Sunday, December 31, 2017

Rededicate you and your family to God

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor

Quote of the Week: “Blood makes you related. Loyalty makes you family.” — Unknown.

From the very first chapter of the scriptures, when it comes to family, it is clear what God intends: “Be fruitful and multiply.”

Today’s feast focuses on the holy family: Joseph, Mary and Jesus.

From the beginning of Genesis we see God’s desire and plan for a regenerating of the species through a fruitful multiplication.

God tells Abram (who becomes Abraham in the Covenant with God): “Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so shall your descendants be.”

Even in Abraham’s old age God provides for the beginnings of a mighty nation with many descendants. Sterility is no obstacle for God. But there is more in the feast today as we listen to the Gospel of Luke.

The Jews had a very deep faith understanding of the God-gift that family was, both in thanksgiving and the deepest sense of dedication. After 40 days the child was to be presented to God.

In this particular family story, prophecy and grace, and the beginning of redemption, surround this ordinary family event. Devout Simeon declares: “My eyes have seen your salvation ... a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory for your people Israel.”

And he continues: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted.”

Even Mary’s future pain and sorrow is predicted.


Is this what we can expect from family, whether a small family like Jesus’s, or the enormous human family promised to Abraham by God?

Is it always to include suffering? Will there always be struggle? Is there no doubt that both falling and rising is in the picture?

And so what makes it holy?

“The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.”

The favor of God falls upon all of us, especially those anointed with God’s own Spirit in baptism.

There is no question about God’s promise of fruitfulness — just count the over 6 billion presently inhabiting the earth.

There is no question about the favor of God — available to any and all who open their heart to him.

Perhaps the call of this feast day is to rededicate our self, our life, our day and our future to the God of Abraham, and our God, too.

Perhaps this is what makes each of us and any family “holy.”

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Sister Dolores was a woman of wisdom and grace

Sister Dolores M. O'Dwyer, photographed at St. Bernard Church on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012, shortly after her retirement Mass. (Photograph by Michael J. Arvizu/St. Bernard Catholic Church)

Raised from a source of strength

Dolores Margaret O’Dwyer, B.V.M., was born on Aug. 28, 1923, the third child of William and Margaret Meaney O’Dwyer of San Francisco, Calif. She joined siblings William and Mary Catherine. Dolores’ parents were born and married in Ireland before immigrating to the United States and settling in the Mission District of San Francisco.

Her father had a fun-loving personality, opposite yet complementary to the quiet, serious and pious personality of her mother. Both parents had strength at the foundation of their characters. The O’Dwyer family belonged to St. Paul Parish and Dolores attended and graduated from St. Paul elementary and high school, where she was taught and influenced by the BVMs.

Religious vocations apparently ran in the O’Dwyer family. Dolores was inspired first by her mother who belonged to the Third Order of St. Francis and instilled in her children that religious life was something wonderful. Her brother William joined the Lasallian Christian Brothers and later become a diocesan priest. Her sister, Sister Mary Catherine (Paul Anthony), entered the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) congregation in 1932 and died in 2001. Dolores herself entered on Sept. 8, 1941, and received the name Wilmetta upon her reception on March 19, 1942. She professed her first vows on March 19, 1944, and lived 76 years as a BVM.

Dolores taught in elementary schools for 24 years. She was missioned at St. Odilo in Berwyn, Ill.; St. George, Christ the King, and St. John in Seattle; St. Clare in Portland, Ore.; and Holy Family in Glendale, Calif.

In the middle of Dolores’ teaching years, tragedy struck the O’Dwyer family. Dolores’ mother, who had been diagnosed with dementia, was exceptionally restless on Oct. 1, 1956, so Dolores’ father decided to take his wife for a ride, which included a stop at the bay to gather sea grass as they used to do in their early days in Ireland.

After returning home, Dolores’ father fell asleep and awoke after midnight to discover his wife was gone. It is believed that she thought it was morning and had headed to Mass at St. Anthony Church, only to be struck and killed by a Greyhound bus.

In a letter to friends, Dolores wrote about the comfort the family received from the BVM community. “There was a special BVM rosary [in the afternoon] ... My Dad was greatly impressed and [remarked], ‘I gave two daughters [to the BVMs] and got a hundred in return.’ My cousin who is a Sister of Mercy was there and was overcome by the charity and love of the BVMs ... Please accept [our] thanks ... for your part in making this tragedy easier to bear. All your letters and promises of prayers have made us all so happy.”

