I nominate Fr. Rodel Balagtas of IHMC

Fr. Rodel Balagtas was assigned to IHMC 11 1/2 years ago, and will end his term this coming June 30, 2014. During that period, he led a once fractious Latino, Filipino and some Caucasians community into a vibrant, dynamic community that respects each other's cultures, traditions and practices: Posadas, Simbang Gabi, to Our Lady of Guadalupe Celebrations. He also led his community to be part of the Coalition of One Los Angeles where the community was prominent in advocating for affordable low income housing in the neighborhood. Where a neighborhood that once had vagrants, he led his community in a door to door campaign of involvement with the church and even his own parishioners in the renovation of a once decrepit, crumbling church structure with declining school population.

How did he do it? He first introduced music into the liturgy to enliven the worship and had Tagalog masses at 4pm and Spanish masses at 1pm. By having parishioners connect to their music and language, he enlivened them as well and increased the attendance of the Church. By increasing the attendance at the church, he insisted on good homilies that also allowed folks to be more involved in their families, communities and more. 

Fast forward to today. The Immaculate Heart of Mary School has just introduced a Pre-K to their program, the Children's Choir has been the pride of Los Angeles, they have been a two year performer at LA County Christmas Celebration in LA County and broadcasted on KCET; the choir was recently featured in a 30 minute Christmas Eve broadcast on KSCI-18; the choir, the Church and Fr. Rodel Balagtas was featured in The Flipino Channel, via Steve Angeles of Balitang America for its history of "destination church" for Simbang Gabi, attracting thousands to come to this East Hollywood Church from South Bay, Valencia, Northridge, Long Beach; the IHMC has also been written up many times in Asian Journal. Currently, he is also mentoring young Caucasian Seminarian, Josh Diener, who is now doing homilies in Spanish and singing songs in Tagalog during Simbang Gabi. 

The Children's Choir has also motivated the students to reach an apex of excellence in musicality, self-expression and academic excellence. The choir members are performing with high honors in the classrooms, and even featured in Catholic Messenger magazine in Ohio.

They took home two Silver Medals from World Choir Games in Ohio. They were invited to be part of the Bach Festival in Oregon and one of the the two choirs out of ten invited to perform for thousands of Oregonians. The Children's Choir has also been invited to perform in Carnegie Hall, but lack funds to make this opportunity a reality for these working class parents-supported students who come from blue collar workers of Filipinos and Latinos.

The Children's Choir has also performed for many fundraisers to help raise funds for the Typhoon survivors in the Philippines, and has been in the City of Cerritos and Alex Theater to help raise these funds.

Imagine the sacrifices of the parents, engendered by the involvement of their children, who seem to relish being onstage, as they pursue their academic studies.

Imagine the kind of balance in time management being taught to them at an early age because of what is happening to them at this school and in the church, where some of these children choir members serve as altar servers. Also, the school has started an after school music program and training violinists/fiddlers from a very young age of 7 to 14.

Imagine how this priest took a tattered carpet, falling roof structure, to now a vibrant, dynamic, imaginative and ready to serve church community for the needs of their children and their mature parents and senior citizens. By the way, there are 65 active ministries here that minister to the needs of the parishioners.

Here is a recent writeup on him <http://asianjournal.com/lifestyle/why-i-go-to-simbang-gabi/>

Fr. Rodel has bridged gaps amongst cultures and has done it with his animated leadership and high respect for each person's background and culture. I highly nominate him to be a Los Angeleno of the Year.

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published this page in Angelenos of the Year 2013-12-25 11:21:18 -0800

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