MODERN MISSION; AREA PARISH TAKES MASS TO CASTAIC.
Not so long ago, Castaic residents accounted for about 1 percent of the families registered in the Santa Clarita Valley's oldest Catholic parish. A few years and a building boom later, they comprise 10 percent.
So two months ago, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Newhall began celebrating Sunday morning Mass at a satellite location as a convenience to its growing flock in Castaic, several miles north along the Golden State Freeway.
``Four or five years ago, we only had about 50 families over there,'' said the Rev. Patrick Power of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Now, he said, there are about 500 Castaic families in the congregation, out of 5,130 registered families in the parish.
In response, Our Lady of Perpetual Help secured permission from the Castaic Union School District to celebrate Mass in the multipurpose room at Live Oak Elementary School. So far, 10:30 a.m. Sunday is the only worship service at Live Oak, which Power refers to as a ``mission'' branch of OLPH.
The parish has one other satellite Mass, at 2 p.m. Sundays at Val Verde Park, Power said.
But the addition of a weekly Mass is a sign that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles recognizes the eventual need for another Catholic church in the Santa Clarita Valley. Although the archdiocese owns about 4 acres of land near Hasley Canyon Road, Power couldn't estimate when a full-fledged church might be built in Castaic.
Since the Masses began in December, attendance at Live Oak has steadily climbed to about 400 each week, Power said.
Castaic resident Paul Andrade has been a parishioner at Our Lady of Perpetual Help since the early 1980s, and the long drive to Mass never bothered him. But he said that having a Catholic Church closer to home will be a nice development for Castaic.
``You feel like you're in a small community again. When you go to Mass in Castaic, you look around and you recognize all the faces,'' said Andrade, who attends church with his wife, Helene, and their 11-year-old son, a sixth-grader at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School.
Andrade said the fledgling parish has formed its own choir, with guitar and drum accompaniment. They are drafting ushers to take the weekly collection, speakers to read the Bible passages and Eucharistic ministers to help the priests dispense Holy Communion, he said.
Each week, Andrade and his wife pitch in, shuttling the vestments for the priests and altar servers to Live Oak and helping set up the multipurpose room for Mass.
Congregants sit on folding chairs instead of pews. Another priest from OLPH, the Rev. Norm Supancheck, usually celebrates Mass, and the format at Live Oak is the same as it is in a church.
The Santa Clarita Valley has two other Catholic parishes - St. Clare's in Canyon Country and its newest full-fledged parish, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha in Saugus.
Castaic resident Monica Ladisa sent her children to elementary school at Our Lady of Perpetual Help and has been a parishioner at the church for about eight years. The distance between her community and her parish never interfered with her weekly attendance, she said.
``For Catholics to miss Mass without a good reason is a serious sin,'' Ladisa said.
Still, the newfound proximity may bolster attendance - possibly among lapsed Catholics who live in the Castaic area - or involvement among all parishioners who live there.
``I think a lot of people will be more active in church. Whenever they have (an event), we'll just go to it because it's so convenient,'' said Ladisa, a mother of four. ``I love going five minutes to (get to) Mass.''
Even though the setting is absent the usual religious icons, Ladisa said that all Catholics really need to practice their faith is the Gospel and someone to officiate.
``They haven't dressed it up for Mass, but the priest and the Blessed Sacrament are there,'' Ladisa said. ``I miss the stained-glass windows and the statues, but when we finally get a church, that'll all be there.''
PHOTO (1--Color) The Rev. Norm Supancheck speaks to the congregation during Mass in the Live Oak Elementary School multipurpose room in Castaic.
(2--Color) Beth and Frank Lim wheel in a piano for Cheryl Aiviar, right, before Mass begins.
John Lazar/Daily News