The early Thursday morning scene in the bowels of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels’ parking lot would likely make Henry Ford proud. Along one line of banquet tables covered with brown butcher paper, seven volunteer workers wearing white rubber gloves are laying out slices of bread, first with mustard, then slices of ham and cheese, and topping the sandwiches with another slice of wheat or white bread.At a second line of tables, eight more volunteers are wrapping the sandwiches in plastic, while three others stuff brown paper bags with an orange, donut or piece of cake and the sandwich, along with a white napkin. Like on any proficient human assembly line, every person has one — and only one — task to do. Somehow, in this fast-paced yet organized confusion, they don’t get in each other’s way. But there’s a lot of chatting and laughing going on. And before 9 a.m., 650 of these brown bag lunches have been put into cardboard boxes, which are transported on three-shelf metal carts to two Cathedral vans and a couple of cars. Soon the sack lunches will be delivered to Blessed Sacrament Church in Hollywood, Immaculate Heart of Mary Church on Santa Monica Boulevard, St. Francis Center in L.A.’s gritty industrial area, Cardinal Manning Center on skid row and other places that serve the homeless and working poor. Some will also receive clear hygiene packages with a tooth brush and toothpaste, deodorant, razor, soap and a pair of new white socks. ‘How God works’Bill Totty is loading one of the vans, carefully stacking the boxes like he definitely knows what he’s doing. “I worked in the Post Office for 45 years, and I’m still doing what I did there — loading and going on routes,” quips the 70-year-old from Eagle Rock with a growing grin. “You see, this is how God works, and isn’t it great?” When asked why he’s given up two mornings a week for the last 6 1/2 years to do this monotonous labor, he gets more serious. “Can I be very, very honest with you?” he almost whispers. “The first part of my life was all about me. I’d been robbing God for all these years. So when I retired, I wanted to work with the poor and do something I like, which is helping people. “So I wouldn’t trade the 15 hours a week I volunteer here for all the money in the world,” he stresses. “First of all, I work with a lot of very wonderful people. Lots of times, I come to work feeling off the wall or whatever, and I come here and guess what? I’ve forgotten what I’m upset about.” As they have every early Tuesday and Thursday mornings for almost seven years, Cynthia Asinas, 64, and her husband Roberto have driven to the downtown Cathedral all the way from Claremont. “You know how people go out of the country for pilgrimages?” she notes. “We do our meaningful pilgrimage here twice a week. It’s a journey. “You want to be able to share what you have,” Asinas confides. “We’re not able to directly reach out to the people who are in need, so this is our way of reaching out and sharing. And each bag that you fill in, each orange and napkin that you put in a bag, feeds someone who is in need. And that really strikes your heart.”At the very end of line, Carolyn Rubio is snapping open paper bags, then filling them up with on-the-go meals. The senior citizen recalls that when the lunch program started a decade ago, “we used to go in the streets and the alleys, under the bridges and everywhere the homeless were. But then the health department stopped us from doing that. So we started making up the brown bag lunches here to give to designated sites.” She arrives at the Cathedral by 6 a.m. on weekdays to organize the morning’s paperwork for bagging and delivery. Living close by now, she calls it “my home,” after having grown up in East L.A. and making her First Communion and confirmation at old St. Vibiana’s Cathedral. “Why do I do it?” she asks with an incredulous look. “Because the people need help. The homeless, the poor people, they don’t have anything. So I decided myself to do it. I’m a retired lady, 82, who worked in a bakery. And I’ve been here since the new Cathedral opened.”Deacon directorThe Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels’ outreach program began in the spring of 2002, while construction workers and landscapers were still putting the finishing touches on the mother church of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Retired aerospace engineer Gus Catipon had somewhat reluctantly answered a letter to volunteer at the Cathedral, because it was a long drive from his home parish of St. Margaret Mary in Lomita. “About the same time, I was discerning about joining the deaconate formation to become a deacon,” recalls the 64-year-old native of the Philippines. “So everything happened here at the Cathedral for me. “Imagine if I didn’t answer that letter to volunteer here,” he muses. “Just imagine. I’d still be in Torrance, probably I wouldn’t be a deacon and would just be going fishing and golfing. That’s all I wanted to do when I retired. You know, I haven’t played golf since I came here.”Instead, he became the first deacon ordained from the Cathedral (in 2009) and also the founder of the outreach’s feeding program under the direction of Daughters of Charity Sister Patricia Geoghegan, the first Cathedral outreach director. And when Sister Patricia left to become a chaplain at the Los Angeles County’s Men’s Central Jail, Catipon came out of retirement to succeed her. Today, besides the brown bag lunch program, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings the list of services offered needy families at the outreach office (on the corner of Hill and Temple streets) includes rental and utilities assistance, transportation, clothing, furniture, groceries and referrals to other agencies. Once a month, hygiene kits are distributed. In partnership with UCLA, a mobile eye clinic provides free eye exams and glasses. The Cathedral also participates in detention ministry at the Men’s Central Jail. And the Christmas Adopt A Family program, a carryover from St. Vibiana’s, involves hundreds of volunteers of all ages.“It’s very rewarding work because you see Christ in the people that we service,” Catipon says. “Because you cannot love God without loving your neighbor. That’s how I see Christ, really. But a lot of people don’t even know about our outreach program. They think the Cathedral is just a big church. But I have about 50 volunteers now. And I couldn’t do this work without them.”Gilbert Luna, who was bagging lunches today, jokes that he’s one of the original “Magnificent Seven” outreach volunteers at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels from 2002. “When they were still working on it, we were doing the lunch program and most of these others things already,” he points out.The 78-year-old former L.A. Unified School District truant officer, who is also president of the Cathedral’s St. Vincent de Paul Conference, says it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between the charity mission and work of the two agencies. “Basically, outreach here does everything that the Society of St. Vincent de Paul does,” Luna reports. “We do home visits, we distribute food to the needy and pay utilities bills and rent. And we try to purchase certain items through the Society’s store. So it’s kind of a mix of ministries, which works out well.” {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/0831/outreach/{/gallery}