t give us anything that we cannot handle, and that you have to believe that he has a plan for you. There is a reason to hold on.”

“This is a great time to be a Catholic,” she continues. “To have faith in a dark time is so important. I want to help people see that light and be open to that light just as I have done. Jesus is our savoir. Not just mine or yours, but all of ours. He came here and died for all of us, even if we don’t believe. That truly is what our faith means.”

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