As director of administration at St. Rita Church, Mary Lou Butler loves her parish and the many ways in which fellow parishioners are involved in all aspects of parish life.“These parishioners are very devoted Catholics with a real sense of the history of the parish,” she says proudly, adding that the community of Sierra Madre, where a lot of people still walk to church, greatly influences parishioners.“Their love for this parish is based on the character of this town. It is a church in a small town that really values religion, worship and family. And the people here value their church family. In the last few years we have had many more young families. Hospitality is big here — and with a welcoming spirit that encourages people to stay and visit, and to reach out to those less fortunate.”St. Rita parishioners are involved in outreach to the local community and beyond. Youth Ministry, directed by Theresa Bui Costanzo, visited St. Francis Center earlier in March and served lunch to the homeless. St. Rita School students work with Catholic Charities and other outreach groups, and have adopted children with AIDS. “This is one of the treasures of Sierra Madre,” says Joanne Harabedian, St. Rita School principal. “We have moved away from just being Catholic in a vacuum. We are a real community: we respect all and we are all one. And that is what we teach our children — we love the diversity. The parish, the school, the community — we do a lot together, as signs of the love of God.”The outreach to the community is mirrored by efforts within the parish to encourage participation by many — efforts fostered and nurtured by the pastor, Msgr. Richard Krekelberg. “Msgr. Krekelberg (or Father Richard, as so many refer to their pastor) has made very conscious decisions to involve people,” says Butler. “In turn parishioners are very loyal.”As the only priest assigned to the parish, Msgr. Krekelberg has made what some might see as a difficult situation into a positive example of how to build faith community. “What I love about this parish is that we do great things together,” he says. “You could look at the parish as a one-priest parish, but we find our strength together. And this parish is so cohesive and capable. So don’t see a one-priest parish as a weakness. See it as an empowerment.What energizes him, he continues, “is that there is such a desire, willingness and passion for St. Rita as a faith community. This parish loves welcoming, loves being Church, loves being a faith community.”A key, he notes, is to understand Holy Communion — “that Eucharist leads to communion. If you are in Holy Communion, you are in community. That is where we find the peace that Jesus promises.” Deacon John Hull, a former American Baptist minister who went through the RCIA and eventually was ordained a deacon, has worked to form ministry teams in bereavement. He hopes to “empower ministry teams as they grow in knowledge of the grief process, to assist the people of St. Rita Parish, and to encourage their own faith formation so they can give to others” and be community.Father Richard says that his people are “very quick to understand that we are church. We are the best parish we can be when we are conscious of mission, of truly living the Gospel, of being Christ for others.” {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0419/rita/{/gallery}