In the five years since, Father Valdovinos’ pastoral ministry has focused on instilling in the mostly blue-collar immigrant Latino workers and stay-at-home mothers a sense of dignity that leads to self-sufficiency. “But everything starts with faith-based values and education,” Father Valdovinos told The Tidings. As the parish prepares to celebrate its centennial this year, parishioners are becoming more active by volunteering in numerous ministries. And despite their limited resources, they have managed to fund the remodeling of the sacristy, two parking lots and a baptismal fountain in the center aisle of the church. For Father Valdovinos it is all about setting examples and it all starts at home, be it the family home or the church. Not an easy task to convey in a community that has undergone demographic changes throughout the years — from all-Caucasian to African American to mostly Latino — which have created racial conflicts that extend to the church.“Pray how to be humble and obey the Holy Spirit, because some decisions we make may be without the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,” Father Valdovinos told a mostly all-women assembly during a recent weekday bilingual Mass. “Pray to the Holy Spirit to gain wisdom. Otherwise how can you lead your family, the church or make good decisions?”He urged them to become people of prayer. “People battle in life and one reason is because we need more prayer,” he told them.Maria Sandoval, 56, a parishioner for 20 years and a frequent daily Mass participant, is a firm believer in the power of prayer.After her husband of nearly 30 years was laid off from his job, she made and sold pi√±atas to generate income. “Prayers are always answered,” noted the mother of eight children, the youngest with Down Syndrome. After several months of job-hunting, her husband got a part-time job at a cheese factory. “Soon he might get promoted to full-time,” she added hopefully.What has kept her in the church, said the former rectory cleaning lady, is the “great communication that we’ve had with the pastors. They are very unassuming and kind. They understand us; they know what we go through.” The parish, led for the last 40 years by the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity, was losing parishioners, several old-timers told The Tidings, until Father Valdovinos was assigned as pastor.Ordained in Mexico City in 1994, he was tested soon after he arrived to his first assignment in Puerto Rico. The pastor was diagnosed with liver cancer and a month later died. Without any replacement available, Father Valdovinos had to function as the “little pastor.” It was challenging, he said, but a great learning experience.In 1996 he was assigned to a rural church in the tropical rainforest of Costa Rica, encountering a much different culture. “I learned so much from this unassuming, open-minded people,” he said. “It’s really the people who form you on this journey.”After a brief break, he was assigned to the Diocese of Pensacola, where — based in Tallahassee — he was assigned to develop a Hispanic Ministry. He would visit and celebrate Mass in Spanish in area parishes and soon after he was joined in this ministry by a nun, a brother and a priest. At the beginning it was hard to serve (or in some cases find) the people, many of them immigrants from Mexico and Central America, the Philippines and Korea. But they managed to gain their trust and partnering with the Florida Bishops’ Conference they developed a social justice ministry supporting immigrants and farm workers.In 2006 Father Valdovinos was assigned to Our Lady of Victory.“My religious community requested me to come to Compton. I was scared,” he admitted. “I knew that Compton was a very difficult place, with a lot of violence and gangs.“But then I started discerning and thought that if the [Trinitarian] congregation had been there for almost 40 years, they knew the place well and they thought I had something to offer. And I accepted the mission.”And upon arriving, he discovered that although Compton had its problems, it was and is full of very good people, as anywhere else. Many times, he noted, “families hide their difficult situations and avoid talking about their family members involved in gangs.” That’s one reason he ministers once a week at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey.He noted that many people were very dependent on the pastor, so in his homilies he preaches self-sufficiency.“There are people that are waiting for everything to fall from the skies, with their mouths wide open,” he said in his June 5 homily, noting that after Jesus ascended to Heaven, the disciples were told to stop looking to the skies and instead look at what needed to be done.“We need to get going and let the Holy Spirit work in us. If we let Him, He will give us passion, energy,” he said. “When we are baptized in the Holy Spirit our life changes.”“I don’t think the people should depend on the pastor or on [the financial help of] another parish or the government,” Father Valdovinos told The Tidings. “They are all gifted people, and if they are creative they can come up with ways to be self-sufficient.”Several ministries in recent years have grown and become more efficient, including the stewardship ministry that has an important role in raising funds for the church. Through food sales every Sunday, together with generous contributions of the parishioners, they have supported the remodeling projects.The pews have begun filling with new parishioners or those who had left. The four weekend Masses in Spanish have become six, plus the weekly bilingual liturgies.Partnerships with different organizations gave way to English and citizenship classes as well as health fairs with free health screenings and exercise and nutrition classes provided by St. Francis Medical Center. On any given Sunday, guest organizations address parishioners before or after Mass. At the June 5 noon Mass parishioners heard about Casa Nido (Nest Home), a non-profit shelter for homeless pregnant women.At the end of the Mass Father Valdovinos called several groups of people to the front to be blessed: first the newborns with their mothers, then the children, those celebrating birthdays and wedding anniversaries, and finally those who wanted their images of the Virgin of Guadalupe (or others) blessed.Announcements were also made for summer school (8 a.m.-1 p.m.) and an arts and computer program for children (1-6 p.m.). All for $80, including meals.“Bring your children, bring your grandchildren,” Father Valdovinos told the assembly. “Sometimes you give them pizza or cake; why not give them education?”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/0611/spolv/{/gallery}