Four catechists were honored for their loyalty and faithfulness to the Church community during the annual San Pedro Religious Education Congress held Oct. 1 at St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower.

Awards to Benjamin Mancilla, Maria Perez, Kate Gonzalez and Barbara Fischer were presented by Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Solis, after the closing Mass at the school’s auditorium. The presentation concluded the annual event attended by more than 1,000 parish ministers, primarily from southern Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

Bishop Solis urged the assembly to continue to become “agents of transformation in our world” and to continue building “God’s Kingdom of justice and peace in our society and in our community,” honoring the event’s theme, “Revive! Restore! God’s Peace and Justice.”

In his homily he stressed the importance of accepting God’s “gift of forgiveness and absolution waiting for us through the sacrament of reconciliation.”

“Sin is rejection of God’s love and goodness,” he said, citing Jesus’ parable (Matthew 21) of the disloyal farmers in the vineyard and providing several examples of how fear and anxiety govern people’s lives when God permanently offers his generosity and goodness to all.

 “Confía tu vida en el amor y bondad de Dios; put your trust in the love and goodness of our God,” he told the assembly. “God is compassionate and forgiving. The Lord invites us to put our trust in Him.”

For setting an example of their trust in God, the four catechists received for the first time in the history of the Congress, the “2011 Excellence in Catechetical Service Award.”

Mancilla began 12 years ago as assistant director of religious education at St. Athanasius in Long Beach, and most recently has been coordinator of food distribution to the homeless in L.A. County.

Perez was described as a dedicated children’s catechist at Norwalk’s St. John of God Parish for more than 10 years. 

Gonzalez, a catechist at St. Mary of the Assumption Church (Whittier) for more than 30 years, was praised as one able to “recognize the uniqueness in every child in her class.”

Fischer, a longtime catechist at St. Cornelius Church in Long Beach, works together with her children and husband.

“All this fills me with great joy,” said Martha Campos, a children’s catechist at St. Gertrude in Bell Gardens, who returned recently to the Southland after two years in Oregon. She said her faith was strengthened when she read a book about why people are Catholic and soon after got involved at St. Gertrude.

“I’ve learned that the role of a catechist is to plant faith seeds, and to teach moral values and ethics,” which she said the Congress helped her reinforce, especially after attending the workshop “Eucharist: At the Heart of Our Life.”

“I just want to learn more to help make a difference in others’ lives and hopefully transmit to them the joy I feel,” said the mother of three.

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