With more than 5,000 registered families, the community at Holy Family Parish in South Pasadena works together to serve the needs of their community as well as their neighbors overseas.
Msgr. Clement Connolly, former pastor and current spiritual director, is an active member of this engaged and generous parish.
Anne Yee, the bookstore/gift shop manager at Holy Family says that Msgr. Connolly, who personally asked her to join the staff, has always been very supportive of the bookstore.
He frequently makes recommendations for book orders to Anne. In turn, Anne special orders books and materials, and will keep the latest and best materials on spirituality and the faith on hand, as she manages one of the best Catholic bookstores in the archdiocese.
For instance, after reading Father Ronald Rolheiser’s “Sacred Fire” he stated to Anne Yee that it was “the best book I have read in a long time.” She posted Msgr. Connolly’s comment next to a copy of the book and recommended it. “I couldn’t keep it on the shelves,” Anne says.
He will hold discussions with parishioners about some of what he has read and arrange for lectures from authors when possible. Msgr. Connolly often will prepare lists of authors and books for parishioners.
Cambria Tortorelli, parish life director, sees Msgr. Connolly as a valuable resource. He meets with parishioners to study authors, and they in turn value his knowledge and expertise. Both agree on the importance of spirituality impelling action.
In another work, “The Holy Longing,” Rolheiser quotes St. Teresa of Avila, “When one reaches the highest degree of human maturity, one has only one question left: How can I be helpful?” Msgr. Connolly sees “helpful” as “embracing discipleship” and says that “living and acting as Jesus did, can lead to greater spiritual awareness and maturity.”
“Embracing discipleship” is the key element of what makes this parish work so well. Holy Family has over 90 ministries, and its parishioners work year after year to “spread God’s grace in the world through acts of charity, justice and mercy,” he says.
“Holy Family has been richly blessed with parishioners who generously share their gifts of grace, gratitude and generosity,” says Cambria. “These gifts are shared not only with our parish but with organizations, near and far, to our neighbors in need just around the corner and as far away as Africa and Haiti. This parish works to relieve the suffering of those most in need by building structures of hope and opportunity — and the parish keeps on giving, year after year.”
A parishioner for the last 42 years, Karl Holtsnider had just retired from Franciscan Communications when approached by Msgr. Connolly to be parish administrator in the mid 1990’s. Holtsnider says today that in meetings with Msgr. Connolly it became apparent that the parish first needed a vision project — to remodel buildings and create meeting rooms, to acquire acreage and accomplish goals. By the year 2000, most of those tasks had been accomplished.
After meeting many of the parish’s major needs, it was decided that the “parish needed to look outside ourselves and to think beyond ourselves,” says Holtsnider. It was parish concern for the poor that impelled them to get involved. First came education of the parish, then reports on the needs that exist in Haiti. That led to the parish’s commitment to help.
At the time they had heard of Father Tom Hagan and “Hands Together,” an extensive mission in Haiti. Msgr. Connolly and Holtsnider went to Haiti to see what was being done.
Shortly after their trip, the parish committed itself to raising $4 million over 14 years in the form of goods, equipment and clothing to help the people of Haiti, using sea containers to send cargo. So far nearly 30 sea containers — roughly two containers a year — have been sent to Haiti full of goods. Volunteers from the parish who speak French have gone as well. One lay parishioner has organized a “Haiti Sewing Circle,” which has sewn 400 dresses for the girls in Haiti.
The parish feeds and provides medicine and clothing for 2,500 elderly and children. About 12,000 school-age children are fed by Father Hagan’s group.
“These parishioners are incredibly generous in supporting the world’s needy and in the local church and community, especially at Dolores Mission and Our Lady of Guadalupe parishes. The parish is aware of the needs of its neighbors and how we are one in Christ to the whole world,” says Karl Holtsnider. “Msgr. Connolly is been an outstanding leader. He let the lay people take the initiative and they reach out financially each year.”