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In this very special second episode of “Catholic School Connection” with Dr. Erin Barisano, we welcome Sr. Theresa Lynch of St. Anne’s School in Santa Ana.

As principal of St. Anne’s, Sr. Theresa speaks on the importance of music in schools today.

Tune in, and be sure to tell a friend about this podcast!





Originally broadcast on 3/23/19



The Life Center of Santa Ana is a 501-C3 organization that works with young women through adults, especially new mothers facing difficult choices during and after their pregnancies. 

Since opening in 1975, more than 50,000 women, family members and prospective fathers have come to the Life Center for assistance at an extremely difficult time in their lives. The Center provides a confidential and loving environment in which to discuss the challenges they will face in carrying their child to term.  

Through a network of medical and community referrals, needed care is made available while the Life Center continues to provide on-going support and follow-up care. 

Life Center provides counseling, pregnancy tests and referrals to medical pregnancy clinics for ultrasounds and assistance to carry babies full-term.  

The Center also offers referrals for resources for housing, food distributors, employment and educational opportunities. 

Life Center also provides needed material support in the form of clothing, diapers, blankets, car seats and more to both pregnant and new mothers referred by Orange County Social Services, hospitals, churches, school districts and numerous family support programs.  

The Life Center has also developed a Crib Assistance Program for high-risk newborns discharged from UCI Medical Center and CHOC St. Joseph’s Hospital and Global (Western) Medical Center and all Orange County hospitals.  

These infants have no bed in which to sleep after discharge, placing them at risk. Many such fragile infants have monitoring equipment that mandates a bed of their own. 

The Life Center is affiliated with the Office of Life, Justice and Peace with Diocese of Orange. It maintains a schedule of quarterly meetings with all Respect Life representatives who attend from all parishes in the Diocese of Orange.  

Life Center services are based on Respect for Life as sacred and given by God. This philosophy guides all volunteers and programs. 

Consider supporting the “Life Center of Santa Ana.” All donations are tax deductible. Visit to learn more. 

“Life is our most precious gift. Contributing is sharing. It’s giving back. It heals hearts! It’s called, making a difference.”  



A pack of seven-year-olds tumble off a school bus and squirm into chairs to hear their plans for the day. The first order of business: donuts. Thus begins another daylong First Communion retreat at Heart of Jesus Retreat Center in Santa Ana. This year the Sisters of the Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart celebrate the 25th anniversary of the opening of the current facility which has become somewhat like a rite of passage for local first communicants, confirmation candidates, teens, adults, couples, families and religious.

According to Sr. Joanna Strouse, SDSH director of the Retreat Center, “When the Diocese of Orange became its own Diocese, separate from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1976, Bishop Johnson was interested in making Holy Family the Cathedral of the new Diocese and to have the convent be his residence. At the time our religious community was teaching religious education at Holy Family Parish and living in the convent. In exchange, the Bishop offered us the opportunity to purchase the 2.9-acre property that had been donated to the Diocese, including the original Borchard family farmhouse built in 1933. Seeing the potential of the property, the Sisters converted a three-car garage into a conference room and began hosting retreats for children and adults. This is how the Heart of Jesus Retreat Center began in 1978.”

A bit of history first. Sister Ida Peterfy was born to devout Catholic parents in Kassa, Hungary (now Kosice, Slovakia) in 1922. She was a pretty and lively girl, active in scouting and from the age of 16 ran a youth camp. While on an Ignatian retreat, she had a profound religious experience where she realized the depth of God’s personal love for her, and His call to catechize children. On her 18th birthday, October 7, 1940, she pronounced private vows of poverty, chastity and obedience before the Blessed Sacrament, and immediately she began to live in total dedication to the Sacred Heart of Christ.

Sr. Ida and a few friends, who called themselves the Community of the Sacred Heart Sisters, became well known for their work in the city of Kassa, particularly for their role preparing thousands of young people for spiritual renewal in preparation for the bishop’s plan to consecrate the city to the Sacred Heart. Despite enormous challenges and persecutions during the Nazi occupation in World War II, Ida continued her ministry underground, pursued her education and worked to support her small community.

The post-war Soviet occupation of Hungary presented even more challenges. In 1948, Cardinal Mindszenty, Archbishop of Esztergom (Budapest), was imprisoned and tortured for his opposition to Communism. Ida, who had a friend who was a secretary for the KGB, warned her that she and her sisters should “disappear.” She resisted and continued her work, however, and by 1949, the auxiliary Bishop urged her to go to a free country and develop a community there. She could return someday when it was safe. Trusting the bishop, she and one of her companions, reluctantly escaped with a “smuggler.” She was offered a teaching position in Innsbruck at a new school established for Hungarian refugees. One by one the other sisters left Hungary.

It soon became clear that the sisters would not be able to establish a permanent home in Europe. When sister Ida learned that Canada accepted refugees from the Eastern Block, provided the refugee worked as a domestic for 12 months, she and the sisters moved to Toronto.