Sister Dolores M. O'Dwyer greets wellwishers at the conclusion of the 5 p.m. Mass on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012. Sister Dolores was St. Bernard Catholic School principal for 36 years before her retirement. (Photograph by Michael J. Arvizu/St. Bernard Catholic Church)

An award winning principal, dedicated to Catholic education

In 1968, Dolores became the principal at St. Bernard in Los Angeles and remained there for 36 years. She truly became the center of the St. Bernard community. The pastor wrote, “The greatness of your service to St. Bernard School and Church is not measured only in the number of years you have given, many as they are. Your service is measured especially by the love you have shown, the dedication that is always evident and the God-given talents you have shared with generations of students and families.”

Dolores was a woman of wisdom and grace as she face numerous educational challenges and proved herself an innovative leader. She received the Distinguished Principals Award from the Department of Elementary Schools of the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) in 1991. The executive director of NCEA stated, “Sister Dolores has a clear, integrated philosophy of Catholic Education, is highly regarded by peers, students and parents. She firmly believed that a Catholic School is a place where children are allowed to grow to maturity in finding God and contributing to society.” In recognition of this award, she was also honored as the “Principal of the Year for the Western States.”

As a member of the 1994 delegation of the NCEA and the People-to-People Organization, Dolores visited and studied Catholic schools in Australia and New Zealand. In 1998, Catholic Charities honored her with the Lifetime Achievement Award for her involvement in Catholic Youth Organization athletics. Dolores engaged with her students by attending all school activities and challenging the athletes to learn the skills of the sport and to play as a cohesive team, skills that helped them succeed later in life.

From left, Diane Barber, Sister Joan Maga, Sister Dolores M. O'Dwyer, and Mary Lou Krajewski pose with Sister Dolores at a celebration in honor of her 36 years as principal of St. Bernard Catholic School principal. (Photograph by Michael J. Arvizu/St. Bernard Catholic Church)

Dolores’ contribution to Catholic education was tremendous. Her determination, unselfish devotion, love, faith and skills as an educator influenced the lives of many students, parents, teachers and staff. She was a source of inspiration as she taught by example that every person is loved and cherished by God, and that we are all one family. She truly made a difference.

Not slowing down, even in retirement

After retiring in 2004, Dolores volunteered as a tutor at St. Bernard and pursued her other interests, which included crocheting, cooking, reading, indulging her cats, and cheering on the Los Angeles Lakers. She had a delightful wit and a cheerfulness about her, and was honest to a fault. She loved to sing and dance, and enjoyed a good party, all of which fit quite well with her Irish heritage.

Dolores moved to Mount Carmel in 2012. It was a difficult transition at first, but eventually one could hear her singing, sometimes through the night. The last verse of “Amazing Grace” was a favorite tune: “When we’ve been there ten thousand years/Bright shining as the sun,/We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise/Than when we first begun.”

Dolores longed to join her parents, brother and sister. Finally, last Saturday, Jesus came for her. One can imagine Dolores speaking the words from Song of Songs: “Hark! My lover—here he comes ... My lover speaks; he says to me, ‘Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come!’” With this invitation, Dolores followed her beloved to a new dwelling place; her voice joined the heavenly chorus.

Sing on, Dolores! Sing on!

Dolores died on Dec. 16, 2017, at Caritas Center in Dubuque, Iowa.

She was preceded in death by her parents, brother Rev. William O’Dwyer, and sister Mary Catherine O’Dwyer, B.V.M. (Paul Anthony). She is survived by cousins and the Sisters of Charity, B.V.M., with whom she shared life for 76 years.

Dolores was 94.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

When the ordinary becomes extraordinary

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor

Quote of the Week: “The proof of love is deed.” — Venerable Catherine McAuley.

“... For nothing is impossible for God.”

That famous line known by all who have developed within themselves a biblical spirituality is the foundation of today’s scriptures.

God spoke through Nathan the prophet to King David, making it abundantly clear that the issue was not what David could do for God, but what God could do for David.

The letter to the Romans echoes the same message when it proclaims the truth: “To him [God] who can strengthen you. ...”

God is clearly seen as powerful, capable, loving, and desirous of calling, sending and sustaining his faithful ones.

The most intimate statement of the same truth is revealed in the Annunciation in today’s Gospel.

The angel Gabriel brings the call of God to Mary to be the one chosen to bring God into the world in human form through her child, Jesus, the great Incarnation: … “For nothing is impossible for God.”

Then the seemingly “ordinary,” but “wonderful and terrible” events, begin to unfold.

For the eyes of faith, these “ordinary” events would have extraordinary causes and significances. An “ordinary” pregnancy would be the result of God pouring out his spirit in an abundant and fruitful way.

God’s entrance into our world in human form would happen in an “ordinary” birth. Elizabeth, advanced in age, would also experience an “ordinary” pregnancy and give to the world her son John, known as the John the Baptist.

