‘You can change people with love’

Sister Barbara Joseph Wilson, principal, meets with Jaime Mencia, president of the SJW school board. — Credit: SISTER NANCY MUNRO, CSJ

Three decades ago Josefina Castellanos had no money, no job, no home and two small hungry children at her side when she came to the door of the rectory at St. Joseph the Worker Parish. She had remembered well the Vincentian priests in her hometown in Guatemala. They would frequently help those in need.

The young pastor, Father James Loughnane, answered the door that morning she came looking for help. He took her and the children inside out of the cold and listened as she explained her situation. He offered her a job and said, “I will try you out for a week.” Many months later, she asked him if she had gotten the job yet; they both just laughed remembering that first meeting.  

Today Josefina cooks at the rectory, assists the St. Vincent de Paul Society in their efforts with the poor, and oversees preparation of a hot meal program three times a week that feeds 40-80 homeless a day. She is very proud of the many St. Joseph the Worker parishioners who assist her and have gotten to know those less fortunate. 

“You can change people with love,” says Josefina. “Our parish is compassionate and cares for the poor. We try to make them feel like human beings. I can’t forget these people because that was me 34 years ago.”

Such generosity impresses Father Kevin Rettig, pastor. “In the spirit of Jesus, of Vatican II, of our Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, and Pope Francis, we strive to be a reflection of the all-embracing love of God at our liturgies and in our parish life,” he says. “We are proud of our many outreach ministries and of our diversity.”

Each year a parish-wide outreach project enables parishioners to learn about and address a need somewhere globally, as well as to celebrate a culture within the parish community. This year, with some very active Egyptian Christians in this parish, the Coptic Christians of Egypt have been the focus of parishioner efforts, including assistance for orphaned children of the region.

“By learning to celebrate others, we celebrate ourselves,” says Father Kevin. “There is something for everyone here.”

Jaime Mencia, president of the Parish Council, has been an active member of St. Joseph the Worker for most of his life. He attended the parish school and was married to his wife Laura in the church; their children all attended the parish school (except for two-year old Gracie, whose turn will come), where Laura teaches second grade; and Jaime is on the school’s consultative board of business professionals.  

“The school benefits so much from the partnership that exists among school, parish and community,” he says proudly. “A vibrant, engaged parish will ultimately make for a better school and a better community.

“We are all ambassadors of the parish. It is not solely the job of the pastor. It is not about telling people, ‘You should be at Mass.’ It is about saying. ‘Thank you for coming’ and ‘You have made my experience better.’”

Blessed with many ministries, the parish is involved in outreach projects: Get on the Bus for Mother’s Day, food baskets for Thanksgiving, and a parish Corpus Christi procession in which other parishes participate.

“It is a phenomenal thing to see,” says Jaime. “Father Kevin is extremely charismatic. He has an ability to make a personal connection with everyone.”

Last year a CSJ sister sponsored a school in Peru. The parish also supports Sri Lankan orphanages, and parish Our Girl Scouts have made table settings for the homeless.

“Every task has value and it glorifies God,” says Jaime. “It makes a difference when everyone works together and supports the parish community as a whole. No act of goodness is too small, and it makes the parish inviting. Father Kevin has wanted to do that — to make people feel welcome, and to make the world a better place just one act of goodness at a time.”


Seeking the face of God in the Scriptures

Archbishop José H. Gomez

Prayer is seeking the face of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church recalls the story of how St. John Vianney once found a peasant praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament. The saint asked him what he was doing, and the man replied: “I look at him and he looks at me.”


February 2016
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat

February 14, 2016

  • Sunday, February 14

    Mother Cabrini Library and Chapel Open House, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m., 3801 Scott Road, Burbank. The event is hosted by the Los Angeles Region.


    Italian Catholic Club of SCV Valentine's Day Dinner Dance, 7 p.m., Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Parish Hall), 23233 Lyons Ave., Newhall. Come enjoy a delicious gourmet buffet dinner and dance the night away to the music of Linda Pippin. Wear your favorite red dress, shirt and/or tie. All adults (single or married) are welcome. Tickets are $35 each (prepaid), or $45 at the door. Please call Anna Riggs at (661) 645-7877 to reserve your spot by Feb. 10.


    Stations of the Cross, 2 p.m. Calvary Cemetery, 4201 Whittier Boulevard, East Los Angeles. Continuing each Sunday of Lent. For more info, please call Calvary Cemetery: 323-261-3106.


    Year of Mercy Mass and Pilgrimage in The Shrine of St. John Paul II, 3 p.m., Our Lady of the Bright Mount Church, 3424 W. Adams Boulevard, Los Angeles.  Mass celebrated in English with Fr. John Paul Gonzalez of Christ the King Church.  Mass will be followed by Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and confession, with Divine Mercy Chaplet.  The closing prayer will be a blessing and veneration of the 1st class relic of St. John Paul II.  

    South Bay Catholic Co-ed Adult Softball League Pre-Season Practice Games, McMaster Park, 3624 Artesia Blvd., Torrance.  Must RSVP to Fred Lawler (League Commissioner) at (310) 504-0271 or fredlawler@hotmail.com.

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