St. John the Baptist Parish in Baldwin Park is impressive — in size and in all it does as a faith community. This eastern San Gabriel Valley parish has a registered membership of 10,000 families, amidst a population of 75,000 in the city of Baldwin Park, but it’s difficult to really say just how large the parish is. Suffice it to say that when the parish celebrates a feast day, or when a special need arises, the faithful not only come to the church to celebrate or answer the need, they never stop coming. “They bring themselves to the altar as they are,” says Father Mike Gutierrez, pastor. “Some of them are struggling. Some are thankful. Some have had really good lives; some have had bad breaks. But they bring it all to this altar for either healing or hope. They bring it all to God.”A sixth-generation Mexican American, Father Gutierrez says his own faith life took an unbelievable turn since he came to the parish, where he has never seen loss or hardship like that so many of his parishioners have endured. Yet they continue to give of their time, strength and talent. “They advocate for each other,” he says. “They support each other.”Indeed, when asked why they are so committed to what they do in the parish, everyone — from the pastor and confirmation coordinator to the DRE and school principal — smiles and says, “I love what I do here.” A parish both busy and diverse, with large Latino and Filipino communities (and other ethnicities represented), St. John the Baptist celebrates ten Masses every weekend in English, Spanish and — since the 1980s — one that is English-Tagalog, with readings in English and songs in Tagalog. On Ash Wednesday, services begin at 7 a.m. and conclude around 9:30 that night. The interaction of the various communities is a source of joy to all. The Latino community assists the Filipino community during Simbang Gabi; the Filipinos celebrate Las Mananitas with the Latinos; and all in the parish join in celebrating with the whole community. “The way they work together inspires and drives me,” says Father Gutierrez. “This is a very active parish and it is interwoven with so many different cultures that it makes it a beautiful tapestry,” says Sister of the Love of God Rosario Mediavilla, principal of St. John the Baptist School. “It is amazing to me to see all these people hungry for Christ, coming to church and participating, and very faithful. They are so committed, so dedicated to the church.” Seven of the 21 teachers are alumni of the school, and they send their children to St. John the Baptist as well. “I have a very dedicated faculty,” says Sister Rosario. “I have beautiful students who I love, and they are my inspiration.”And when the parish is asked to support a special need, they give their all and then some. “The spirituality of this parish is inspirational to me,” says Melinda Evangelista, confirmation coordinator. “It is amazing to witness the spiritual growth in the school and in the parishioners. This is a very strong parish. “And I love that we do a lot of community outreach. We have citizenship classes, and parenting classes. We have Zumba and kick-boxing, and we have the posadas where we give food and toys to the children. At Thanksgiving we collect non-perishable items, turkeys and canned goods for the families, and toys for the children, and we have volunteers who gather enough for five different meals and deliver the food to the homes.” When talking about all his parish does for others Father Mike was asked, “What keeps you going?” Father Mike’s reply is simple, “I just love what I do.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0913/sjbaptist/{/gallery}