MCA in Ventura: ‘They give; they are the Church’

Every fall, the Missionary Childhood Association of the Archdiocese hosts a gathering at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels with several thousand Catholic school children from the archdiocese to celebrate young people giving of themselves on behalf of less fortunate children around the world.

But because of distance (two- and three-hour bus rides for some) and scheduling conflicts, some schools in the archdiocese are unable to attend the downtown Los Angeles gathering. To acknowledge the participation and support of these children for MCA outreach, archdiocesan MCA officials brought their “Day of Appreciation” celebration to St. Bonaventure High School in Ventura on April 18, where schools from Ventura County and the San Fernando Valley joined to celebrate Mass — and to learn more about the needs of other children around the world.

“This is about kids helping kids,” said Father Ken Deasy, who ministers in the MCA office. “Our hope is that we will recognize and appreciate the missionary ministry of the younger church of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles — those who are Christ to the poorest in our world.”

Over the years the Missionary Childhood Association has sent money, food, medical supplies and helpers to areas all around the world — including Japan, Haiti, Kenya, Uganda and Thailand — during times of earthquake, civil war, flooding and other tragedies to address the never-ending needs of children who live in poverty.

Father Deasy celebrated the Mass at St. Bonaventure High School, joined by Deacon Don Huntley, St. Bonaventure vice principal (and a deacon at Our Lady of the Assumption Church next door), along with about 500 elementary school students, student ambassadors, educators and parents from seven schools. They include Santa Rosa Bishop Alemany School, San Fernando; St. Rose of Lima, Simi Valley; St. Paschal Baylon, Thousand Oaks; St. Mary Magdalen, Camarillo; Our Lady of the Assumption, Ventura; and St. Joseph the Worker, Winnetka. St. Bonaventure High student ambassadors and staff members assisted with lunch and hospitality.

During the liturgy, Father Deasy reminded the children that “we are a missionary church, and that is why we go and find those in need as we have been told to do by Jesus.”

And, he told them that young people like themselves have every right and responsibility to serve the Church as do adults. “Kids are not just the future of the church — they are the church,” he declared. “They’ve got the power and they’ve got the soul.”

Father Deasy noted that later that day, he would be flying to Haiti to visit a facility established with the help of children from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

“We bought a home and a five-acre farm with a place for a school for 300 deaf and mute children in Haiti,” he said. “What had been only a piece of land is now a school and hope for children who otherwise would have little. On our five little acres, these kids are so joyous, so happy.

“I often come back and wonder, ‘Just who is developed? And who is underdeveloped?’ I am not so sure that our spirits are as developed as those in other poorer lands, and I sometimes wonder if we are as developed as we think we are. So we need to go and find the poor. There is always someone poorer than us.”

Teachers and students said they appreciated the mission event.

“I think it is a good idea that our kids get to visit with the other kids from other schools and they get to know how fortunate they are and other kids are not as blessed as they are,” said Rosana Rodriguez, eighth grade teacher at St. Rose of Lima School. “They are blessed and they are willing to help. We just had a big canned food drive and they know how many are not as fortunate. So it’s nice to see them gather together for the same cause.”

Rodriguez noted that during Easter she delivered two cars-full of food donated by her students for Catholic Charities. “It is amazing,” she said. “And we have kids and families who are always struggling, too. But they still give. Even if they do not have much money, they are the first to give.”

Her sentiments were echoed by Santa Rosa Bishop Alemany School sixth grade student Adrian Ascencio. Standing with his mother Martina after the liturgy, he spoke with pride about school fundraisers for the poor.

“I thought this was an exciting experience,” he said. “We had fun, and our class raised the most.”

At his parish, Guardian Angels in Pacoima, Adrian said he plays the viola and his dad plays the guitar. Adrian said he is “very close to God,” loves to sing and someday wants to become a deacon like his uncle Ricardo Ascencio, currently in diaconate formation. Clearly, the giving spirit is already a part of Adrian’s young life.



Voices

Spiritual, but not religious? Who to blame for declining church attendance

Father Ronald Rolheiser, OMI

It’s no secret that today there’s been a massive drop-off in church attendance. Moreover, that drop-off in church-going is not paralleled by the same widespread growth in atheism and agnosticism. Rather, more and more people are claiming to be spiritual but not religious, faith-filled but not churchgoers. Why this exodus from our churches?

The Holy Father visits the Holy Land

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