Every month a group of Holy Name Society men gathers to talk about the needs of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Parish in Lomita. Before the meeting, many of the 75 members go to church to pray the rosary. Then they grab a bit of food and then settle in to the business at hand. Most recently their discussion centered around their parish’s year-long, 75th anniversary celebration.

Their recent meeting began with good-natured barbs about Notre Dame’s loss to USC in football, which meant only USC jerseys were worn at the meeting, which meant no complaints from the pastor, Msgr. Marc Trudeau, who went to USC. In his USC sweatshirt, Msgr. Trudeau explained that the parish’s 75th anniversary committee recommended a parish-wide goal of 75,000 hours of service to the community.

No one in the group was even fazed. Rather, the group simply began discussing ways it could be accomplished.

Such is the can-do spirit throughout St. Margaret Mary. “The lay leadership of the parish has always been enabled,” says Msgr. Trudeau. “In the ’60s, Father John Hegarty (then pastor) would say, ‘We need this,’ and the laypeople figured out how to do it. After him, Father Harold Cremins did the same thing, as did Bishop Sartoris --- who people here still call Father Joe --- and then Father Pat Thompson. There is nothing that goes on here that hasn’t been enabled by our wonderful lay people, who are just fantastic.

“So as a new pastor just coming in, it is relatively easy because of the lay leadership. We priests, we come and we go. The people stay and it’s all about Jesus Christ. Having been here a year now, I have a sneaking suspicion that here it’s all about the Sacred Heart of Jesus. All of the intercessions and prayers go through the Sacred Heart.”

Another key is that everyone works together. The school works with the religious education program, as do parish service and prayer organizations.

Especially touching is the work of the Holy Name Society with the parish’s Special Needs Religious Education Program. Each Christmas about 150 Holy Name men gather together over 150 special needs individuals (mainly from the religious ed program) and have a huge celebration with gifts, games and Santa visits.

“We are a group of men who have come together from all walks of life to serve, socialize and grow in our spirituality,” declares the Society’s parish website message. “The Holy Name Society has been building, cleaning, cooking, praying, and putting on events in our parish for over 65 years. It is a legacy we are proud of and humbled by.”

Its members range in age from the 20s to the 90s. “These guys,” says Scott McKechnie, current Holy Name Society president, “are all just average men trying to do a little bit more for their faith, their church and their community.”

And the Special Needs program is like no other, according to Dorothy Jenkins, former director, and Angela Taylor, new director. Jenkins, a St. Margaret Mary parishioner for over 70 years, recalls how in 1979, when the program was just five years old, she read in the parish bulletin of the need for someone to help Sister Phyllis Supanchek push wheelchairs and help with children.

Having just lost her mother and feeling a huge void in her life, Dorothy got involved, bolstered by the words of her pastor: “If they just know Jesus,” said the future Bishop Sartoris, “that is all that they need to know.”

“Everyone who comes into the program comes with special gifts, helpers as well as students,” she explains. “We, the helpers, speak the language of unconditional love.” With a smile, she adds, “I never had children of my own. So I’ve adopted all these children, and that is enough for me.”