The Christ Cathedral Parish in Garden Grove has pledged to its parishioners and community that ‘they will seek a level of excellence that can serve as a witness and example to other faith communities, while raising the bar to a level worthy of the Good News of Jesus Christ, in the hope of inspiring others to do the same.’
The parish’s Community Outreach Program ministry has been a stable benchmark in contributing basic necessities to low-income and homeless residents within the parish and surrounding community.
Christ Cathedral Parish, formerly St. Callistus until the congregation moved to its current location on the campus of Christ Cathedral in 2013, has grown from 700 families to 4,500 families. The parish serves multicultural communities and offers Masses in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.
Fifteen years ago, under the guidance of Rev. Tuyen Nguyen, the Community Outreach Program was launched and has continued to grow. It is a source of great pride to congregants.
Current chairperson Mary Lou Walters emphasizes that the program, operated exclusively by volunteers, provides food and other resources to the needy and the homeless within the parish and surrounding area.
“Many of the volunteers are retired folks from the parish and work 20-25 hours per week, six days a week,” Walters says. “It keeps us busy and gives us purpose. We have become friends with many of the families we serve and when we don’t see them for a while, we worry and inquire about them.”
Walters, a retired special education teacher in Anaheim and parishioner for over 30 years, said many of the core group who began the Outreach Program are still volunteering today. She credits the team unity of the group as one of its strengths in making the program successful and rewarding.
The Outreach Program offers services such as bus passes, fast food gift cards and school supplies for children. It offers food baskets at Thanksgiving and Christmas and the program also organizes toy drives for families during the holidays. In addition, the Outreach program maintains a weekly food pantry that provides groceries for families.
Each Thursday the program hosts a sit-down pasta dinner that Chef Bruno Serato, owner of the Anaheim White House Restaurant, provides.
Walters said the program is funded by generous donations from parishioners and other nonprofit organizations in Orange County, such as Food Finders and Second Harvest Food Bank. The program also receives anonymous donations from community organizations and individuals. A dedicated 24-hour phone line has been established by the parish and is monitored by the program’s volunteers.
“We serve around 170-180 families weekly,” Walters says.
Many of the volunteers will do weekly grocery shopping for the program and the Outreach group is cohesively united in their efforts to serve its community.
“We love what we do,” Walters notes. “We all feel that we get back a lot more than we give out. We are Jesus’ feet, hands and heart and we give hugs and smiles, and in return we get hugs and smiles and we share tears.
“Pope Francis has guided us and has influenced us to do acts of kindness. Some of the folks we serve will share a joyous occasion when they land a job, and in one case a man was proud to inform us that he just received a prosthetic leg.
“These are prideful people who share heartfelt stories with us. Many are humbled and embarrassed to be here, but we show encouragement and support.”