Easter Sunday morning across the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, many parish churches like Our Lady of Victory in Compton were filled to more than just capacity.
Two overflowing and simultaneous Masses were celebrated at noon in the church and the parish hall — and at other times of the day as well. Those who came to worship found themselves in the midst of several different languages — including Spanish, English, Samoan and Tagalog — for this is Los Angeles, a city of dreams, hopes and where often enough everyone is from somewhere else, but still a neighbor.
Our Lady of Victory is just such a parish. Trinitarian Father Francisco Valdovinos is the pastor to these diverse parishioners, all yearning for the same thing: a place to call home, to raise their children safely among neighbors who generously look out for one another and who come together each Sunday and special occasions to celebrate, bringing their concerns before God and others, especially as they worship together.
Most mornings at Our Lady of Victory, parishioner Elizapeta Fido is busy at the parish office helping to meet the needs of other parishioners. When not working at the parish school office, Elizapeta’s daughter Gloria volunteers and helps her mother and others on the office staff. Leonard and Elizapeta Fido were the archdiocese’s first Samoan deacon couple. They served together until his death about four years ago.
“He loved this parish and we’re still serving,” says Elizapeta of her beloved Leonard. In addition to serving as parish deacon, Leonard worked for Toyota for many years, and was a chaplain at Long Beach Memorial Hospital, all while he and Elizapeta raised nine children. The family migrated from Samoa in 1979, “and then in 1980 we found Our Lady of Victory,” says Elizapeta, who converted and received all of her sacraments in this Compton parish. Of their life together in their parish, Elizapeta says simply, “As long as you have breath in you, you can still serve the Lord.”
For the past nine years as pastor, Father Francisco Valdovinos says his efforts have been to simply follow his “baptismal call to holiness in a multicultural community.” For Father Valdovinos, this means to provide his parishioners with “opportunities for building community and working for social justice in a missionary spirit.” He firmly believes that “Catholics do not have boundaries” and that his mission is to reach out on three levels — spiritually, physically and when needed, psychologically — for instance, providing assistance in anger management. Father Valdovinos also reaches out by ensuring physical wellness with free clinics (such as those to help prevent seniors from becoming homebound) and additional food twice a month; there’s also immigration assistance and education for older students and adults.
Father Valdovinos says the people in his parish are “humble, faithful, poor.” He continues, “They don’t have money, but they do have God. They have the sense of belonging to this parish for what they need and we try to provide it. It is just what Jesus did — counseling them, seeing to their social and physical well-being.”
Proudest of the programs he has brought to the parish, Father Valdovinos says that there are 10,000 young people in Compton today, and the needs are many. Parish programs have brought assistance to the people with immunization clinics, food assistance, and even a certification program through the Mexican consulate and the University of Guadalajara. As he says, “We want to empower them with formation and education, and to love them.”