San Pedro Region class enables young adults to complete sacrament, connect with their faith.Vivian Fabiola Valadez grew up in a Catholic environment, as did Jose Velazquez. Both were baptized in the church and made their First Communion in their childhood. But when they entered their teenage years, attending church was not their top priority.And they skipped confirmation.But a series of negative incidents in Jose’s life and Vivian’s sudden urgent need to complete the sacraments brought them together to a young adult fall confirmation class at St. John of God Church in Norwalk. Said teacher Karina Plascencia: “Most people who attend this class are in the process of getting married and they just want to comply with the requirements, so we meet them where they’re at in their faith.”Valadez, 22, and Velazquez, 33, were not among those with plans to marry soon. They were only seeking answers.‘Such an amazing blessing’As a teenager, Valadez got caught up in high school activities and did attend Mass on occasion, but was not involved in any ministry.In her late teens she started participating in pageants, winning crowns as Miss Jalisco Los Angeles, Miss Mexico Los Angeles and Miss California Latina 2009. She then was among the 20 finalists at Univision’s 2011 Miss Belleza Latina, a highly competitive contest in the U.S. whose winner earns a one-year contract with the Hispanic broadcaster, with possibility of being hired later for any of the network’s entertainment programs. Entering these contests was her way of earning extra income to pay for college tuition at California State Fullerton, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in communications.Although fulfilling, during this journey she felt an imperious need to help others in a more significant way. She had “randomly” volunteered feeding the homeless at Salvation Army in skid row, washing the feet of the homeless during Easter, but “I wanted to do this continuously.”One of the requirements of being Miss California Latina was to offer support to the less fortunate. An Internet search led Valadez to Corazon de Vida, an Irvine-based nonprofit that supports 12 orphanages in Baja California, two of them run by local women religious. Valadez began pledging for the organization, visiting the children at Casa Hogar Sion, one of the orphanages in Tijuana, and promoting Christmas giving for the kids among her co-workers.The day she first visited Casa Sion she felt the children’s dire need of love and attention and she told herself, “I can’t ever stop coming.” She felt she had to be in the kids’ lives, not only through letters, which she still exchanges with some of the orphans, but by keeping a regular physical contact with them, something Corazon de Vida promotes.“Vivian has been such an amazing blessing for the kids,” founder Hilda Pacheco told The Tidings. “Her connection with the kids was instant. She’s been relentless, she visits as much she can; she is an amazing role model to them.” Pacheco can appreciate such assistance. She herself grew up in an orphanage in La Mision, Baja California, with her six siblings after her father left the family and her mother could not afford raising the children.Instead of a foster care system or a welfare system to help families with a single parent that is unable to provide for their children, Mexico has a network of orphanages with minimum government funding. Because of its proximity to the U.S., most orphanages in Baja are funded through mostly California-based nonprofits such as Corazon de Vida.Yet while Valadez found joy in her outreach, something was still incomplete. Then the idea of finishing the sacraments came to her mind, and that led her to St. John of God. Once she started the confirmation class, she admitted, she could not remember when was the last time she had held the Bible in her hands or read it.More than a ‘requirement’Learning about the Bible was Jose Velazquez’s main concern when he got to the class three months ago.He shared with Plascencia how he was not doing well and started “hanging out with the wrong crowd.” But his life had been spared twice, he said, by “something or someone that I believe is God.”After the second incident, where he clearly knew he was alive due to a divine presence, he decided to go back to church (in his childhood, he attended church with his parents whom he considers non-practicing Catholics). Once there he learned about the confirmation class for young adults.“I don’t know anything about this book,” Plascencia recalls he told her when she first asked the group to open the Bible.But as the Office of Religious Education’s San Pedro Pastoral Region coordinator, Plascencia knows very well that a large percentage of the young adult segment in the Catholic Church do not attend Mass regularly or use the Bible. Many of the students, she said, attend only to fulfill a marriage requirement and remain in the class with “an I-don’t-want-to-be-here attitude.” That was the main reason she started the class for young adults in 2011 — and the results have surprised even her, especially with this second group.The class starts with everyone pasting on empty branches of a tree drawn on a board, leaf-shaped post-its with a question for God. Each session of the three-month class is structured to provide elements to answer the questions.Many, said Plascencia, asked questions such as, “What is my purpose in life?” “Are my sins really forgiven?” “How do I know if I’m doing the right thing in life?” “Why did He have to take my son?”To wrap up what she and co-teacher and master catechist Lilian Duran had taught and shared during the class, they wanted to get the group involved in a charity project. Not knowing they were searching for such a project, Valadez asked Plascencia if she could share with the group about Corazon de Vida.She had just gotten hired in a new job, and lost all the support she had garnered at her previous job for the Christmas gifts projects for the orphans.“It was like God-given, at the right moment!” exclaimed Plascencia.The whole group got involved in a Christmas shoebox gift project for Casa Hogar Sion. Each person adopted a child and filled up a shoebox with gifts that they later gift-wrapped together.Velazquez and another member of the group were touched. They wanted to meet the children and so they joined Corazon de Vida’s Dec. 1 holiday trip to Casa Sion, where Valadez, her brother and her boyfriend presented the children with their respective gifts.‘Become apostles and disciples’Like Valadez, Velazquez plans to keep visiting the children and supporting the orphanage — and he is now motivated to keep growing in his faith. He is among a group of class members who have asked Plascencia to re-unite for a follow-up Bible study group, something she is considering to start early next year.In the meantime, part of the group, including Valadez, made their confirmation at a packed St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Whittier Dec. 10, when Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Solis, presider, urged the more than 200 candidates from several parishes to “Become apostles and disciples of the Lord by way of believing, loving and serving one another.”“It was amazing; I was really happy that I finally accomplished it,” Valadez told The Tidings. “I am mostly happy that I met my sacrament, I feel at peace and that I met such wonderful people.”For more information about the next Young Adult Confirmation Class, call Karina Plascencia, (562) 630-6272. For Corazon de Vida, visit or call (949) 476-1144.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/1221/confirmation/{/gallery}