By: Miriam Hernandez
Coordinator for Youth Ministry – Salesian Family Youth Center
Every farewell always generates a pinch of sadness and a halo of hope, even more so if the one who is leaving is a cheerful priest who people enjoyed being around and sought a spiritual guide during challenging times for so many of us. This is the case of Father Rafael Saiz SDB, who will be missed at the Salesian Family Youth Center and St. Mary’s Church in Boyle Heights.
The Parish and youth center communities said goodbye to him with a farewell Mass, a reception, songs, and much love.
Mass began with a procession led by a marching band playing Mexican revolutionary tunes. Fr. Jim Nieblas, Community Director, later stated that the marching band was fitting as Fr. Rafa is a revolution! He is passionate and hardworking.
Visibly moved, Fr. Rafa said that having worked at St. Mary’s has been a wonderful experience, especially during the pandemic and the passing of his father this past December. At the end of the sermon, Fr. Rafael Saiz and Fr. Marco Cesar Rivero exchanged chasubles. Fr. Marco then finished saying mass as Pastor of St. Mary’s Church.
A group of twelve teens participated in a youth leadership program when the farewell and installation of our new Pastor Fr. Marco Cesar Riveros, was set to occur. The young people were sad that Fr. Rafa is leaving. However, they understand that pastoral work requires the continuous transfer of priests to serve the needs of the province better.
Juan Carlos Montenegro, the Director of the Salesian Family Youth Center, thanked Father Rafael Saiz for the support provided to the Center and for promoting youth programs. Because of this, teens in our community have a youth ministry that welcomed them and empowered them to be agents of transformation.
Fr. Fabian Cardenas described the reception as a truly Salesian event. There was a robust family environment. All ministries joined in the celebration, breaking bread, singing, and dancing. Joy and laughter filled the Salesian Family Youth Center gym as everyone thanked Fr. Rafa for his service and welcomed Fr. Marco to the parish.
God’s presence is evident in Boyle Heights. St. Mary’s and the Salesian Family Youth Center will carry him in our hearts and keep him in prayers. We do not say goodbye to Fr. Rafael Saiz, just a see you soon.