GLENDALE — Students at Our Lady of Perpetual Help begin every school day with a liturgy, but the one on April 17 was a bit more memorable.
Twenty students across the grades were baptized into the Catholic faith. About a week later, many of them who had passed the age of reason, were confirmed and received their first Eucharist alongside others in the parish.
Cathy Lucero, principal, was the godmother for one of the youngest to be baptized at the school. He and his big sisters — who were confirmed April 25 — are part of the local Sudanese community and their mother found good Catholic role models at the culturally diverse school.
In a brief homily, pastor Fr. Mike Straley described the increased excitement he saw in the students about to be baptized, their classmates and their family. He connected the reason for the excitement to the day’s responsorial psalm, “One thing I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord.”
“You are being welcomed into a community, a community of faith,” Fr. Straley said, “It starts today and finishes up next week where you are being fed like those 5,000. Jesus keeps multiplying. He just keeps multiplying.”
The children’s pastor reminded them that among the pure joy should also be a joy that the disciples had when they were persecuted for believing what Jesus taught. The joy also spread to school and parish leaders.
“More than that, the whole Catholic Church throughout the world is rejoicing today because you said yes to your call… to join God’s holy family,” Fr. Straley said.
Karla Carrizoza had five of her children — all new to the school — baptized during the school liturgy. She said it was something they had asked for. She saw it as a good step too.
“As a single mom, I wanted to get them on the right path and I wanted them to start the spiritual life and take time for God,” Carrizoza said.
Her children, four boys and one girl, span the first through eighth grades. Largely dressed in their freshest white garments, the Carrizozas and 15 other unbaptized school children stood at the foot of the altar with their godparents by their side to make their first baptismal promises.
A few moments later, they patiently waited their turn to kneel at the baptismal font and again face the altar as their pastor poured the renewing waters of baptism over their head. Alex Carrizoza, the eldest child, watched his younger siblings get baptized before he got a turn. He said it was a better feeling knowing that they were with him.
Alex called being part of a Catholic community “a special feeling” and likes the opportunity to go to Mass every day. The 20 newly baptized came from eight families.
“I was just about to cry when they were about to say their name and they were going to get baptized in the water,” Alex’s mom said.
A godparent prayed over their godchild as the children dried off and tended the flame of their freshly lit baptismal candle. It reminded them of their new life in the Church with the Holy Trinity. Many of the newly baptized are also new students to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Some have been parishioners for a lot longer, but are taking advantage of scholarship money and trusting that Catholic education is affordable.
“A lot of them are still in survival mode,” said Lani Bogart, parish director of marriage and family life.
She assisted during the baptisms and suspected that some families, though practicing Catholics, held off on sacraments for their children until they found stability in one parish and could afford a suitable celebration.
Baptism is the first of up to seven sacraments a Catholic can receive. It cleanses a soul of original sin.