An estimated 3,000 parishioners of Cristo Rey in Atwater Village celebrated the 75th anniversary of their church Nov. 23 — the Feast of Christ the King.
Situated on Perlita Street in a busy neighborhood bounded by freeways, shopping districts, and the shadow of Griffith Park and the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles, Cristo Rey Parish held a celebration of the church that is indeed cherished as a perlita or “small pearl” in this busy community.
The parish gave thanks to God for its continued success during a Mass of thanksgiving celebrated by Archbishop José Gomez, Auxiliary Bishop Gerald Wilkerson, Augustinian Recollect pastor Father Michael Stechmann and fellow members of the Augustinian Recollect community.
“God has continued to bless the parishioners and families who have called Cristo Rey their ‘home’ for all these years,” Father Stechmann said. “The parishioners are a faith-filled people and the traditional street procession with the image of Christ the King is a reminder for many of the religious celebrations held in their native countries.”
The parish is styled on small communities in the heart of Mexico. Prior to the anniversary Mass, a neighbor across the street from the church, Maggie Gutierrez Hirsch, stood in front of her house and nodded her head toward La Perlita’s front entrance.
“This is my home,” Maggie Hirsch said. Since the parish was founded in 1939, parishioners have seen hardships of war and economic downturns and shared much happiness, too. It is more than a parish to this mainly Hispanic neighborhood.
It measures the hallmarks of their lives. The births and baptisms, the sacraments, the quincea√±eras, the living and the dying — have been commemorated and remembered here.
“I was born in this house, and was baptized in this church, received the sacraments and was married in that church,” Hirsh said. Born at home in 1944, she and other parish members attended Mass in their residences until the church was built. Her first remembrance, she said, was of attending church fiestas.
“I feel at home and this is where I belong,” she said. “I see the Lord and he greets me as I enter our home.”