Four members of the Los Angeles Catholic community will be honored for their many years of service to Church and community at the 25th annual Cardinal’s Award Dinner March 1 at L.A. Live in Los Angeles.
The 2014 honorees --- Louis Castruccio, Janet Feeley, R-lene Mijares de Lang and Bishop Joseph Sartoris --- bring to 124 the number of men and women honored with the award since 1990.
Proceeds from the dinner will fund necessary building improvements and renovations at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo. Reservations (which are required) may still be made. Visit the website at www.cardinalsawardsdinner.org or contact Judy Brooks in the Cardinal’s Office of Special Services, (213) 637-7636. (And to read complete stories on these honorees, visit www.the-tidings.com.)
When Lou Castruccio talks to young people — and he has talked to many in his decades as a supporter of education --- he makes it very clear that while their path to a successful and fulfilling life depends primarily on their own effort, it will importantly also include contributions from many, many others.
“None of us really makes it on our own,” smiles the affable husband, father, grandfather, successful attorney and longtime contributor to Catholic education. “I tell young folks I work with, ‘We all make it on the shoulders of our predecessors, our families, our friends, our teachers — it really takes the support of many.’”
Lou credits whatever success he has enjoyed to the solid support of faith and family — beginning with his parents and siblings, and continuing for nearly 50 years, with the support of his wife, Jane, and their three daughters. “I’ve been very fortunate in so many ways,” he says. “And I’m happy to do what I can — but Jane should get the credit.”
Parish: St. Paul the Apostle, Westwood.
Growing up: Born and raised in San Marino; attended St. Therese Church and School (Alhambra), Loyola High School (Los Angeles), Santa Clara University, USC Law School, Harvard University.
Family: Wife Jane, daughters Ellen, Genny and Lizzy, sons-in-law Nick, Noah and Jimmy, four grandsons.
Career and Activities: Partner in Los Angeles-based Irell & Manella law firm; active (with Jane) in numerous Catholic education activities, including Catholic Education Foundation, Santa Clara University, Mount St. Mary’s College, the Jesuit School of Theology; serves on boards of Paulist Productions and Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation.
On the influence of his father (a lawyer) and mother (a businesswoman): “Dad encouraged independent thinking; Mom preached and practiced patience and talking things over. They both worked hard, gave back to their church and community, respected the dignity of the individual and instilled in us service to others. There is an old saying, ‘You’re lucky if you choose good parents.’ I was very lucky.”
On the “skiing homilies” by the late Father Bud Keiser, founder of Paulist Productions, who often joined the Castruccios for Christmas ski trips: “He would explain that skiing is not only a wonderful physical experience, but also demonstrates a basic theological principle. ‘To be a good skier,’ he would say, ‘one has to give in to and relax with gravity, let it pull you down the hill. It’s the same with God. You have to relax, give in and let Him draw you to Him!’”
On why he and Jane enjoy encouraging young people: “We draw inspiration from them, many of whom have had much tougher times and faced more serious challenges growing up than we did. These young people, given a chance, are determined to become equal to their potential, to improve the lives of their families and communities. It inspires Jane and me to do more — to provide them some added ‘shoulders to stand on,’ because in the end it helps all of us.”
There are many ways to volunteer in local schools. But relatively few people, in all likelihood, offer their services as volunteer counselors. Fortunately, when you have not only advanced degrees in psychology and marriage and family therapy but a passion for helping youth — and Janet Feeley has both — you are not only welcomed, you are in demand.
“I love to counsel,” enthuses this East Coast native, wife, mother and St. Paul the Apostle parishioner. “I feel like I need to do counseling. And I love the challenge of helping teenagers face their struggles in life. It’s very rewarding to see them through their difficulties and watch them become stronger.”
That combination also serves Janet well in her role as chair of the board of directors at St. Anne’s, a non-profit helping pregnant young women, mothers and their children, near downtown Los Angeles, where she has been active for 12 years in various capacities. She is also active in numerous other endeavors — family, church and community — and somehow manages to do all with energy, grace and a smile.
Parish: St. Paul the Apostle, Westwood.
Growing up: Born in Pittsburgh; grew up in Connecticut and New Jersey, attending Catholic elementary school and public high school; Boston College (Bachelor’s in psychology); Cal State Northridge (Master’s in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling).
Family: Husband Michael, sons Declan and Brogan.
Career and Activities: Chair of the board of directors at St. Anne’s; volunteer counselor at archdiocesan high schools; volunteer at Covenant House in Hollywood; led marriage and baptism preparation classes (with her husband) at St. Paul the Apostle Church; parish school board president; member, Orders of Malta (Western Association board), Holy Sepulchre and St. Gregory; Holy Cross Family Ministries board member; Juniors of Social Service member; Loyola High School Educational Resource Committee member.
On her interest in psychology, developed in her growing-up years: “I saw what positive things can happen with the right psychological treatment and therapy.”
On meeting her husband Michael when they were Covenant House volunteers: “I actually asked him out (laughing). We dated for two years, and we got married in July 1993 in St. Peter’s Basilica. We’re a team.”
On her volunteer work with Catholic schools, both elementary and secondary, especially inner city schools: “You see what amazing work these schools and these students are doing, and it really inspires you to keep serving.”
On her involvement with St. Anne’s: “It’s wonderful to see St Anne’s grow, to be able to offer affordable housing for young families and children who need it so desperately. And at St. Anne’s you see many success stories of young women who come in pregnant or with a child, they are scared, they’ve had tough lives and through their time at St Anne’s they are able to turn their lives around. It’s like a family.”