Mary would understand that in her humbleness, her nothingness — God had made her great. Mary gives all of the glory to him, for she understood that “nothing will be impossible for God.”

In her simple understanding and acceptance of her call she responds: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

How many of us people of faith seem so discontent with the “ordinary”? How many yearn for and are fixated on the extraordinary, the miraculous.

Can we not believe that in the “very ordinary” God is present? Can we not believe that in the daily stuff of life that God is working, calling, sending, giving, sustaining?

It is not the events of our lives that need to change; it is more the understanding and appreciation that God is there in “ordinary” life experiences: pregnancy, loss of a job, change of life, graduation, failing a class, death of a loved one, being talked about, giving thanks, marrying, separating. Both in the good and bad — in all of it — God is there.

The challenge is to believe that through it all we are loved.

We will be loved. The grace of God will see us through, for “nothing is impossible for God.”

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

What really matters is our spiritual journey through Advent

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor

Quote of the Week: “Jesus did not come to explain away suffering or remove it. He came to fill it with his presence.” — Paul Claudel.

“Gaudete” means “rejoice” in Latin.

Traditionally, the Third Sunday of Advent has been called “Gaudete Sunday” because our Advent journey has almost come to an end. There is always joy when one comes closer to reaching the goal or arriving at the destination.

But isn’t it much more than just “coming to the end”? What happened to us along the way? Was there any change? Is our goal or destination the point of this journey, or is the journey itself that is the important thing?

If we have been listening to God’s word these days, we have heard a lot about justice and peace; we have understood that something or someone has changed the universe forever. We have understood how deeply loved we are by God and that this divine visitation has forgiven and healed everyone and everything.

The journey of faith stands beside a bustling holiday season. One says: “Buy, buy, buy” and accumulate as much as you can — then get more, never enough!

The other says: “Let go, simplify, empty yourself, embrace silence and peace, open.”

One distracts and clutters; the other focuses and prepares us to receive love and meaning deep within the spirit.

It is a great time. It is a great season. Everyone enters in different ways and to different degrees. It’s all good. But undeniably there is something that is greatest here.

It has been the journey. It continues. It is near its end. There is more grace and love to go around.

Gaudete — rejoice!

As church, we say it together this Sunday. Together, may we discover what the journey has been about.

Together, may the journey helps us to discover who we have become.

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Announcing the second coming is OUR job

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor 

Quote of the Week: “The message of Jesus is not ‘Repent,’ but ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near.’” — John Shea.

“Eschatology” is a term that refers to the “end times” and the future glory that awaits those who are faithful to God’s gift of salvation.

It includes Christ’s second coming but also refers to the end of time, the final judgment, the resurrection of everyone and everything that is gathered together by the creator to share forever in divine glory.

It is not terrible but rather the most awesome of all things to come. The first coming of Christ (which we celebrate in Christmas) already ushered in these eschatological times. The kingdom of God has already begun in the birth of Christ and is already here.

But the fullness of this kingdom of God is yet to be fully realized — that will be in his second coming.

What happens “in between”? “In between” is where we are.

John the Baptist understood his critical role to announce the first coming of Christ. An equally critical role falls to us to announce the second coming of Christ.

And even though we cannot pinpoint a day or exact time, nevertheless we continue to proclaim the kingdom that is here and now and the fullness of that kingdom to come.

We do so because our lives become a testimony to our belief in the kingdom; living the Gospel gives us a beginning share in the glory of that kingdom. Sharing that glory actually makes the kingdom to grow within us, through us and around us.

We are “critical players” in announcing and living this kingdom of God. If we don’t live it and share it, we lessen it. If we live it and share it, it thrives and blesses in the “now.”

John said: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

We have been baptized in his Spirit. We are anointed in the Lord. We share in his kingdom and proclaim it with our lives. We even receive and are nourished by him as the bread of life and our cup of salvation.

Is this time not anointed? Is this time not one to be proclaimed? Do we not share the privilege of John?

John announced the first coming. We announce the second.

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Following Mary in Advent

Archbishop José H. Gómez
By Archbishop José H. Gómez

This past Sunday I had the joy to join thousands of you and your families in East Los Angeles for the 86th annual procession and Eucharistic celebration in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

It was beautiful way to begin Advent — a celebration of faith and hope, strength and solidarity.

And it caused me to reflect that our Christian faith can always be lived with joy, even in times of uncertainty and struggle.

Worshipping with us on Sunday were many young people and families living under the threat of deportation, caught in the web of a broken immigration system and waiting for Congress to decide the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

Yet there was great joy because we know that Our Lady of Guadalupe goes with us on this journey we call life. Indeed, this procession in East L.A. was started decades ago by families who were fleeing the worst religious persecution ever witnessed in the Americas.

