Oscar Bojorquez, chairman of the Our Lady of Rosary’s matrimony group Fountain of Life (Fuente de Vida), believes in their slogan, “Unidos como una gran familia! (United as a great family).”On this particular Friday, the day the group holds its weekly meeting, he wanders throughout the busy campus of the Paramount parish, where he greets parishioners who start arriving to attend meetings in different ministries. One of them is a young boy who is lying on the ground crying, having fallen down while running.“Just remain there for a few minutes,” the soft-spoken Bojorquez tells the boy, getting down on his knees to check for bruises. “That’s what happens when you’re running in a place that’s not for running.”Bojorquez — who admits that for a long time he was away from God and the Church — has learned that all the members of his parish are part of his family, and he tries to be attentive to all their needs.“We never have to lose our sight of the one who is at the center of everything: Jesus,” he says, a few minutes before starting Fountain of Life’s weekly group meeting.And because people suffer all kinds of problems — physical, spiritual and otherwise — on this evening he has invited Maria French to offer a presentation to more than 50 couples gathered in the parish hall. French, a parishioner of Downey’s Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, suffers from cerebral palsy.“She is a gift from God to the community,” he says of French, whom he praises for arriving before anyone else. The first communitySeated before the assembled couples — some of them with baby strollers or toddlers sitting (and running, on occasions) alongside — French is very clear on who and what is important is this world.“Matrimony is the first community to which we belong,” declares French, who holds a doctorate degree in special education and abnormal psychology.“And if we don’t have faith,” she continues, “our obstacles will seem enormous.”She compares the “battle” that she goes through every single day — sometimes with minor things, due to her condition — with the struggles couples have to “survive” throughout life in a society that too often shows disregard for love, life and charity for others.“We are becoming used to giving pills to the elderly to keep them asleep, so they don’t bother us,” she laments. “Or, if a couple discovers that the baby they are expecting has a disability, they are advised to consider abortion. And slowly, we become more and more selfish.”That was not the example, set by her own parents, she says thankfully. Her own mother’s pregnancy proceeded normally, but at the moment of birth there were complications. It was a Sunday and when the doctor got to the delivery room he had drunk “a little too much.” So instead of practicing a recommended C-section, he used forceps to force baby Maria out of the womb, which affected the brain.For the first five years of French’s life, her parents and rest of the family believed she had a severe cognitive disorder. But the little girl lay day after day on her back, asking God to please move her from that crib so that she could serve him.Slowly, she learned to swallow, to crawl, to speak and to walk — all with the help of her dedicated parents, she tells the assembled mothers and fathers.The parents’ example“Parents are the guides,” she reminds them, “and if the couple respects each other and shows sacrifice and humanity and love, your children will follow the example, just as I learned from my parents’ example.”Couples, she continues firmly, must show respect for each other, especially at moments of disagreement. “Sometimes,” she says, “harsh words hurt more than a slap on the face, which can leave an indelible scar for life.”Using the example of how her parents “took the decision” to “keep her no matter the challenges,” she stresses the importance of making the appropriate choices in life for the betterment of the family and community.“My parents decided to love me,” she says, “and showed me how to fight for my human dignity, how to be treated as a human being, and not to be looked upon with pity.”In the end, she tells the attentive audience, “My life has been, as the pope says, a delightful surprise.”Patricia Becerra, wiping away tears, welcomed French’s remarks. “Sometimes we complain about our ‘battles’ in life and here she is providing lessons,” said the mother of an eight-year-old girl who has been diagnosed with autism.“She is an example of how you learn to fight when you have faith,” added Carlos and Kenya Romo.And Zulema Bojorquez, who had great influence on her husband Oscar’s decision to return to the Church, expressed the thoughts of many: “We should always learn from people who put their lives on the hands of God, such as Maria.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0621/spolr/{/gallery}