On visiting Lourdes (four times) with the Order of Malta, where she and Michael have taken their sons: “It really changes your life to see a 14-year-old take care of someone who is seriously ill. It’s a fantastic feeling to help.”
R-lene Mijares de Lang
Some of the best days R-lene Mijares de Lang enjoys are in her family-owned restaurant, Mijares, watching generations of Pasadenans sharing meals with their families.
“It’s almost like St. Andrew,” beams the lifelong Pasadena parishioner. “You see three, four generations of families — sometimes five — sharing faith, sharing life. I love seeing that connection.”
The same could be said for R-lene’s commitment to serving the church and community as willingly and ably as her family’s restaurants have served food for 94 years.
Parish: St. Andrew, Pasadena.
Growing up: Born and raised in Pasadena; attended St. Andrew Church, John Muir High School; attended UC Santa Barbara, UC Berkeley, earned degree in cultural anthropology at University of the Americas in Puebla, Mexico.
Family: Husband Gordon, son Derek.
Career and Activities: Teacher; partner and general manager of Mijares Restaurants; active in Catholic education, Christ Child Society, Sisters of Social Service Auxiliary, Good Shepherd Shelter, Pasadena Community Foundation, Huntington Memorial Hospital, Villa Esperanza, Jesuit community projects, Dolores Mission and Sylmar Juvenile Hall.
On her grandmother Jesucita, who fled the Mexican Revolution, settled in Pasadena and opened a small tortilla factory, earning the distinction “tortilla matriarch of the San Gabriel Valley”: “My grandma was active at St. Andrew’s with the Guadalupanas and in the community. She employed anyone who wanted a job and she never said no to any charity asking for help.”
On her family’s emphasis on education in her growing-up years: “In those days, the Pasadena public school system was amazing, and I had excellent role models at James Madison Elementary School I had older cousins, including a nurse and a PhD, who were very influential and very bright. My grandma and my parents told me it was important to do well. And I became passionate about education.”
On Mijares Restaurants serving 450 boxed dinners to incarcerated youths last Christmas at Sylmar Juvenile Hall: “You consider that some of these kids — 14, 16 years old — are going to spend much of their lives behind bars, and yet it’s amazing to see their belief in the Lord. Father Mike Kennedy [chaplain] took me to each unit, and it was a life-changing experience. I left with my heart so full, because these kids have smiles, hopes and dreams; it makes you think, ‘They have to be given another chance.’ I learned that from the Jesuits --- Father Mike, Father Scott Santarosa, and Father Robert Walsh. They have provided a lot of spiritual guidance --- and they are a part of our family.”
On her hometown’s active involvement in service: “Pasadena has more non-profits per capita than any other city in the United States. It’s really nice to live in a town where there is such an awareness of the need to help others --- a strong sense of community, family, connection, and giving back.”
Bishop Joseph Sartoris
He is known simply as “Bishop Joe” to thousands of Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, who are quick to return his ready smile and warm handshake, pleased to be in the company of a man who is clearly happy in his lifelong vocation.
It would surprise no one, in fact, when Joseph Martin Sartoris says, “I have never doubted that I made the right decision in becoming a priest.”
Certainly the archbishop under whom he served would agree. “Bishop Sartoris is truly a people’s priest and bishop, and a priest’s bishop,” wrote Cardinal Roger Mahony upon Bishop Sartoris’ retirement in 2003. “He has long been admired for his deep spiritual life, his even and kind temperament, his generous service of people, and his untiring efforts to bring about healing and reconciliation among all peoples.”
Growing up: Born at French Hospital in downtown Los Angeles; raised in Glendale; attended Holy Family School, Los Angeles College (former junior seminary), St. John’s Seminary.
Priesthood: Ordained by Cardinal James Francis McIntyre in 1953; taught at Bishop Conaty High School; administrator of Dolores Mission (Boyle Heights) and Nativity (South L.A.); pastor at St. Madeleine (Pomona) and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (Lomita); named prelate of His Holiness (monsignor) in 1988; ordained auxiliary bishop in 1994 for San Pedro Region; retired.
On his parents’ influence: “Church was first in my family’s life. Mom volunteered in the parish kitchen and Dad in the parking lot. They were wonderful people, who taught the value of hard work and sacrifice. And I played the organ, sanded the rectory floors.”
On the inspiration of priests, nuns and community at Holy Family: “Our parish was community before we all realized what the word meant. That’s when I decided I wanted to be a priest. Father John Birch [then an assistant at Holy Family, later head of the Catholic Youth Organization] was a role model for me and for others. His goodness just shone through.”
On his 16 years as pastor of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque: “It was the happiest time for me. The parish is the most important element of the Church; that’s where Christian Catholic life gets its source and energy.”
On his priesthood: “It’s been a joy, in spite of my own personal adjustment and changes and humanity and failings. And God has always made me grow — not always through successes; sometimes through failures, problems, sadness.”
On being named a bishop: “I never wanted it (smiling). But it was a wonderful experience. There are 70 parishes in the San Pedro Region, and going around to them you get to see how much good work is being done in our church and our community.”
On those studying for priesthood: “I pray for anyone in seminary formation. And I advise them, and anyone interested in vocations, to pray for God’s will, and find a good spiritual director. The important thing is we do our part, we do what we can, and God uses that as he wants — and then we let go.”