Doing the ordinary with extraordinary love: Our Lady of St. John

August 14, 2018

Our Lady of St. John Catholic Church, once an extension of Our Lady of Sorrows when in 1958, currently has approximately 800 registered parishioners from 300 families. Photo courtesy of Father Edwin Coreas.

Editor's Note: This is a continuation of a series focused on the fruits generated from a series of initiatives and activities from the fruits of pastoral planning of a Spirituality of Communion.

HOUSTON — Nestled on the east side of the city of Houston sits Our Lady of St. John Catholic Church. This parish was initially an extension of Our Lady of Sorrows when in 1958 the decision was made to create its building and start a “church family.” Sixty years later, with approximately 800 registered parishioners from 300 families, many of the predominately Hispanic parishioners travel from other parts of Houston to participate in the Masses each weekend — one in English and four in Spanish.

Father Edwin Coreas is the third pastor at Our Lady of St. John and has been leading the congregation for more than 17 years now.

With the welcoming environment and beautiful worship life his church community has created, he often hears parishioners say they find “great peace” when they enter the church and the church “is comprised of a great family of Christ.”

“We are neither a large congregation nor a wealthy congregation, but we are rich in spirit and filled with a sense of community where our hearts rejoice every time we are together,” Father Coreas said.

When speaking with parishioners, Father Coreas often impresses upon them that it is everyone’s responsibility to make the parish feel like a home for worshipers.

“When people take ownership of their home, they take better care of it,” he said.

For their part, parishioners stand at the church’s entrances to welcome everyone before the Masses and go out of their way to reach out to those first-time visitors.

“There is almost always someone new at Mass, either brought by a family member or from a neighboring parish, and we take great care to welcome ‘pilgrims’ who come to our home,” Father Coreas said.

As of late, Father Coreas has brought together a group of parishioners to strategize on a plan to add social life activities at the parish. Currently, the team is discussing sports programs for children and adults as well as games with piñatas, Zumba fitness classes, and other fun activities.

“We believe if we can provide social events for our parishioners to remain on the church grounds on Sunday, then we can create an even deeper sense of community and love for God,” he said. “To have a healthy soul, we must have a healthy body. We are even planning a soccer tournament for adults and kids, and I agreed to be the goalie, so others can see me in a role other than the pastor. Hopefully my parishioners follow my commitment toward the growth and health of our parish.”

Our Lady of St. John also offers Bible study classes on Wednesdays and a two-month course on learning how to pray portions of Scripture one line at a time. On the first Friday evening of every month, a group of approximately 50 people gathers at 8 p.m. to have Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament through the night until a final blessing at 6 a.m. Saturday morning. They pray for intentions which parishioners placed in a box at the previous weekend’s Masses.

Devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, are extremely important to the parishioners of Our Lady of St. John. Every Sunday, one family takes home an image of Our Lady of St. John and they set an altar for her at their home with the commitment to pray the Rosary every day as a family. This meditation on the life of Christ and the emphasis on Mary’s focus on Christ is a key part of faith formation within families.

One idea Father Coreas and his team are exploring is an alternative setting for a prayer service. His goal is to create a more relaxed, participatory environment for a small group to share personal experiences on what the word of God is telling them that day, rather than solely listening to Father Coreas messages and explanations of the Scripture.

“The very life and essence of God is love. We are products of love and every day we are invited to receive this most precious gift and then spread it throughout the world,” Father Coreas said. “I truly believe the community of Our Lady of St. John is living as a family of God and we welcome all to join us in our journey of faith and experience our joy and love.”