As he looks back over many years of working in parishes, Oblate of Mary Immaculate Father Tom Coughlin — pastor of St. Ferdinand Church — finds this San Fernando parish very different from any other in which he has ministered.It is, he notes, his first parish west of the Mississippi River, and the “sociological structure” of parishes in the West, he believes, is very different. “Here,” he says, “is truly what is called a bi-lingual and bi-cultural parish still seeking for ways to become more integrated and related to each other — in other words, looking for more ways to be parish.”And working together is exactly what parishioners are doing, as they share resources and collaborate in their ministry with the Oblate priests and other religious serving in their parishes. That parish-wide collaboration was on full display in July at a celebration of Father Tom’s birthday and newly-ordained Deacons Ricardo Mora and Orlando Rubio. “What I liked,” says Father Tom, “was not so much the party, but that we had people seated together from all sections of our parish. They all worked together on this.”  The pastor and many of his parishioners agree that what they would most want said about their parish is simply: “I feel welcome.” Indeed, both director of religious education Silvia Sanchez and school religion coordinator Debbie Roberts say they have found a profound sense of family, acceptance and support at St. Ferdinand. “I want to keep doing this because I really believe in my faith and I want others to feel that joy every day,” says Silvia, a 26-year parishioner, DRE for the past six years, and newly-certified Master Catechist. “The greatest need the church has is more people to teach the children and their families. We need more formed catechists and people committed to doing this ministry.”Says Saturday catechist Luli Calvo: “I want to keep doing this because I really believe in my faith and I want others to feel that joy every day. It is important that the children know God personally.”Luli became a catechist in 2009, after her mother — who had been her teacher in St. Ferdinand’s religious education classes — passed away. “I decided to honor her memory and be a catechist, as she had been.” The family tradition now continues: Luli’s daughter (and assistant) is her teacher’s aide. Similarly, Debbie Roberts says that her grandmother was the greatest influence on her faith life, especially as a youngster. She always tells her Lifeteen students and others that “faith is a journey. It is part of a process that you grow into every day. It doesn’t happen in just one day and it grows slowly. So we plant the seeds, even if we may not see the results in the end.”Like so many in her parish family of St. Ferdinand, Debbie is deeply involved in her parish life. She teaches at St. Ferdinand School, serves in Christian Initiation for youth up to age 18, and is involved in sacramental preparation, prayer services and liturgy planning in the school. She sees the need to help nurture that faith in others. “I tell my students that the Church is the name we give to a building because we have to call it something,” she notes. “But in reality the Church is you and me. We are the Church. And this parish is my family. I have never been let down here.”      {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/1011/ferdinand/{/gallery}