In early 2011, before it was announced who would succeed Msgr. Peter Moran as the leader of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, the longtime pastor asked parishioners to pray for their new shepherd. Known as a welcoming community, they responded with kindness and generosity. And when Father David Loftus was named administrator, the parish’s knitting group members, who pray while they sew and knit, presented the County Mayo native with a wool blanket with a Celtic stitch. But in so many ways, this West Valley parish reaches out whenever and wherever there is a need. “The sense of spirituality is very alive here,” says Father Loftus, now midway through his second year at the Northridge parish. “Eucharistic spirituality is the strength of this parish community and Sunday is the most important day of the week for our people. As a Eucharistic community, hospitality is important and everyone is welcome here.” Father Loftus has not forgotten his first visit to the parish. “It felt alive,” he says, and that sense permeates parish liturgy, activities and ministries. At a recent 9 a.m. Sunday Family Mass, parishioners dropped off Christmas gifts by their “Giving Tree” for those in need. The “Forever Young” senior group later wrapped the toys and gifts. At the same Family Mass many children sat with their parents and formed the choir directed by Mary Janus. Small children celebrated their own Liturgy of the Word with their teachers, returning for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Two signers interpreted for the hearing impaired and before the final blessing, wedding anniversary couples for the month were called to the sanctuary where they were congratulated and blessed by the assembly. After Mass many parishioners stayed for coffee and donuts in the parish hall. “It’s all good here,” says OLL School principal Patricia Hager. “It is so welcoming. The Catholicity, the identity — it is here. No matter what, whenever you come here, there is always something going on in the parish. And the priests support the school 100 percent. I am proud the children write letters to those in RCIA. I am proud that the children participate in ‘Locks of Love’ and they donate their hair for St. Baldrick’s Foundation and Stand Up to Cancer. I am so proud of what these children do here, and all grades participate.” Parishioners also are conscious that they can never become complacent. Members of the Parish Council often ask themselves, "Is there anything we still need to do to be more hospitable?" Welcome packets are given to those new to the parish. On the second Sunday of the month anniversary couples are recognized with a blessing and a red rose. Every ministry group within the parish takes its turn hosting a Donut Sunday. "The people try to make hospitality real here," says Father Loftus, whose welcoming blanket is tangible proof. “Hospitality is felt in the parish outreach programs and in projects for others in the parish.”In turn, Father Loftus — like Msgr. Moran before him — supports his parishioners in their faith-filled activities and ministries, including liturgical music. “We are blessed with three different choirs,” notes Janus, who also directs the Sunday evening choir “Harmonia.”“We pray together and we sing,” she continues. “I want the choir to know that their first responsibility is to be a member of the whole gathered community and the importance of their role as music ministers who support the sung prayer. They are not there to perform.”During the summer, the parish offers “Harmonia Under the Stars.” Parishioners come with picnic baskets and are invited to be part of a community-performing event. Janus initially arranged seating for 50; the event has since grown to 800 in attendance as a mini-Hollywood Bowl. “This parish is so appreciative,” says Janus, “which is why I love it so. The parish community supports us. From the rich traditions of classical sung prayer to that of today’s contemporary Catholic artists, music continues to grow and crescendo, and it can only continue with the love and support of our parish.” With a smile she adds, “Father David has told the choir, ‘Music has a way of touching the soul like nothing else can, so in a way you are all soul-touchers.’” —January 11, 2013{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0111/lourdes/{/gallery}