Friday, March 16, 2012

Sunday at St. Elizabeth Church

Shani Aviram:

I woke up early this past Sunday to check out mass at St. Elizabeth on 34th Ave in Fruitvale. There are several churches in the area, but St. Elizabeth’s seems to be the main Catholic church around. I attended the first mass of the day at 8.30, which is conducted in Spanish, but the mass that follows at 11 is in English. 

When I arrived at the church, the pews were already full, and people were lining up against the walls. The chapel seems to seat several hundred people. Father Oscar is speaking over the PA system and every now and then he breaks the sermon so that the band in the corner can sing a song. At the end of the mass, people hand out flyers advertising a workshop down the road for those who are trying to obtain citizenship.

If you come by the church around 9.30 on a Sunday you will see a lively street. As people begin to leave the church, they greet each other, and catch up. Across the street, vendors have set up food stands and are yelling out “tamales!”. I follow the church goers over to Saint Elizabeth’s Middle School were a group of people is preparing and selling pupusas. I spoke with Ignacio Ceja, who was flipping pupusas at the outdoor grill. He said that every Sunday, a different group or family will sell food at the school. 

I also spoke to Miguel Amezquita  who is on St. Elizabeth’s finance committee. He said he sees the same families and people come every week, and that generally the congregation is tight knit. I asked him about crime in the area and he mentioned that he does see incidents of theft around the neighborhood. Amezquita said that in the past, the church would reach out to gang members hoping to be a positive influence on them. Unfortunately, he says once  these young men began attending services they actually brought crime closer to the church, and would target unsuspecting worshipers who are already going through difficult times. According to Amezquita, the church has stopped reaching out to gang members, so that they could maintain a peaceful and safe environment.