These refugee families became pillars in our community and in the midst of their hardship and loss, their example still shows us the way. They found hope and grace in turning to the Mother of God.

Reading the news these days, it can seem like we are living in challenging and confusing times.

Christ’s disciples are always called to live and work and carry out our mission in the midst of the anxieties of our time or place.

This is one of the quiet lessons of the Advent and Christmas season.

Read again and reflect on the beginnings of Luke’s and Matthew’s gospels. You see how the “biographies” of Jesus, Mary and Joseph are shaped by the politics and history of their nation.

A government decision, the census, causes the movements that bring them to Bethlehem on Christmas night. A king’s fears and ambitions for power change their lives — forcing them to flee the country as refugees.

Mary is at the center of the story. And she is at the heart of Advent.

As we do during each Advent, this week we will celebrate her Immaculate Conception, which marks the beginning of our salvation. Three days after that, we will remember her appearance at Guadalupe, which marks the beginnings of American history and reminds us of her continued role in the God’s plan of salvation.

Our world is not a chaos of passing events. God is always God and his love is always at work, no matter what is happening in our society or in the world.

Mary gave herself totally to God’s plan and by her “yes” to God, she gives us an example for how to find joy in these times we are living in.

What God asked of Mary, had never been asked of anyone before — to carry in her womb the One who was to be the Savior of her people and the whole human race. She was asked to do that, no matter what sacrifices it would require in her life.

Every step of her life with Christ required that Mary “put out into the deep,” as Jesus told his apostles to do.

She had to face her fears of the unknown, of where God might be leading her next. She had to let go of all her priorities and plans — she had to let go of everything she might have wished for her life.

Reflecting on Mary this week, I found myself returning to the words that St. Elizabeth spoke at her visitation: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

This is how we can rejoice even in times when God’s purposes seem mysterious or challenging or hard to accept.

We find God’s blessings when we believe — when we open the door to our hearts and welcome Jesus, when we trust that his Word gives us the path to follow for our lives.

Believing in God does not mean that all sadness or suffering are swept away.

But the more we trust in God’s loving will for us, the more we will find the strength and courage we need to handle whatever comes our way — knowing that we are not alone, that God is with us in the mystery of his love.

So, in this first week of Advent, pray for me and I will be praying for you.

And let us try to follow Mary more closely, because no one on earth was more closely united to Jesus, no one who knew him better than Mary.

May Our Blessed Mother always go with us to guide us to the encounter with Jesus, the one who brings us true joy.

Archbishop José H. Gómez is the fifth archbishop of Los Angeles. His weekly column is provided by and appears in Angelus, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Reach Archbishop Gomez at (213) 637-7000, or follow him daily on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Advent is a time of renewal, change of heart

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor 

Quote of the Week: “The kingdom of God is the already but not yet.” — R. Alan Woods.

The season of Advent is about preparing us for the “coming of the Lord.”

This purpose in Advent is really twofold.

The immediate purpose is to prepare for the coming of Jesus in his birth at Christmas. With this purpose, there is the built-in tension between the Christmas of the Christian and the Christmas of the world.

One is spiritual and filled with joy, as we await then celebrate the incarnation — God becoming man — as he enters this world through Mary’s conception and birth.

The other is materialistic and centered on Santa Claus, gifts, binge shopping, and debt for the new year.

There is no question that the season affects nearly the whole world and is important spiritually, economically, socially, and on unconscious levels.

The other purpose is equally as strong throughout the entire season of Advent.

The second coming of Jesus Christ is the long-awaited arrival at the end of time.

This one demands from us our spiritual attention and deepest personal commitment. This is the “moment” when there will be no hiding, escaping, mistaking, or Plan B. When this moment comes, we must be ready; when this moment comes, it will all be “over.”

First Sunday of
This is the time when Jesus Christ will take back everything that has come from God to return it to God. This is the time referred to as the “final judgement.”

Therefore, it should be no surprise that the word of God repeats again and again: “Prepare the way of the Lord; be ready; stay awake; be alert; open up; listen.”

The language of the Bible that greets us during this time is apocalyptic, strong, demanding, forceful, promising, hopeful, and it seeks our commitment.

This is John the Baptist’s time; this is the time of renewal and change of heart.

If we ready our spirit for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, we should have a spirit that is open and ready to meet Jesus Christ, any way he comes — in his word, the Gospel, one another, in our sins and struggles, or the darkness of our world.

This is what the church believes. This is why we celebrate.

Indeed, the good news of Advent is: “The Lord Jesus shall come! Rejoice!”

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.