A few minutes after Mass had begun one recent Sunday, an elderly man with a cane slowly walked in the back door of St. Peter Chanel Church and attempted to kneel on a small kneeler near the door of the church. Noticing the elderly man with his sombrero in his hands kneeling, a young father of two sent his daughter to the man to invite him to take his seat in a chair, which he did. The younger man then stood along the side of the church for Mass, near his wife and children.When Oblate of the Virgin Mary Father Larry Darnell, pastor, heard of his parishioner’s kind and simple action, he was taken aback emotionally for a second. Then he smiled. “I think,” he exclaimed, “our people are wonderful!” And they are growing in number at this Hawaiian Gardens parish. Some 10,000 people, served by very active Oblate priests, attend nine weekend Masses (five in Spanish, four in English) in both the large “new” church built in 2000 and the much smaller “old” church. There is heavy emphasis on adult education, including a ten-week program of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius led by Father Ed Broom. He also hosts a local television show. Fellow associate pastors Father Craig MacMahon and Father Vincenzo Antolini (the original pastor) are very involved as well. “These are very generous people here,” says Father Darnell. “Generosity is based on the idea of participation and is dependent on the people giving of their time.”The basis of Father Ed’s program, he continues, “is coming in contact with Christ who is alive. When people learn, they become generous with their time, and when you do that you have contact with Christ. And when people have that contact with Christ, everything changes.”St. Peter Chanel’s coordinator of confirmation, Marta Cardenas, says that participation in the religious education program is very high: 500 young people in the two-year program; another 200 intermediate students in grades 3-7; and 560 First Communion students (160 in English, 400 in Spanish). About 60 parishioners teach these classes.“The people are so faithful, so beautiful, so generous,” Cardenas says of her fellow parishioners. “They are always praying for us. That is why so much is happening here. And that prayer comes from teachers, parents and priests.”In addition to the Spiritual Exercises program, the parish supports a Lenten Retreat, workshops on life topics such as grieving, a regional Retrouvaille Program for those experiencing troubled marriages, and a young adult group, as well as feeding the hungry and numerous other activities.St. Peter Chanel also offers numerous opportunities for the sacrament of reconciliation, inside or outside of Lent.“As Oblates of the Virgin Mary,” smiles Father Darnell, “we are supposed to die either in the pulpit or in the confessional. As a result we hear a tremendous amount of confessions here. We have confessions during the week at 8 a.m., noon and in the evening at least for an hour every day. On Sunday we go from 5 until 9 at night. I think that those are some of the things that make the Lord very happy about this parish.” {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0215/chanel/{/gallery}