The Portolá 250 Visits Our Lady of Assumption in the City of Trees and PhDs
Situated on the eastern edge of Los Angeles County, and home to many colleges along tree-lined streets, Claremont, CA has a nickname by locals as being the city of many trees and PhDs. On the Portolá 250, I’ve been looking forward to visiting Claremont, CA since I lived in the adjacent city of Upland for many years. My daughters had their First Communions and my son was born and baptized there. My two brothers and their families also still live in the area. Our Lady of Assumption in Claremont has always been a hub for Catholics in the region and their annual fair ‘with beer tasting’ is a favorite of residents throughout the area.
The pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption, Fr. Charles, and I met about a year earlier and I’ve had the privilege of getting to know him and following his terrific work at the parish and in the community. Every time I say “good job,” he is embarrassed and deflects credit to his staff and his faith sponsoring community. Built in 1951 in downtown Claremont’s historic district among many vintage homes and properties, Our Lady of Assumption was due a new roof and auditorium, among other things, and desired to transform the parish into a sanctuary. The parish had begun a renovation project nine months ago; so, when I last visited Fr. Charles a few months ago, he and his fellow priests were celebrating Masses in a huge tent kept a little cooler with large fans. Meanwhile, so much artisanship was being dedicated to transforming the parish, with new elements being hand-crafted by a workshop founded in Chacas, Peru, by the Salesian Order. The central figure in the church would be as always, the crucified Christ in pose. Other elements fashioned for OLA included the backdrop, known as a reredos, depicting the spirit of Mary in her quiet supporting role as our patron, the tabernacle holding the Body of Christ in reserve, as well as the sanctuary candle, are integrated into the reredos.
Just a few of the decorative details include: the cross and furnishings are cedar wood from the Amazon, and gold glass mosaic was used on the altar, ambo (lectern), presider’s chair, and pascal candleholder.
When I arrived for the pilgrimage to visit 21 missions in 21 days, my breath was taken away by the grandeur of this transformation through liturgical art brought to the parish. Everyone gathered on what the parishioners refer to as ‘the green’ as Fr. Charles set the scene for the procession around the block and into the church from a new 500-square-foot vestibule facing Berkeley Avenue. This was designed to make the church entrance more welcoming while preserving the iconic arch that is a beloved feature of the church. The renovated church was dedicated on August 10th.
A tri-lingual Mass in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese celebrated the diversity in the Church including the music, auxiliary readings, and prayer intentions. Fr. Charles taught in his homily about how easy it is to be casual in our faith and there is level of seriousness we must commit to. He stressed we as disciples of Christ are all called to remain steadfast in our faith and we can ask Our Lady of Fatima to provide the grace we need.
After Mass, Father and I along with my son, Alex, went out for a quick dinner before he had to head over to the local Catholic boy’s high school football game to pray at half-time with the team. Before we parted ways, we agreed to get together and hold a Mass on the local soccer field. Why? Because those tournaments quite often tend to be on Sunday!
“Always go forward and never turn back.”
~ St. Junípero Serra