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Episode No. 50 Saturday, October 27, 2018 Dr. Robert Istad, Artistic Director and Conductor of the Pacific Chorale, Director of Choral Studies, Cal State Fullerton

Now just one year after taking the reins of the Pacific Chorale, Rob Istad returns to MUSIC FROM THE TOWER to tell us of the adventures of his first year as Artistic Director and Conductor, especially the excitement of performing with our Pacific Symphony at Carnegie Hall in New York City.  Dr. Istad fills us in on the exciting season about to begin.  This year, preparing 6 concerts with the Pacific Chorale, Rob has an amazing season planned. It is one of the biggest ever, and that does not even count the 5 concerts they also perform with the Pacific Symphony.  They are even combining with the LA Master Chorale for an unbelievable performance of the Mahler Symphony No. 8.   They open with the epic Oratorio, “The Creation” by Franz Joseph Haydn.  Hear several excerpts on today’s program as Rob takes us inside the wonderful work.   Marvel at this superb musician as you hear just how hard he works to ensure that Orange County and all of Southern California enjoy great music in live performance.  It is not too late to get season tickets.  Check out all of the details at

All of the Music today is from THE CREATION by Franz Joseph Haydn Handel and Haydn Society, Harry Christophers, Conductor. It is available on I-Tunes

MUSIC: Part 1 No. 2. In the Beginning
MUSIC: Part 1 No. 14. The Heavens are Telling of the Glory of God
MUSIC: Part 2 No. 2. Strait Opening her Fertile Womb
MUSIC: Part 1 No. 9 With Verdure Clad the Fields

MUSIC: Part 3 No. 13 Praise the Lord, Ye Voices All!


Students gathered for Mass on a recent afternoon in the Cal State Fullerton student union, dropping their backpacks by the door, greeting each other and taking their seats.  

The conference room was a temporary refuge from the busy campus, offering students a chance to take a brief study break and celebrate their faith.  

“The Lord is always with us,” said Rev. Mark Aaron Riomalos, director of Campus Ministry, during the Mass in May. “With humility we open our hearts for strength.” 

The students are part of Titan Catholic, a growing community on campus providing students with educational, religious, cultural and social opportunities.  

Freddy Uyehara, a bass player majoring in music, said the university’s Catholic community has been an important part of his personal journey.  

“It’s helped me grow as a Catholic, and understand how faith connects to our lives as young adults,” Uyehara said. “The Church has helped me develop into the person I am today.”  

Mass, bible study sessions and other events on campus are organized through the Diocese of Orange and the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, or FOCUS, a national outreach organization that places missionaries at college campuses across the U.S. to engage and support Catholic students.  

The Cal State Fullerton students said belonging to a strong Catholic community on campus helps them navigate daily challenges while reinforcing core values.  

“It’s held me accountable during the week, so I’m not just a Catholic on Sundays,” said Michele Ballestero, a Human Services major. Ballestero chose to attend Cal State Fullerton because of the strong Catholic ministry on campus.  

“I wanted to be a part of a strong faith community,” she said. “It has served me well.” 

During his homily, Fr. Riomalos urged students to practice trust and compassion in their daily lives, and to not fear changes or obstacles in their life journeys.  

He told the students a story of his own mother, who worked far from home and could only make occasional visits to see her family.  

“I couldn’t understand why she always left us to go back to work,” Riomalos said. “She told me she did it to support me, and because she loved me. Knowing that she loved and cared about me was enough for me to let her go.” 

A native of the Philippines, he entered the seminary when he was 16. 

“When I was younger, life was a little bit tough,” said Fr. Riomalos, who grew up in Manila with three sisters and a twin brother. “Living in the city, it was all about survival.”  

Fr. Riomalos was ordained when he was 25 as part of the Disciples of Mary, a religious community focused on youth ministry. He said he was drawn to ministering young adults because of his own life experiences.  

“I was inspired because I wanted to help people who were once like me,” he said. “I wanted to pay it forward.” 

For Fr. Riomalos, the Mass in May was his last as Cal State University’s chaplain. Most Rev. Bishop Vann, Bishop of Orange, named him parochial vicar at Holy Family Cathedral in Orange, an assignment he will begin in July. Rev. Aaron Galviz will become the university’s Catholic chaplain.  

In his role as chaplain, Fr. Riomalos, 35, provided spiritual guidance to students, many of whom are contemplating major decisions that will influence the rest of their lives.  

“Sometimes they lose their way,” he said. “You have to listen and understand how they think, so you can walk with them on their spiritual journey.” 

Cal State Fullerton is home to a large Catholic and spiritual community. Titan Catholic is among 22 registered faith-based organizations on campus, according to university officials. Today, about 200 students are actively involved in the university’s FOCUS ministry, a number that continues to climb.  

Fr. Riomalos said reaching students while they are in college empowers them to form strong connections to their faith that may last a lifetime.  

“After high school and confirmation, their faith often fades,” he said. “It’s important to continue spiritual formation in college. When you enter a new chapter in life, or face a new challenge, you will have a solid foundation of faith from which to grow.” 

After the Mass in May, students joined Fr. Riomalos for a group photo and to say goodbye. They thanked him for his guidance, while he thanked them for their commitment to their journeys of faith.  

“I’ll continue to pray for your personal and spiritual growth,” he said. “And although our distance apart may be different, I will always be your priest.”  


Mental Health Help


Mental health is no longer a condition that is discussed quietly and in secret, as it used to be. The stigma previously associated with those suffering from some form of mental health challenge is fading. And that’s a good thing, because more and more individuals are reaching out for help.

