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Praying for a place to call home

Parishioners have waited more than 10 years for their own church

Posted: February 28, 2009 1:45 a.m.
Updated: February 28, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Steve Hoebink reaches for the holy water to help set up for Sunday Mass in the multipurpose room of North Lake Hills Elementary in Castaic. Jane Daniels also helps with the set up. Members of the 10-year-old Castaic Mission, an affiliated congregation of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Newhall, hope to have an official parish and building of their...

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Every Sunday, someone brings in the hymnals and holy water, another brings the bread and wine, another carries in the crucifix — and Mass proceeds in the multipurpose room of Castaic’s North Lake Hills Elementary.

The economy has dampened hopes for soon-to-come stained-glass windows, pews, an altar and even a church name, but a small and growing group of Castaic Catholics rejoice in the community they share while they wait on God to provide the rest.

“The enthusiasm up there is very evident,” said Deacon Dick Karl, who serves as the interim leader for helping the church onto its feet. “It is a joyful, happy, enthusiastic group. There is a liveliness up there that is very uplifting.”

That enthusiasm stemmed from a mini-group of Castaic residents who are members of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, in Newhall, and desired a parish in their own community 10 years ago.

The group approached Our Lady’s officials with the request, and since then the church has supported the group on their journey to becoming a parish. Bishop Gerald Wilkerson appointed Karl to begin the process of getting the mission organized.

“I’m trying to help them develop a sense of community, that this is theirs, and they’re not just part of something else down in Newhall,” Karl said.

Lori Shepard’s family has been involved since the beginning.

“I liked the idea of a close local church where everybody knows everybody,” Shepard said. “Sitting next to someone you know, the kids know somebody. There’s just that sense of community out there and it’s awesome.”

Shepard writes the bulletin for services among other duties, her kids help carry the candles and her husband is one of the readers.

“Somebody has to get the wine, somebody has to get the oil for the candles. If you have a real church, there’s a paid person where that’s their job, but for us, there has to be someone who goes and gets the oil.”

But the Archdiocese cannot officially cut the ties from Our Lady and provide a full-time pastor until it can financially support itself and a building project, Karl said.

“In this economy, the Archdiocese cannot assume it can go off on its own,” Karl said.

“We’ve been a mission for 10 years — that’s a really long time,” Shepard said. “People get tired of hearing someday we’ll be a church. But the unity is there, the community is ... the structure isn’t here but the underlying structure is viable. It’s going to happen. It’s just not going to happen as soon as we hoped.”

It was the community feel that helped lure in Nancy Gonzales and her family to the Castaic Mission, which now hosts more than 30 families, three years ago.

“It’s so much like a family,” she said. “Sometimes I even have to catch myself and say OK, you’re going to church, you’re not going to spend Sunday at your relatives’ house.”

For Gonzales, the grass-roots type of organization contributes to the experience.

“It’s nice being a part of something that every week we help set up and take down,” Gonzales said. “We take down the chairs and the altar, we have to leave the multipurpose room the same way we found it.”

Karl guessed it could be at least another year until the parish has a building of its own near Hasley Canyon.

“We’re trying to build as the money becomes available, but until we reach the financial amount, first comes building community and bringing people in,” Karl said.

The Castaic Mission’s Web site is www.olph-church.org/Castaic.html

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