Since his appointment as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Olema last July, Father Erick Arauz has been working to motivate the community with faith and optimism to stand up and join him to put the parish back on its feet.
Some 18 parishioners, including children, attended the 7 p.m. vigil Mass on Jan. 4 and a similar number of parishioners were seen the next day at the other Spanish Mass, while some 30 parishioners usually go the English Mass each Sunday.
Despite low Mass attendance and without the necessary funding for the upkeep of the rural Marin County parish, Father Arauz is not giving up and is knocking on doors around the neighborhood.
“I’m visiting families to invite them to church, to make them feel like church and to let them know that I’m here, that I’m present,” he said.
Father Arauz faced his first challenge when payments were due and the coffers were empty. He managed to come up with a raffle to get started.
The second hurdle was that nobody really knew exactly how many people belong to Sacred Heart Parish. He has begun distributing enrollment forms for a census to get a sense of the parish tally.
Father Arauz also wants to reorganize the pastoral council, which “used to meet sporadically” but is now meeting more regularly, he said.
Father Arauz also hopes to build a Hispanic committee with representation on the parish council that will work together with both the English- and Spanish-speaking communities.
As for pastoral work, Father Arauz has opened the church doors in the evenings on the first Friday of the month for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament between 6 and 7, in addition to the regular celebration of Masses in English and Spanish and making the sacraments available.
Guadalupe Hernández, a Sacred Heart parishioner for 20 years, believes that there are still Hispanic Catholics living around Olema, noting that during the festivities for the Virgin of Guadalupe on Dec. 12 the church was full.
Full story at Catholic San Francsico.