Colorful balloon arcs swayed in the cool morning breeze at the entrance to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels Oct. 15 as more than 3,000 students from the Los Angeles Archdiocese (some skipping and hopping) entered to join in the nation’s largest children’s Eucharistic celebration.

Archbishop José Gomez presided at the twelfth annual Missionary Childhood Association (MCA) Mass to celebrate the contributions of local youth who help underserved children in 90-plus countries around the world.

Parents, teachers and school staffers from 54 Catholic elementary, junior high and high schools accompanied the students who looked forward to both celebrating with their fellow classmates at the Cathedral and being reminded of the ongoing need of missionary service.

“It means a lot to see all the other students here today,” said Madison Leroy, a sixth grader at St. Elizabeth School in Altadena. “We all come together as a family.”

“Our teacher told us that children die of starvation daily,” said Rachel Kho, eighth grader at St. Dorothy School in Glendora. “And it’s really selfish and unfair that our society is so invested in plastic surgery and artificial things. We should donate more to the MCA because they don’t have enough food. We should also be more grateful for what we have and helping those in other countries who are less fortunate.”

Junior high students from St. Finbar School in Burbank attended, led by Jean Sinclair, religion coordinator. “We are big supporters of the Missionary Childhood Association,” she said, noting that the school helps sponsor St. Philip’s School in Swaziland through the Cabrini Foundation.

“So much of what we do at the school is service,” Sinclair said. “Last year, our junior high performed more than 3,000 community service hours. So this is a day where we acknowledge what they and all the students in the archdiocese have done.”

Dancers and musicians from Transfiguration School in Los Angeles — in vibrant African attire and with pounding rhythmic drums, shakers and whistles — led the joyous procession that included ribbons, hoops and banners carried by students of all ages, some in traditional ethnic clothing.

The student choir from St. Joseph the Worker School in Winnetka likewise exhibited unbridled exuberance in their singing, accompanied by lively hand gestures.

During his opening welcome remarks, Archbishop Gomez invited students to “ask God that we can continue to be missionaries in our time,” reflecting the call for evangelization, both locally and globally.

In his homily, Msgr. Terrance Fleming, director of the Mission Office, thanked the students for their involvement and compassion for others.

“We turned to you, children of Los Angeles and asked, ‘Will you help children of the world?’ And you say ‘yes.’ You have held penny drives, pizza sales and free dress days. That money goes to all the children of the world, because of you. God bless you and all you do for the missions.”

The following were the top 15 schools for the 2013-14 school year: St. Brendan, Los Angeles; Cathedral Chapel, L.A.; St. Catherine Laboure, Torrance; Our Lady of Loretto, L.A.; Nativity, El Monte; St. Genevieve, Panorama City; American Martyrs, Manhattan Beach; St. Finbar, Burbank; St. Paschal Baylon, Thousand Oaks; St. Martha, Valinda; Corpus Christi, Pacific Palisades; St. John Baptist de La Salle, Granada Hills; St. John The Baptist, Baldwin Park; St. Charles Borromeo, North Hollywood; Our Lady of the Assumption. Claremont.

Christmas Artwork winners honored by the Mission Office were Brianna Flores and Janeth Santiago from St. Genevieve, Panorama City. The winning artwork will be featured at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. during the 2014 Advent/Christmas season.

Three recipients of the Msgr. Anthony Brouwers Memorial Scholarship for essay writing on the importance of faith-based missionary work were recognized: Haley Patamo of St. Mary of the Assumption, Whittier, first place; Fatima Serrato of St. Mary, Lancaster, second place; and Leslie Ramirez of Sacred Heart, Lincoln Heights, third place.

“I read Msgr. Brouwers’ book and that was inspiring,” Serrato said, noting that laypeople are called to serve with “whatever gifts we have. You can be a missionary in your own home, your own church. Whatever your talent, use it for God.”

For information on the Missionary Childhood Association, call (213) 637-7223 or visit