Recently, while attending Ash Wednesday services hosted by the Titan Catholic group at Cal State Fullerton, I had a chance to chat with Fr. Aaron Riomalos, the university’s chaplain.  Fr. Aaron’s role as campus chaplain is, in his words, “to take care of the formation of the students and the staff and the people working at the university.” Big job, when you consider that student enrollment at CSUF is more than 40,000.

I asked Fr. Aaron what spiritual question students most often ask. I was surprised at his reply.

“Students struggle a lot,” he said. “When they reach adulthood–at the college level–the one thing they most often ask about is anxiety and depression.”

Wow. I don’t recall those concerns in my college days. Sure I fretted over exams and grades, but fortunately I never struggled with the challenges that so many of today’s young adults face.

I asked how he counsels them.

“I tell them to hold on to their faith in God more than their fears,” Fr. Aaron said, “and to know that their community will be there to support and to love them.”

There is truly a faith community within our diocese to support anyone afflicted with mental health challenges. Two events last month addressed the mental health crisis so many face.

Our Lady Queen of Angels recently hosted “Breaking the Chains that Bind Us,” a mental health summit that featured keynote speaker Kay Warren (above) of Saddleback Church.

Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, professor of ethics at UCI spoke about caring for individuals and families dealing with mental health and the pastoral response by the Roman Catholic Bishops of California.

CHOC presented “Why wait for adulthood,” stressing that we need to address the needs of O.C.’s children and youth now, rather than later.

St. John Neumann in Irvine held “Behavioral Health Training” to raise awareness and develop skills for dealing with mental health challenges. The event asked the question: “Why don’t we seek help for behavioral health disorders when we need to?”

The conversation is changing and there are more and more resources available. Now we just have to better connect them with those in need.


Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Catholic club hosts monthly large group gatherings, offering time for adoration, confession, and worship for busy college students during Lenten season.

For many college students, making time for God—to pray and encounter, amidst classes, exams, homework assignments, extra-curriculars and second jobs—can be tough, especially during Lent.

But the Titan Catholic club at Cal State Fullerton hopes to provide such faith-filled opportunities, and build genuine friendships, among both students and alumni.

The club, which recently changed its name from Newman Catholic Club (modeled after Blessed John Henry Newman), provides community, faith formation, and the sacraments to its young adult participants.

With Masses, opportunities for Holy Confession / Adoration, Bible studies, discernment groups, and formation series happening weekly on campus, there’s something that fits every busy schedule.

Over the years, members of the free club include other local schools, parishes, ministries, and young adults across the diocese.

“What is deeply profound in the growth of Titan Catholic, as a community of faith, is that one would find in company of these Catholic students the genuine desire to build a deep, heart-to-heart relationship with Christ,” shared Fr. Mark Cruz, the club’s chaplain.

“It is continuously moving towards that vision to help the group exist not just as an org on campus, but a community of the faithful—striving to follow the path of Christ in the context of university life.”

A group of Titan Catholic students, ministers, and young adults around the diocese even attended the SEEK conference together, this past January in San Antonio, Texas.

At the start of Lent, Titan Catholic offered three Ash Wednesday masses on campus for students and faculty to receive their ashes.

Over 40 people were in attendance for the midday Mass, held outside on the lawn outside of the university gym and Titan Student Union.

“Embrace that great fact and truth given to us in the season of Lent—Jesus willingly lay down His life for us on the Cross,” shared Fr. Mark in his homily. “We should never forget that this is a season of love.”

The recipe for gathering college students’ attendance at Titan Catholic events includes opportunities for prayer, fellowship, worship, and of course, food.

Launched in February, the club’s Large Group Gatherings provides a space for students to discover all of those things, and encounter Christ in a college setting.

“It’s the fact that [Titan Catholic] is a place where I get to freely express my love and joy for God with other people, that always draws me back. I receive so much joy, and a reminder of how good God is,” shared Mylene Ibus, a 1st year Child and Adolescent Development major.

Organizing such large events comes from the help of passionate, devoted students and missionaries. The club currently has five student officers and several missionaries from the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, or FOCUS.

“The leadership team believed that having events like the large group gatherings each month would attract more students, and we were inspired [by Intervarsity, the Christian club on campus],” said CSUF senior Charles Sandoval, a health science major and the club’s Vice President. “It’s been awesome seeing many new faces.”

At the large monthly gathering on March 7, over 40 young adults gathered in the student union for socializing and free In-N-Out burgers, followed by a Lenten message and Holy Hour / Adoration.

Four priests from around the diocese were also invited to hear confessions from students.

The evening speaker was Brock Martin, West Regional leader of FOCUS (and the son of FOCUS founder, Curtin Martin), who came to visit Fullerton from Denver.

“As humans, we are created for relationship. Friendship is the vehicle where we could become what we are meant to be,” shared Martin. “Authentic friendship of Catholic young adults can and is changing the world.”

OC musician Andrew Laubacher led praise and worship. Attendees were invited to spend quality intimate time in Adoration with their best friend in the Blessed Sacrament, Jesus.

“I really enjoy the authenticity of the brothers and sisters in the room, worshipping with me. When two or three are gathered in God’s name there He is,” said Sam Cimeni, a third year electrical engineering major. “Brock’s talk softened my heart and reminded me that I’m not just a soldier out on a lonely battlefield. Jesus calls me a friend.”

Fr. Mark Cruz calls the ever-growing group “a fellowship of students,” aspiring to achieve sanctity together and witness to the Gospel, while at the same time “enjoying college life and Christ-centered friendships.”

Added Cimeni, “The Holy Spirit is at work in Titan Catholic. Everything from the infrastructure the leaders provide, to the dad jokes [we] crack on the daily…community is being built. I’m not missing out on that.”