In September 1956, Sister Ida attended the U.S. National Catechetical Congress in Buffalo N.Y. By the time the Congress ended, nine U.S. Bishops and a few from Western Canada had invited Sister Ida and her community to set up shop in their dioceses. Eventually, the sisters settled in Los Angeles.

Fast forward to 1978, some of the sisters moved to Santa Ana, cleaned out the dusty three-car garage at their new home and began again. The sisters taught at the Holy Family Cathedral school and offered retreats from their renovated garage. The ministry grew quickly and by the late 1980s the sisters had raised the money to begin construction on a fully equipped retreat center.

Sister Ida was heavily involved in every step of the process. For the retreat chapel, she commissioned acclaimed liturgical artist Isabel Piczek, whom she had known since her days in Hungary, to create the altar murals and stained glass. Piczek worked closely with Sr. Ida to craft a vision of the risen Christ drawn from imagery from the Book of Revelation. Titled “Splendor of the Cosmic Heart,” Isabel Piczek often said this was one of her favorite works, not so much because of the importance of the installation, but because of the collaboration with her lifelong friend.

The groundbreaking occurred in August of 1990, and the grand opening celebration was held in January of 1992. Today there are a total of 11 sisters living on site at the Retreat Center. Seven of the sisters work there and 4 serve at other diocesan parishes. In the years since, the sisters have also opened a camp in Big Bear, offering a fun-filled getaway retreat for parishes and schools. Sister Ida passed away in February of 2000. Recently Archbishop Gomez named Sister Ida “Servant of God”, the first step in canonization.

In the retreat center chapel is a quote from Sr. Ida that encapsulates both her faith and the underlying confidence in her mission. “With our minds and hearts anchored permanently in Jesus our Lord, we surrender ourselves to Him to be filled with His transforming love.” Words to live by.


Sister Ida’s 5-step Illustrated Method


Sr. Ida developed a five-step program designed to explain even the most advanced aspects of faith to children and adults. She often said, “If you can’t explain a concept to a third grader, you don’t know it yourself.”

Step 1: Attract Attention. To make sure the student is “present” the teacher must involve their imagination. Depending on the age of the students this may mean beginning with a story, props, puppets or some other tool to get their mind engaged.

Step 2: Illustrated Explanation. Teach not just with words, but by demonstration. Lead students by involving their intellect and hearts. It can be as simple as drawing stick figures to help students focus on what is being taught.

Step 3: Correlation with Life. Once the imagination and intellect are captivated, make the lesson relevant to the student’s life. Help the students see how the message applies to their own life.

Step 4: Practice. This can be daily or weekly, but it is a necessary part of effective teaching. Show the students how to put their faith into action.

Step 5: Summary and Conclusion. This reinforces and helps the students to remember what they have learned. The goal is not rote response, but digging deep into their understanding and convictions that have changed as a result of the lesson.


More information on the sisters and the retreat center is available online at

Bao Thai

Photo: Challenge Roddie

Photo: Challenge Roddie

Age: 44

Years in the priesthood: 11

Hometown: Saigon, Vietnam

Favorite movie: “The Christmas Wish” 1998

Favorite pastime: Swimming

His most memorable experience:

“To console one particular young parent who had a miscarriage.”

Favorite travel destination:  Fatima, Holy Land & Can Tho, Vietnam

First job:  Math Tutor

Favorite scripture:  2 Timothy 1:6 – “Stir into flame the gifts of God through the laying on of   hands.”

Fashion makes the feast

SANTA ANA — A group of young students from the School of Our Lady joined Father Ed Poettgen in celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in traditional dress at a special Mass Dec. 12.

Elsewhere, the school’s 8th grade class tackled a unique art project in which they fashioned stand-up images of Our Lady of Guadalupe out of two unlikely but workable materials: coat hanger wire and pantyhose.

Raphael Nguyen

Age: 63

Years in the priesthood: 18

Favorite pastime: Soccer

Any job in the world: Educator

Favorite food: Vietnamese cuisine

What drew him to the ministry: “Loving Jesus and the church.”

Favorite scripture: John 8:12 – “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”



Age: 40

Years in the priesthood: 4

Hometown: Saigon, Vietnam

First car: 1985 Honda Accord

First job: Teaching math

Favorite ministry: Youth and young adult ministry

His most memorable experience:   Performing the Thanksgiving Mass at St. Barbara Church in 2010, the first time his whole family attended Mass together.

Favorite scripture: 2 Timothy 1:6 – “Stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.”

Joseph Luan Nguyen

Age: 53

Years in the priesthood: 24

Favorite book: “The Road of Hope,” Cardinal Thuan Nguyen

Favorite travel destinations: The Holy Land, Rome, Vietnam

Favorite pastimes:   Reading, jogging, going out to movies

His role in the church: “My role is to be a shepherd and to reach out and to help God’s people understand how to love the Lord more intimately, to serve others, and to empower them to do ministry in the Church.”

Favorite scripture: John 10:14 – “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me.”