For Sergio Martinez, every Sunday at Sacred Heart Church, Pomona, “feels like coming home.” His wife Cecilia was baptized here; the couple was married here 18 years ago; and they continue to serve here in many ways.
At a recent 12:15 Sunday Mass, Sergio and Cecilia were eucharistic ministers and their three children, Esmeralda, Diego and Ariana, were altar servers. “For me,” says Cecilia, “this is my home.”
Each weekend, eight Masses are celebrated (five Spanish, three English) in this predominantly Hispanic parish. Most Masses fill not just the body of the church, but also the choir loft and out the front entrance. The church, in fact, is filled to capacity for nearly all celebrations, including a monthly Mass of Divine Providence, (Divina Providencia), with money raised from those sales used to provide food and care for those in need, under the leadership of Dora Castillo and her daughter Susana.
When Father Alberto Arreola first came to the parish as an associate pastor, he was struck by the numbers of homeless who were sleeping in cars in the church parking lot. “The very poor were everywhere,” he says, “and the young were in need of role models.”
Today, as parish administrator, Father Arreola says his people are working together to develop a pastoral plan that addresses three basic concerns --- the poor, the undocumented and the youth --- that connect to his own spirituality, rooted in the words and approach of St. Thomas Aquinas: “Grace builds on nature.”
Father Arreola sees his parishioners, involved in many organizations, working together to create an even better parish and develop better communication skills. Some are involved in training, others in understanding modern catechetical teaching, Church documents, evangelization and liturgy planning. Within their own homes parenting skills are improved and all families are involved in Virtus training and STEP parenting.
Ana Gonzalez, as pastoral coordinator, is in charge of formation at all levels in the parish --- or, as she says, “all the ways in which a parish is the Church to people inside and outside the parish. For me I feel blessed that I am able to have the opportunity to help and learn with others and have this type of experience.”
Ana has been a volunteer in the parish for 20 years and has worked with other non-profits. “But this is my community,” she declares proudly. “This is where my passion lies. All families need assistance in some way to be closer to each other, with other families, and with God. Formation in a parish is so important, and people need help to make changes in their community.”
Recently, approximately 50 parish organization heads met to work on the pastoral plan. “The people of this parish work together,” said Salvador Marquez, who with his wife Alicia was part of the meeting. They are proud of the work parishioners have done to improve the facilities and to build community.
“And we have much still to do,” he adds. “But working together, we can do it.”