Scenes from Santacruzan
Scenes from the parish Santacruzan festival on Saturday, May 20. This Filipino festival honors the Blessed Virgin Mary and commemorates the finding of the True Cross by St. Helena. Thank you to the Filipinos of St. Gregory for hosting this event each year - the 35th year this year!
Filipinos of St. Gregory
Hermanos and Hermanas 2023
We are very happy to welcome our new pastor Fr. Alejandro Lopez, OFM Conv., to Mary, Mother of God parish! He comes to us from Our Lady of the Rosary in Kellyville, Australia.
Haga clic aquí para una traducción al español.
What drew you to the Franciscans?
I joined the Order when I was about 30 years old, and what drew me to them is more what drew me away from other things. I was miserable as a graphic designer. In my job, I had to work under people who hadn’t gone to school for art or anything like that. I also felt frustrated because a lot of the stuff that I did was used once and then thrown away. I was thinking: "All of my designs end up in landfills and make the world more polluted and really don't help anybody." So I was thinking: "What is the point of my life?"
Then I started reflecting about where I had seen joy-filled people in my life and whom did I admire. The Conventual Franciscan friars stood out. They presented a different way of living that could be joyful and lived in community. I had known a couple of them while studying design at Washington University in St. Louis. That’s a secular school, but they have a Newman Center there for Catholic students. Two friars (now Frs. Patrick Greenough, OFM Conv. and Stephen McKinley, OFM Conv.) were ministering there as they were studying for ministry themselves.
I also met an Ursuline sister (Sr. Margaret Vitt, OSU) who was very instrumental in my life; probably, she is the first person to introduce me to our loving compassionate God. She was a very well-educated sister. When I first met her, she had studied for an advanced degree in France and was preparing to defend her doctoral work.
Through the friars and this sister, I basically started thinking about my vocation. I always felt called to the priesthood. When I started thinking about priesthood, I knew it had to be in some kind of religious community. Later I discovered that I really was Franciscan all my life though I didn't realize it. I'm drawn to the humanity of Christ. I'm drawn to the beauty of creation and finding God in creation. I'm drawn to helping the poor. I didn't necessarily know these were Franciscan themes until after I'd jointed the Order.
Before you came here to Mary, Mother of God, you were in Australia. What were you doing there?
I was pastor at Our Lady of the Rosary in Kellyville, one of the suburbs of Sydney. The parish was preparing to start a major renovation that would take all of my 8 years to complete! Nothing had been done to the physical church since it was originally built, about 50 years old ago. We had threadbare carpeting, we had poor lighting and you could no longer find replacement bulbs for some of the lights as they didn't exist. We had no air conditioning or heating. Realize that this is in a place where in the summer, it gets up to be about 100-110 degrees and can get humid. Remember that their seasons are flipped, so that means Christmas falls right in the heart of summer. So now imagine a packed church, with no air conditioning and then maybe it’s a rainy day on top of that, adding to the oppressive humidity. That was my first Christmas there and my worst Christmas there in terms of comfort. It got so humid in the church that the walls appeared to sweat!
As pastor, I would celebrate the sacraments, of course. I also visited the schools; they have two schools there, both elementary. I don’t know how the parish got attached to two schools. It's like the area grew so much, they had to build a second school but didn’t have enough to build another church.
Pastoring two schools was an enormous project, because every time a sacrament came up, we had about 180 kids per sacrament signed up for the classes. The first year I was there, we had eight First Communion Masses, because you couldn't fit everybody in the church. That was probably the biggest headache of that place, trying to organize the sacraments.
On top of that, renovating that church took 8 years! In the midst of the renovations, we suffered flooding in the hall (that we were using as a worship space while renovating) COVID... Add to that, the diocese was renovating one of the schools at the same time, which shared the church parking lots. Basically they took down all of the existing school buildings and rebuilt a whole new structure in two of the years I was there!
What was the parish like?
The parish had about 3,000 families, on the books. We had people from all over the world. The founders of the church were Italian and Maltese, so they were of European descent. But the later generations were coming in from Nigeria, the Philippines, Malaysia, China, Vietnam, India Papua New Guinea and other countries from Asia and the Pacific. And we all got along, which I thought was beautiful.
I sense such a loving community here at Mary, Mother of God Parish, too. I think there's a lot of different nations represented in our parish that seem to be getting along, and are respectful of each other and open to learning about wonderful new cultures. That's the wonder of Pentecost!
So you're coming from a place with a huge variety of populations to another! And as you know, Mary, Mother of God is a busy place. So asking about your spare time probably sounds ridiculous but it is nice for people to know- what would you do in your spare time such as you have it?
When I have spare time (I just got here, so I haven't had a lot of spare time) I like to exercise. I like to go to the gym. I like to run. I'm thinking about maybe starting biking once I get a bike, because you have such lovely bike trails by the lake. I like going to museums. When I was in Australia, I tried to go out every day off and try to see something new. I like to hike.
I like going to the movies. I really love movies. They're fun, and they kind of distract you from whatever you're worried about for a while.
Do you have a genre you prefer?
I like all kinds, but I especially enjoy science fiction movies. Star Wars of course is a big plus in my life. Really my vocation comes out of Star Wars, in a way, because I wanted to be a Jedi growing up, and this is the closest thing I think we have to Jedi. At least Jedi from the first movie! Towards the later movies, they start getting into battle and war, and I'm like "That's not what a Jedi is! Jedi are people who are protectors and caretakers, especially of the poor. That's what a Franciscan is, I think."
I like the superhero movies; Superman was my hero from childhood, and he still is!
I like movies that make you wonder "Where is this plot going? How is it going to end?" Movies that surprise us are few and far between these days.
I also like to read books- I also like to read a lot of science fiction books. Lately I've liked very much the Expanse series of books.
Anything else you'd want to tell people in the parish about yourself?
I think I want people to know that I’m approachable. At my last parish in Australia as I was saying my goodbyes, they shared how when I first got there they thought I was very serious! I’m really not! I hope parishioners here know this by now! I really like making people laugh. I was the comedian in my family growing up, the one who made people laugh. And I like to do that. I look forward to being with you here, helping you to laugh but also being with you when you cry and everything in between. I feel honored and blessed to be here, and it's a privilege and great responsibility. Though I like to laugh, please know that I'm taking my role here seriously.
Mary at St. Thomas of Canterbury Church
May is traditionally the month of Mary, with May crownings and traditions to honor our Blessed Mother. During this month, we strongly encourage all our parishioners to explore the depictions and images of Mary at all three of our parish!
Today, we bring you the images of Mary at St. Thomas of Canterbury Church (4827 N. Kenmore). St. Thomas of Canterbury is notable for its shrines of martyrs throughout the world, but Mary features prominently throughout the church as well.
Mariam Dearit is venerated by Catholics in Eritrea, with a major festival in her honor at the end of the month of May. The members of the Holy Family Eritrean Community celebrated in her honor on May 6, with Mass in the Ge'ez a procession and reception.
Our Lady of Walsingham
Our Lady of Fatima
Our Lady of Lavang
Our Lady of Gaudalupe
Our Lady of Perpetual Help
Mary with St. Anne
Honoring Fr. Robert Cook, OFM Conv.
Early this month, we said goodbye to Fr. Bob Cook, OFM Conv., who has served as pastor of Mary, Mother of God since 2016 when the friars first arrived at Saint Ita. His new assignment will be as rector of the Basilica of Saint Josaphat in Milwaukee. Thank you for everything, Fr. Bob, and thank you to the parishioners at all our churches who helped honor him at his departure!