Throughout the year, hundreds of committed volunteers at St. Timothy’s Church in Laguna Niguel serve the parish in countless ways. On the night of August 26, the church served them – with an annual celebration of appreciation known as Hot August Night. The theme for the night was “Gratitude in Our Hearts”. Over 400 parishioners were in attendance.
Hot August Night— HAN for short — was founded 13 years ago by St. Timothy’s recently-retired pastor, Msgr. John Urell, who observed, “God has blessed St. Timothy parishioners with many gifts and talents…and HAN was begun as a way of thanking God for the abundance of graces bestowed on our parish and thanking the many men, women and youth in the parish for using those gifts for the glory of God and the good of the church.”
He added, “HAN can also give an impetus to others to get involved…and so many have over the years. It is a night to celebrate and to give thanks.”
Msgr. Urell’s successor Fr. Patrick Moses said he looks forward to continuing HAN, describing it as “..an opportunity for our parish staff to say thank you to all of those volunteers who give of their time and talent to serve our parish and local community.”
Coordinated by long-time volunteer Amy Jo Ishmael and her husband Lance, the evening kicked off at 6 o’clock with two buffet tables of appetizers followed by Mexican cuisine served in the large brick courtyard which was set up with tables, chairs and colorful floral centerpieces.
Volunteers had interesting and varied stories to tell of their work.
Jim Ellis explained, “I’m a dyed-in-the-wool volunteer, a firefighter by trade and fire chief and that’s what I do. I train people to take care of themselves in an emergency.”
Ellis helped start a ministry called SPAM – Safety Preparedness Awareness Ministry to show people how to administer CPR and what to do in case of an active shooter situation.
Addie Carroll has been volunteering since she arrived in Laguna Niguel from Philadelphia in 1984.
“I joined the choir and taught Faith Formation, elementary, middle school and high school confirmation classes plus Vacation Bible School,” she said. “I’ve taught my kids and grandkids. When I retire, I’d like to join a group like the food pantry.”
Dave Welsch has been volunteering for 20 years.
“I do art and environments, which means decorating the church,” he said. “I also did RCIA, which stands for Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. People go to a program that runs through Easter Vigil. That’s when they become Catholics.”
Kathy Rittmaster and her sister Gail Dinga are newcomers.
“We’re just starting as trainees with the bereavement team,” said Rittmaster. “We come to all the funerals, meeting with the families before the funeral and we’re with them after the funeral – any way we can help.”
Added Dinga, “It’s an important ministry to help people. I’m very honored to be a part of this. There are also non-Catholics, so you’re representing the faith to other people.”
Finally, the tables were cleared and the fun began. Hosted by DJ Andy Nation with his selection of 1970s songs, the crowd commenced enthusiastic dancing, joined by Fr. Moses in a line dance that snaked through the courtyard. Deacon Ken Hobbs joined in as well.
Not content with just playing music, Andy Nation led the crowd in some original and exuberant steps. Then Fr. Loc Tran, visiting from St. Boniface in Anaheim, got up on the stage, belted the Neil Diamond classic “Sweet Caroline,” and joined the dancing crowd, showing off the nimble footwork he’d perfected in his days at St. Timothy’s when he had been Parochial Vicar.
Volunteers of all ages and backgrounds danced the Hot August Night away.
“I’ve been volunteering here at St. Tim’s since 2001,” said Jorge Swank. “What makes it such a special church is that the people are so generous. This event we’re having today is just an appreciation for all the hard work that they do.”
Pastor Emeritus Urell summarized the festive evening. “It’s all about saying Thank You.”