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'The toughest break is what they did to Monsignor.' (Monsignor Joe Alzugaray; All Souls Parish, Alhambra, California) (Panel Discussion)

The five parishioners interviewed below were among those at the forefront of seeking reasons from the Los Angeles archdiocese for the expulsion of their pastor. A previous pastor had also been removed without explanation.

Reflected in the recent concerns of some of the parishioners, however, apparently was an underlying worry about the future of their All Souls Parish, Alhambra, particularly its school.

With the archdiocese seemingly set on closing schools, there was anxiety that the prime real estate under All Souls might make the sale of school property - it stands on "automobile row" - a temptation to the chancery, which earlier had attempted to sell Cathedral High School, until the parents and alumni revolted.

The following are edited excerpts from a conversation with Judy Terzi, Norma Barajas, Sandi Halquia, Alice Montoya and Lena Wiemer. They are presented without attribution to give a flavor of parishioner concerns.

ALHAMBRA, Calif. - Monsignor Joseph Alzugaray was All Souls' third pastor in three years. The previous two pastors had left All Souls demoralized and in disrepair. Alzugaray's successor, Monsignor William O'Toole, will take over the parish April 1:

* "October, 15, 1990. We were to have the Harvest Festival, and I was looking for rummage for the white-elephant booth, and (Monsignor Joseph Alzugaray) walked up to me, big, warm and welcoming, and said, |I'm the man.' He was not yet in the parish; he had just come to look."

* "There was unity, it worked really well - all parishioners were happy to support the school. Monsignor brought two close friends to work with him as volunteers (Richard Rock and William Turbay). The services were quite beautiful: (Rock) on liturgy, and (Turbay) on environment - how the church looked and everything. The organizations were thriving, all bringing in money like mad for the church and the school."

* "In May [1992], (Turbay and Rock) were asked to leave. Monsignor didn't explain. Very quiet. He was hurting. He had been told by the cardinal."

* "I asked Monsignor about a school project the parents were to work on. He said, |Put if off until September.' We knew all along someone bad written a letter, but we didn't know who for a long time, and everyone was trying to guess the content. We eventually got a copy, which we made available to all the parishioners because I feel they should know."

* "I was (more) heavily involved (at All Souls) than any parish in my life: all day Sunday, all day Saturday, all day Monday. It was sad, the parish just crumbled. I don't go .... We thought (the chancery) was just investigating and that would be it and bell be back when they find out there's nothing. They've had five investigations and they're still looking to find something."

* "In the archdiocese's mind it was over. There was not a letter we could write. The archdiocese just kept us waiting and wanted us to be so passive and so docile and let things pass. But we're human - and Catholic parishioners.... To me it was all based irrationally on one letter, and a thousand other letters were ignored. I'd be interested to know how many of the letters supported that one."

* "No one is walking together the way they once were."

* "Monsignor (Alzugaray) never asked for money, never told people to give more. It was a blessing to go and not be hounded. He never asked, but people were busy donating. And there were many non-Catholics who were starting to go to the church."

* "Now the two hired musicians are gone. The children's choir was 50, down to 15."

* "Beautiful liturgies. Easter was like a cathedral. Flowers - out of this world. (Turbay and Rock) went to the market for the flowers. They didn't cost anything because we had a plant sale afterward and sold the plants."

* "Catholic schools all have these banners, |A Catholic Education is an Advantage for Life,' and (Cardinal Mahony) is shutting down our schools. If it's financial, then the priorities have to be changed and shifted to the schools that need it most - the poorest ones, Santa Teresita [in Los Angeles' tough Pico-Union] where it's very much needed [because of the gangs]. These parents are at the bottom but they're willing to sacrifice everything to send the child to Catholic school so the child has a future, (but the school) is walking on ice right now."

* "Monsignor (Alzugaray) was so giving. No one cared if your $20 went for this for the school or what your $20 was doing there. We were all one."

* "It's a tough break for the people. It's broken the hearts of a lot of parishioners, though they don't speak up.... The toughest break is what they did to Monsignor - he's like a homeless person. He's beyond |crushed.'"
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Author:Jones, Arthur
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Panel Discussion
Date:Mar 12, 1993
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