For almost 75 years, Blessed Sacrament Parish in Westminster has nurtured the faithful in the heart of Orange County. Today, it is a thriving, multi-cultural parish with more than 4500 families. On Sundays, there are 12 Masses, five in Vietnamese, five in Spanish and two in English.
Within this bustling parish, there are still a few quiet places for meditation. The parish has long had a plaza and other alcoves or niches featuring statues of the saints and Our Lady of Guadalupe which are available for private prayer and reflection.
Recently, three generous donors stepped forward to donate three more statues to the collection. According to Fr. Tuyen Nguyen, pastor of Blessed Sacrament, the statues are especially relevant to the parish, and our times.
In this year of St. Joseph, it is especially fitting that Dr. Elysabeth Nguyen and her family donated a statue of St. Joseph. In keeping with the more modern interpretation of St. Joseph, he is depicted, not as an old man with carpentry tools, but as a strong young father capable of walking from Nazareth to Bethlehem with Mary, and then leaving in haste to walk to Egypt to protect the Holy Family from King Herod’s soldiers. He holds a lily, signifying chastity in his right hand and baby Jesus in his left. The child Jesus is holding a globe, symbolic of the world resting in his arms. Among his many patronages, St. Joseph is the patron saint of Vietnam.
Angie Revelles gifted a statue of St. Jude the apostle, sometimes referred to as Thaddeus, and relative of Jesus. He is best known as the go-to intercessory when all hope is lost and is considered
the founder of the Armenian church. The statue shows a flame over St. Jude’s head, a reminder that he was one of the original 12 apostles and received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. He is also depicted as a younger man, unlike many older representations, and with staff in hand is setting out to spread the good news. He was martyred in Syria and wrote a short letter, the second to the last in the New Testament.
One of our more modern saints, José Luis Sánchez del Rio, was a Cristero and only 14 years old in 1928 when he was martyred during the turbulent times of the Mexican Cristero War. He begged his mother to allow him to join the Cristero’s to defend his Catholic faith. After failing to break the young man’s resolve through torture, young José’s feet were cut with a machete, as well as other places on his body. He was forced to walk bleeding to the cemetery, which he did, praying his Rosary aloud. His final words were “Vivo Cristo Rey!” Donated by the Spanish Committee of Blessed Sacrament Church, the statue of the brave José shows him barefooted holding his Rosary and a palm branch, symbolizing martyrdom.
The statues were hand carved in Italy from fine white Carrera marble by the Italian Marble Company. Carrera marble has long been preferred for sculpting and was also the marble of choice for Michelangelo. Sculptor Renato Campi, who also carved the statue of Our Lady of La Vang at Christ Cathedral, handcrafted each statue for the parish.
St. Joseph and St. Jude can be found within the church’s courtyard, each in a niche. It’s not unusual to see mounds of flowers in front of each statue. Saint José Luis Sánchez del Rio is in another part of the church grounds near a colorful statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe set within a meditation garden area.
The statues are a powerful reminder of our shared Catholic faith and the saints who often died for that faith. Like generals in a town square, they give the viewer a chance to remember the person behind the legend and the work of faith and evangelization that continues today.
According to Father Nguyen, the reaction from the parish to the new statues has been joyous. Every day, people visit Blessed Sacrament to view the statues and pray. With so many cultures and languages at the parish, the statues are a reminder of the faith that unites us across continents and centuries.