Salesian Mission in Los Angeles: CYM’s Meeting

By: JC Montenegro
Delegate for Mission Animation

Last Monday, September 13th, CYM’s and program coordinators who work for the good of children and young people from all Salesian presences in Los Angeles have met with the objectives of:

  1. Getting to know the CYM’s of each Salesian work in Los Angeles and to the people who coordinate the Programs managed by young people.
  2. To present the programs and opportunities to fulfill the hours of social service (Christian service) that each Salesian presence has.

In the Los Angeles area, the Salesian presences and their representatives who attended the meeting were:

  • Salesian High School Bishop Mora:
    • Fr Jim Nieblas SDB, CYM.
    • Mr. Luis Chacon (volunteer).
  • Saint Mary’s Parish:
    • Fr Marco Cesar SDB, Pastor.
    • Fr Marcos Castillo SDB.
    • Ms. Miriam Hernandez, CYM.
  • Saint Isabel Parish:
    • Fr Marco Cesar SDB, Pastor.
    • Fr Marcos Castillo SDB.
  • Saint Bridget Chinese Church:
    • Fr Peter Pong SDB, Associate.
    • Ms. Rachel Law, CYM.
  • Salesian Family Youth Center:
    • Ms. Miriam Hernandez, CYM.
    • Ms. Christina Mendoza, Program Coordinator.
    • Mr. Luis Chacon.

Fr. Fabian Cardena, Delegate of the Youth Ministry of the Province, was also in attendance.

It was not the first meeting that has been called to plan the Salesian Mission in Los Angeles. To date, we have had around five meetings in which we have matured ideas, analyzed the area’s situation, and verified the strengths, opportunities, weaknesses, and threats that we as a Salesian community have.

Since the end of 2020, the community has come together. In the first meetings, some Pastors and representatives of the parishes in the area have participated. In addition, we have carried out a survey in which more than 80 young people between 14 and 17 years old have participated with the intention of knowing their concerns, their problems, and the situations that go through their minds and hearts. In this way, have concrete information about what we as consecrated Salesians and laypeople could offer.

The challenges until the meeting on Monday, September 13 have been enough: to be able to define how to be able to work for the youth and children of the area; define the ages of the people we are going to serve; define if we should first carry out work together as Salesian presences of Los Angeles before offering something more formal to other parishes and organizations; define who will be the representatives for CYM’s meetings; define dates, times and places for meetings; and other challenges that appear along the way.

The meeting took place at the end of the community dinner led by Luis Chacon. Fr. Jim affirmed that the first objective was fulfilled with the mere fact of being all present during the dinner. Fr. Jim invited us to continue thinking together to collaborate at the sacramental level and other levels.

Fr. Fabian Cardenas had explained his role as Delegate of the Youth Ministry and thanked everyone for their presence and availability to work together. He invited us to think and reflect on how we can positively impact the Los Angeles area and encouraged us to move forward with our intentions and plans to work together.

Ms. Christina introduced us to the Programs in which young people can participate and also fulfill their hours of service:

  • We Care program.
    • Serves students from the ages of 5-13 from the surrounding schools.
    • Open from 2 pm to 6 pm every weekday,
    • Offers enrichment both academically and creatively throughout the year.
    • All our children benefit from getting hands-on assistance and bettering their social-emotional and academics.
  • Summer Camp Program (Camp Salesian).
    • Children and youth between the ages of 4-13 years old. (TK-8th grade)
    • Held from 9 am to 3 pm, and extended care offered until 6 pm for families needing additional support.
    • To provide a fun and safe summer for the children in Boyle Heights and surrounding cities.
    • They had about 50 volunteers at the summer camp this year.
    • Camp Salesian has faith sharing, masses at Saint Mary’s, etc.
  • Teen Group.
    • They meet every Tuesday from 6 pm to 8 pm to discuss human development issues.
    • Teen Club helps teens get to know themselves and those around them by discussing topics they encounter in everyday life. It provides a fun atmosphere for them to meet new people, grow in life skills, express themselves, and grow in their faith.
    • They have two meetings per month that are formative and 2 for community service (like cleaning the beach, etc.).
    • One of the goals of this program is to have trained counselors for the Summer Camp.

Ms. Miriam introduced us to the Programs that she coordinates: 

  • Youth Leadership Program.
    • Thursdays from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm.
    • YM focuses on serving and empowering teens at our Youth Center and Saint Mary’s Church.
    • The leadership training program was created for teens to learn and hone essential leadership skills, such as facilitating meetings, effective communication, and teambuilding.
  • Confirmation Program.
    • Sundays at Saint Mary’s Church from 10 am to 12:30 pm (Youth mass is at 11:30 am).
    • YM focuses on serving and empowering teens at our Youth Center and Saint Mary’s Church.
    • To encourage our young candidates into deepening their Baptismal call.
  • Miguel Magone Oratory.
    • Saturdays 10 am to 3 pm (at the Youth Center).
    • To live out St. John Bosco’s dream by providing a place where children engage in prayer, games, workshops, storytelling, and scripture reading.
    • To provide a safe environment for children to learn, share and grow in their faith.
    • Has invited us to bring youth to the youth worship concert on September 25 from 6 pm to 9 pm.

Fr Jim explained to us the activities carried out in Salesian High School:

  • There are no longer religion classes in the school, but there are faith families, where the teachers they lead become a fraternal part of the groups.
  • They have confessions and masses regularly.
  • Have the Oratory called “Casa Bosco” every morning to provide a comfortable space to spend their time.
  • He opened the invitation and opportunity to the other Salesian works to bring young people and children to spend time at “Casa Bosco.”
  • He invited us all to come together for the pilgrimage of Our Lady Guadalupe.
  • How can we keep children, youth, and young adults in our Salesian temples and houses?
  • Fr. Jim affirmed that we have an excellent opportunity to work with the children and adolescents in our area. It is only enough to go out at 3:30 pm around our streets, and we could meet thousands of young people.

Ms. Rachel, the youth coordinator of Saint Bridget Chinese Salesian parish, shared the following information:

  • Mary Help of Christians Community Center is under construction, and with this, the relaunch of many programs for children and young people.
  • They currently have youth groups, but it isn’t easy to get them together during the week because many live far from our parish. They meet on Sundays when they come with their families to mass.
  • At other times they have invited young people to the adults’ homes who lead the youth group to have movie nights and training.
  • Due to the pandemic, the numbers are limited, but they are hoping that there will be more opportunities with the opening of the new community center.
  • Ms. Miriam had offered help with the youth night to Ms. Rachel and the chance to open the doors to any opportunity.

The meeting concluded around 8:00 pm with a final thought from Fr. Fabian and Fr Jim, thanking everyone for their availability to work together and encouraging them to continue in this great but satisfying challenge.