Holy Spirit Catholic Church, Oak Park

"[When I'm taking the Eucharist], I'm consuming Jesus' body, if you view it with eyes of faith," said Eileen Carton, a volunteer at Holy Spirit Catholic Church. "How else can you get that close to God? When I take Eucharist, if I lack faith, I am given faith. If I am burdened, Jesus takes my burden." Carton said she's been enamored with communion since she was seven years old. "As a Japanese-American, I was raised Buddhist, but when a friend took me to Mass with her family, I saw the holiness and beauty of the Mass. I was taken aback by seeing Jesus at the consecration. When I saw this, Jesus spoke to my heart and told me I was home. I get so excited about this, I just thank the Lord." "What really makes the Catholic Church different is that we take Jesus seriously when he gave us the Sacrament of Holy Orders. We take the wine and bread and believe they become the literal body and blood of Jesus," said Dennis Gorsich, a pastoral associate. "We're actually at that Last Supper during the Eucharist. It's like being in a time warp. I often feel closer to God because I've taken the Eucharist. Jesus is clearing away the things that are not good in me.

"When I was 27, I had a born-again experience, as the Protestants call it. Now, I really enjoy sharing my faith and what being a Catholic is all about." Dennis Gorsich serves as an adult educator with the parish. Gorsich believes adult education is especially necessary because of the change in cultural opinions. "The Catholic Church doesn't go along with every whim of popular culture." Gorsich cited the Church's controversial stances against birth control, abortion, and homosexuality. "I like that there are solid church teachings to grab on to. I am comforted by this stability. It is difficult to teach these things because people tend to want things their own way. This is the basic sin of man, selfishness. Even if it comes to their faith, they pick and choose what they agree with the Catholic Church on. This is the same plurality you see in Protestant churches. This is why it is so important to have adult education because the Catholic faith is not a cafeteria plan."

At Holy Spirit Catholic Church, Mass is conducted in three languages: English, Vietnamese, and Spanish. The inner sanctuary walls are covered with dark wood paneling. Stained-glass windows that depict the sacraments and gifts of the Holy Spirit are interspersed with the Stations of the Cross. The tabernacle of the Blessed Sacrament, designed to resemble the Ark of the Covenant, sits on a stone pillar in the front of the sanctuary. Above it hangs a large wooden crucifix. Several statues of Vietnamese martyrs reflect the Vietnamese presence at the church.

Last Sunday, associate pastor Father Doan Van Lai celebrated the 7:30 a.m. service. Deacon Marvin Threatt, an African-American, bellowed with a deep voice, "The Lord is coming, get ready for a blessing!" On this second Sunday of Advent, Threatt preached a message on repentance. "We must change our lives and turn away from our sin. We cannot just change our actions; we must change our hearts. And when we are changed, we will live in harmony, peace, and righteousness." Threatt paced the front of the Sanctuary as he preached. Deacon Threatt's lively message included hand gestures, stories, and interaction with the congregation. After the Mass, I asked Deacon Threatt about his sermon delivery. "I use an Afro-centric style of preaching. It's alive. Nobody is going to sleep when I preach," said Threatt. Several nearby congregants agreed.

"I love his style, it's refreshing," said one Hispanic man. "I always walk away with life application," added a young lady. Threatt said he believes the acceptance and involvement of many cultures is what makes the Holy Spirit so unique. "We are one of the few places were multiculturalism works. That is because our multiculturalism is a true reflection of the neighborhood surrounding this church."

Robert Griffith heads the Catholic Charismatic Center at Holy Spirit Catholic Church. The Charismatic Center promotes and educates on the charismatic gifts for all San Diego Catholic Churches. "I pray in tongues," said Griffith of his charismatic activity. "It's a way of letting God take charge of my prayers. When we pray, it's all us, but this way, God prays for what we really need. It's hard to explain the sensation when this is happening. Some people feel warmth from the Holy Spirit, others have a rush of joy or sadness, depending on what God is doing at the time." Griffith said people can attend a Live in the Spirit seminar hosted at different parishes to learn how to use spiritual gifts.

I asked Dennis Gorsich what happens to a person after he dies. "A person will face a personal judgment by Jesus Christ who determines if he spends eternity with God or without God," replied Gorsich. "Jesus looks at your life and what you've done. We need to try to be holy and obey His commands. The Catholic Church believes all people can be saved. God's mercy reaches out to people who don't believe in Jesus Christ if they are trying to choose to do what is right or are sorry for the wrong they have done. The more you know, ultimately the more responsible you are."

  • Denomination: Roman Catholic
  • Address: 2725 55th Street, Oak Park
  • Founded locally: 1952
  • Senior pastor: Roger A. Lechner
  • Congregation size: 1200 families
  • Staff size: 6
  • Sunday school enrollment: 450
  • Annual budget: didn't know
  • Weekly giving: didn't know
  • Singles program: no
  • Dress: casual
  • Diversity: Asian, white, black, Spanish
  • Sunday worship: 7:30 a.m., 9:00 a.m. (Vietnamese), 10:30 a.m., 12 p.m. (Spanish)
  • Length of reviewed service: 1 hour
  • Website: http://www.holyspiritsd.org

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