Friday, January 28, 2011

Prior to appointing new pastor, archdiocese takes note of St. Bernard's needs

By Michael J. Arvizu

Roughly 60 parishioners and church leaders gathered in the parish hall Wednesday night to discuss the needs of the parish with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles as the church looks to welcome a new pastor this summer.

St. Bernard's current pastor, Monsignor Gerald McSorley, will retire at the end of June.

The open meeting was facilitated by the Rev. Francis Mendoza, associate pastor of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels and a representative of the personnel board of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The meeting was a chance for church members to discuss what they would like to see in their new pastor as well as discuss issues within the parish for the new pastor to address when he begins his assignment.

Mendoza began the meeting by asking parishioners about St. Bernard's history and how its demographics have changed throughout the decades. Parishioners said St. Bernard's has grown to become a church of multiple ethnic groups — Filipino, Latino, Italian — each with its own distinct way of spreading the word of God, something Mendoza was impressed with.

"We come together," Father Mendoza said. "I see that as a strength here to the parish community."

Parishioners expressed their concerns that the next pastor should be supportive of the church's programs, ministries and Catholic school, in much the same way as Monsignor Gerald McSorley has done during his 19-year appointment at St. Bernard's, and be bilingual.

"The amount of support we receive from Father McSorley is extraordinary," said St. Bernard Catholic School Principal Margaret Samaniego. "We need someone who is committed to Catholic education and can support it."

Ideally, parishioners said, they would like the archdiocese to select a pastor that resembles Monsignor  McSorley's style of leadership by seeking support and advice from other church leaders and not being a "one-man show."

"A pastor sets the tone for a parish family," said Father Mendoza. However, short of cloning Monsignor McSorley, Father Mendoza added, the archdiocese will "do its best" to find someone like Monsignor McSorley, but that any pastor that is chosen will have his own leadership style and personality. The new pastor, Father Mendoza said, would be someone that would help elevate the parish "and bring it into the next phase." And like Monsignor McSorley did almost two decades ago, the new pastor would grow into the parish as he gets to know his flock, said Father Mendoza.

Father Mendoza then asked parishioners two key questions: What are the strengths of St. Bernard's and what are St. Bernard's pastoral needs. 

Among its strengths, parishioners said, are St. Bernard's charitable organizations such as the Angel Food Program as well as its diverse cultural programs.

Youth involvement was discussed as a pastoral need, one that is lacking at St. Bernard's, parishioners said. Preferably, parishioners said, they would like to see a young pastor appointed that would motivate the youth to get involved. The need for vocation awareness among the youth was also addressed as a pastoral need. Another need, parishioners said, is adult catechism that would educate parents and encourage them to make a commitment to youth involvement at St. Bernard's.

St. Bernard's new pastor will be selected by Cardinal Roger Mahony and Coadjutor Archbishop Jose Gomez. The name of the new pastor will be announced sometime after Easter, said Father Mendoza. The new pastor will begin his appointment July 1.

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