By NICOLE GREGORY     10/6/2021

St. Martin De Porres Church in Yorba Linda has been celebrating its 50th anniversary for the last year, culminating in the Sept. 26 Mass with previous clergy members in attendance—all while staying safe and following current health rules.

This parish has endured through the pandemic, as it has for many decades, and remains strong. Cardinal Timothy Manning established it in 1970 in Yorba Linda, which then had a population of about 10,000 people (today the city’s population tops 67,000). The church
itself was built in 1982 and stands today on Yorba Linda Boulevard, home to a vital, flourishing Catholic community.

“We have a thriving parish of 4,000 registered families,” said Deacon Denis Zaun proudly, “and 60 ministries, some of which have been going for decades.”

Active ministries at St. Martin de Porres include the Ministry of Moms, grief support, home visits ministry, Filipino community ministries, skid row ministry, a seniority club, a faith and fitness group and many more. Some are older than the church building itself.

“The women’s ministry, WINGS, which stands for Women in God’s Spirit, has been going for 43 years,” said Deacon Denis, “and the children’s day camp, called Us in the Son, has been going for about 40 years.”

All these outreach efforts reflect the character of the parish’s patron saint, Martin de Porres. Born in Lima, Peru in 1579, the illegitimate child of a Spanish gentleman and a freed African slave, he was abandoned and outcast because of his mixed race. Yet as a teenager, he became a Dominican brother and grew up to be a compassionate, forgiving and generous man. He started an orphanage, grew fruit trees for the poor and healed the sick with his knowledge of herbal medicines. His feast day is Nov. 3.

The year-long celebration of St. Martin de Porres church has featured events acknowledging its devoted parish.

“In one event, we recognized longtime original parishioners,” said Elena Chupinsky, business manager of the parish. “And last November we offered a Mass for those original parishioners who had passed away.”

But possibly the most dramatic celebration of the church has been the renovation and modernization of its interior spaces, a project initiated by Rev. Sy Nguyen.

“The church building was constructed in an era when the emphasis was more on the worshipping community— the industrial architecture style made it dark, cold and stark,” explains Rev. Sy. “As we became the only parish in the Diocese of Orange that has 24/7 adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the last nine years, the focus has shifted to the Real Presence of God in the Holy Eucharist. This means that the church building is not simply a sacred gathering place of God’s people, but more importantly, the House of God. It is this idea of beautifying the House of God that is at the core of the renovation of the interior of our church.”

The interior has been completely refurbished with new seating, new altar, new ambo and new floor covering. A new tabernacle has been transferred from the chapel to behind the altar. Even the windows have been updated.

“In the past two years all of the stained-glass windows have been replaced,” said Don De Jesse, chair of finance at the church, who oversaw the work. “The bare cement walls were painted in a white faux marble look, and we will have new low-energy lighting.”

The renovation has all been paid for—a huge achievement and a testament to the parish.

“I believe the beauty that the renovation brings to the interior of our church is pleasing to God,” said Rev. Sy. “I am thankful for the generosity of the parishioners that we completed a $1.2 million project with having no debt.”

Like many churches, streamed services have been available to parishioners for many months, and now new health rules allow in-person gatherings.

“We have almost returned to our previous attendance level,” said Deacon Denis. “People who are still nervous about being inside can watch the service on large-screen TVs outside.”

As the parish begins another year in its history, Rev. Sy Nguyen will conclude his second six-year term in July 2022 and Deacon Denis may step away from some of his responsibilities.

“I have been in the parish for 36 years,” said Deacon Denis, adding, “I  m beyond retirement age.”

Through the many challenges of 2020 and 2021, St. Martin de Porres has remained vital, and the fact that it has arrived at this 50th anniversary indicates it will continue to be a strong part of the Yorba Linda community for the years ahead.

“The parish is thriving through the crisis and continues to grow and become younger,” said Rev. Sy. “God’s willing, St. Martin de Porres Parish will be a place of blessing for many in many, many years to come.”