EL CENTRO — Running parallel to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ three-year call to Eucharistic Revival, the pastors of Our Lady of the Valley Parish have dedicated a year of their pastoral ministry to the patronage of St. Catherine of Siena.
Since Aug. 7, Father Mark Edney, pastor of Our Lady of the Valley, and associate pastor Father Ed Horning have been teaching the life of St. Catherine, her written works, spirituality, closing each weekend homily with “St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us.”
They began giving classes on the life of St. Catherine for the faithful every Wednesday evening, in English at St. Mary and in Spanish at Our Lady of Guadalupe, the two churches that comprise the parish.
Father Edney suggested the parish dedicate the year to St. Catherine and study her life, including reading her book, “The Dialogue.”
“It came to be because we live in a pretty difficult time for our people,” the pastor said. “We struggle with the pandemic, political and social divisions, and even divisions in the Church.”
He said that St. Catherine lived in the 14th century and, “in many ways, her times were like ours.”
“She was born during the Black Plague. She faced divisions in her society, civil wars, corruption in society, laxity in the Church, and suffering in great poverty because of all the conflict, and half of the population of Europe destroyed by the plague.”
He said that St. Catharine not only wrote her book, but 380-plus letters to popes, bishops, kings, queens, paupers; correspondence which covers every aspect of life.
“The way I presented it to the parish — in the midst of that world – the one authentic voice that resounded was the voice of a saint,” Father Edney said.
He hopes his parishioners will be filled with a desire for holiness, as St. Catherine had.
“It’s not just another devotion, it’s seeking knowledge of God,” he said. “Nobody had a greater devotion to the Eucharist than St. Catherine.”
Father Horning said he was a bit reluctant to embrace St. Catherine initially.
“Well, I’ve always been afraid of her, honestly,” said Father Horning. “I’ve tried to avoid her as much as I can just because of her intensity. She’s fiery, in deep union with the Lord, and it can be a little bit intimidating.”
Father Horning said he is glad he has come to know her life and work.
“It’s been a blessing to put ourselves under her intercession and under her patronage, and also to study her life and her writings.”
Father Horning said that an average of 30 to 35 people attend classes on St. Catherine in Spanish each Wednesday.
“Even before Father Mark wanted us to study her, I already felt drawn to her because of what she went through and the relationship she had with God,” said Margie Madueño, a parishioner. “People listened to her because they could see her holiness.”
“She’s the saint for our times too,” Madueño said, “to hopefully draw people back to Mass, back to church, to defend our faith, and learn about how to be holy and speak truth. She did it through trusting in God and realizing that, without God, she can do nothing.”
“I think, right now, we really need to know more about our saints, about the Eucharist, and all of this coming together is very exciting,” Madueño said. “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. God always provides.”