A small town parish with big hearts

To refer to Queen of Angels in Lompoc as a “small town church” doesn’t bother its parishioners in the least, for that is one of the many reasons why they love their parish so much. This west Santa Barbara County community, situated well off Highway 1 near the coast, is a place where neighbors know each other, call upon each other for help and are ready to support in whatever way they can.

The parish bulletin lists the many activities and ministries, including weekly assignments for eucharistic ministers, lectors, altar servers, and ministers of hospitality; wedding anniversaries and the names of the sick and recently baptized; and a prayer chain hotline phone number. Queen of Angels joins other churches for an annual Pro-Life Prayer Walk and other respect life activities. The Santo Nino Prayer Group celebrates the Santo Nino de Cebu Fiesta and regular activities of parish organizations.

A very active Knights of Columbus, with members of all ages, directs the parish food pantry, assists the poor, takes care of the Feed the Hungry Program, and collects money for a local pregnancy center.  

One longtime Knight is Deacon Michael Lujan, one of 49 from the Santa Barbara Region ordained last July. Deacon Mike gives the homily at least once or twice a weekend and takes to heart the advice of his veteran pastor, Msgr. John Fitzgerald: “The only way to get better is to keep doing it.” 

Before his ordination Lujan --- who works at nearby Vandenberg Air Force Base --- participated in many of the parish’s ministries and had been the president of the Parish Council. Since his ordination he continues with those activities --- including visiting the sick and homebound and bringing them Communion --- and spends as much time as possible praying, reading and developing his own spiritual life. “It’s like dying and being in heaven,” says Mike of his parish and his ministry.

Reflecting back on his life, Mike says, “I wasn’t a very smart person in school, but being involved with the church I began to be comfortable with myself. I found that I had a hidden talent that I didn’t know about.”

His wife Mary is director of religious education, working with 40 teachers and aides in the program that runs Sunday mornings and both after school and evenings during the week. The Lujans’ busy lives include raising a family of six children, ages 14 to 26 (including two college graduates), also participants in parish activities. “We are very proud of them,” says Mike. 

What makes it all work, he adds, is having a deep spiritual life and the support of his pastor. “Msgr. Fitzgerald was quite a blessing to me and my family when we moved here in 2000,” he says. “He’s been a great shepherd for the people. He likes this place and the people here are wonderful.” 

 “These are generous people and always have been,” says Msgr. Fitzgerald of his parishioners. “They feed the hungry. They help in everything. We try to reach out to all through the various ministries, and God always provides.” 

On this day, Msgr. Fitzgerald notes, the Filipino community is serving “some great refreshments” in the hall after Mass, a reflection of the welcoming, small-town atmosphere that he has come to love as pastor for 22 years. “I have seen great changes over the years,” he smiles, “but always these have been wonderful people.” 

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