By: Fr. Jose Alberto Pimentel, mccj
I was assigned to be the parish administrator of Holy Cross in South Central Los Angeles almost six years ago. I had already been a missionary priest fifteen years, and had worked in Egypt, Sudan, and South Africa for more than twelve years. I could say that I spent my best years in the mission of my dreams—Africa!
However, I was never in charge of a parish, and so I did not have the experience of those priests that I met at Holy Cross, Father Xavier Colleoni and Father Robert Kleiner, who have been serving in South Central LA for more than forty and twelve years, respectively.
The challenge of serving “my own people,” that is, the Hispanic community, is that being a Comboni Missionary and working at home made me feel as if I was not a “real” missionary. I always thought that this service would be temporary, and then I could go back to my mission in Africa. Still, I was grateful to be given the chance to guide this community of migrant people.
As my confreres aged and their health deteriorated, I started feeling that I could not do the job alone and, sadly, there was no one on the horizon coming to take my place. I started sharing this concern with some parishioners and created a vocations prayer group.