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On today’s episode of Cathedral Square, Fr. Christopher Smith welcomes 2 people who are truly “world changers.”

John Straw (Executive Director) and Catharine Quinn (Field Program Coordinator) join us to talk about how CONCERN AMERICA helps to transform need into self-sufficiency.

Since their beginning in 1972, Concern America’s vision has been to build health care, clean water, education, and economic opportunity with communities worldwide

Tune in for some powerful stories and reflections!




Originally broadcast on 10/17/20


You’ve probably heard the saying, “Choose a job that you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”

Wise advice, indeed. Too bad it’s mostly nonsense.

Case in point: The men and women who devote their lives to the teachings of the Church and Jesus. Despite their dedication, they work very hard. A “labor of love” can still involve just that: labor.

So it helps to enjoy outside interests. We asked four local clergy about theirs. Here is what they said:


Classic Resurrection

For Rev. Msgr. Douglas Cook, the parental apple/tree analogy isn’t entirely accurate. In his case, the piston doesn’t fall far from the crankshaft.

His longtime passion for fixing up classic old cars comes from his father.

“My dad worked on cars all the time,” says Msgr. Cook, rector of Holy Family Cathedral. “He was a very patient teacher and a talented mechanic.”

These days, Msgr. Cook, who was actually named after drag racer Doug “Cookie” Cook, is working on his ’54 Buick Super Hardtop Riviera, a two-door gem that he picked up in Texas six years ago. Along with a complete rebuild, “I’m stripping it down for painting,” he says. “I’m going to keep the original color: blue on blue.”

Another project, his ’24 Buick Roadster, “was practically just a pile of parts that I found in Santa Ana.”

Msgr. Cook’s manner of acquiring some of the rare parts used to fix his old cars dovetails nicely with his hobby. “I go on road trips,” he says. “I’ve driven all the way to Montana for a part. It’s a little nutty, unless you enjoy the drive – and I really do.”


One swell hobby

“Jesus Christ used water as a symbol for new life and, of course, he walked on water,” Fr. Christian Mondor says. “We, on the other hand, need a board to do that.”

The vicar emeritus of Sts. Simon and Jude Church has surfed for the last 22 years, ever since he first learned as a young 70-year-old whippersnapper.

“I grew up near the Santa Monica pier, and we used to bodysurf a lot,” he says.

The 92-year-old – who still bodysurfs – learned to ride a longboard at Bolsa Chica State Beach with the help of a few retired LAPD officers. “I’d start at 6:30 and surf for an hour or so, then paddle in, dry off and go to work.”

Earlier this year, Fr. Mondor used a boogie board while competing in a senior surfing tournament. “I paddled around, caught a shore break, and that was it.” The nonagenarian earned second place in the event’s 75-and-older category.

He is perhaps best known in the surfing community for his involvement in the annual Interfaith Blessing of the Waves, an event he helps organize.

“It’s for more than surfers,” he says. “We ask God to bless the ocean and all those who enjoy it: surfers, sailors, swimmers. … The ocean is such a wonderful thing that we have on our doorstep.”


Reelin’ in the years

You may have heard about the blessed fisherman who enjoyed his work so much, he went fishing on his free time.

Fr. Bill Krekelberg, the Diocese’s archivist emeritus, loves his role so much, he collects OC memorabilia, a hobby since his high school days.

“My family moved to Orange County when I was eleven years old,” he says. “We lived very close to Knott’s Berry Farm. I used to hang out there a lot; it was a nice place for anyone interested in history to come and play.”

Fr. Krekelberg’s passion is focused on local history. “I’ve always been interested in the county’s [past], especially after I became the archivist for the Diocese.”

In addition to an impressive collection of books – about the county as a whole, specific cities and prominent residents through the decades – Fr. Krekelberg has collected, among many other artifacts, a section of the rail from the old Santa Ana Trolley, colorful citrus labels from the old OC packing houses, vintage engravings from county sites and an assortment of postcards from the turn of the last century to the ’30s and ’40s.

Now, Fr. Krekelberg’s own past has come full circle.

“[On March 31,] Knott’s will be auctioning off a variety of things that they’ve had in storage for years,” he says. “If I can fit it into my schedule, I’d sure like to attend.”


Happy trails

Fr. Steve Sallot fell for off-road motorcycling – at least figuratively – when he was first placed on an old Norton 650. He’s been delightedly kicking up dust ever since.

“I got my first motorcycle when I was about ten,” says Fr. Sallot, the Diocese’s vicar general. “My dad paid 30 bucks for it, all in pieces. He said, ‘Here – if you want a motorcycle, see how much you can put together.’”

Today, Fr. Sallot rides a Honda XR650 and a KTM 950. “They’re big, and they’re really fast.”

In addition to local rides, he and a few friends enjoy annual off-road trips. “We go about a thousand miles, riding about 150 to 200 miles a day, and stay in cheap hotels out in the boonies.”

Despite the broken elbows, collarbone and ankle, along with countless lacerations and contusions, “I ride because I like the speed and the thrill of going fast over terrain. It makes me concentrate on what I’m doing and forget everything else. It’s mental therapy. … It also gets me out into nature. I really love that.”


VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis will visit some of the most marginalized communities in Mexico and seek to bring hope to a country deeply suffering from crime, corruption and inequality when he visits in February.

The Vatican announced Dec. 12 details about the pope’s Feb. 12-17 trip to Mexico, during which he will stop in six cities, including two in the state of Chiapas and — across from El Paso, Texas — Ciudad Juarez, which just five years ago was considered the “murder capital of the world” as drug cartels disputed a trafficking corridor.

The pope said in November that he wanted to visit cities where St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI never went. But he said he will stop at the capital of Mexico City to pray at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. “But if it wasn’t for Our Lady I wouldn’t” go there, he had told reporters.

The pope will fly out of and return to Mexico City each day after celebrating Mass at the basilica on the second day of his trip.

Over the following four days, he will visit a pediatric hospital in the capital as well as families and indigenous communities in the southernmost state of Chiapas, Mexico’s poorest state, which gained worldwide attention for the 1990s Zapatista rebellion.

He will visit young people and religious in Morelia, celebrate Mass on the Mexican-U.S. border in Ciudad Juarez and visit its infamous Cereso state prison, where at least 20 people were killed during riots in 2009 triggered by rival gangs among the prisoners.

“We are certain that the presence of the Holy Father will confirm us in the faith, hope and charity and will help the church move ahead in its permanent mission,” the Mexican bishops’ conference said in a Dec. 12 statement. “It will encourage believers and nonbelievers and commit us to the construction of a just Mexico, with solidarity, reconciliation and peace,” the statement said.

Father Oscar Enriquez, parish priest and director of the Paso del Norte Human Rights Center in Ciudad Juarez, told Catholic News Service that Juarez is often seen as an example of overcoming extreme violence. “The pope always looks for the peripheries. Juarez is the periphery of Mexico and it’s a place migrants pass through.”

Father Patricio Madrigal, pastor of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in the Michoacan city of Nueva Italia said by visiting Morelia, the pope “wants to be closer to an area beaten down by violence. He wants to bring comfort and also closeness.”

The pope’s meeting with young people and religious in Morelia is important, Father Madrigal told CNS, as the church there works to keep kids out of the cartels and provide priests with support and “strengthen us in the faith and our work in attending to victims of violence.” Priests in the rugged Tierra Caliente region there had lent moral and spiritual support to vigilantes arming themselves to run off a drug cartel in 2013.

Pope Francis “wants to give young people a message of hope and that they stay away from the temptation of violence,” the priest said.