By LAURA QUEZADA News Review Staff Writer–
St. Michael’s Episcopal Church had a new priest join them in 2022. Parishioners call their new priest Padre Jorge, whose official title is The Reverand Jorge Pallares. He began offering Sunday Services in Spanish at noon in September of 2023. English Services are still offered at 10 am on Sundays and 6 pm on Wednesdays.
Padre Jorge is attuned to Latino Culture and tailors his service to serve the desire for the family to be together. Parents and children stay during the service for opening prayers and songs, which Padre Jorge accompanies on guitar. The children go to the parish hall for activities while Padre Jorge delivers the readings and his sermon, and they return for the remainder of the service. He tells us, “If you receive the children in the church, they feel welcome. If you don’t receive the children and put them apart, they won’t come because they want to be attentive to them. They want the children to be part of the community.” Padre Jorge plans to offer different cultural events and services for all, which reflect the Latino community. He is looking forward to officiating over the service for quinceañeras. This is a Latino celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday, marking her passage from girlhood to womanhood. He anticipates that in a few years, some of their young parishioners will be turning 15.
St. Michael’s first Latino culture celebration occurred on December 12 last year, a Celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe. On February 4, there will be a Candlemas Celebration. This day is also known as the day of the “Presentation of Jesus at the Temple.” Every family is given a clay sculpture of the baby Jesus. “They dress the baby and bring it to the church and we bless the baby.” Parishioners also bring candles to be blessed.
This year, they will also celebrate Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on November 2 and Las Posadas on one of the nine days before Christmas.
As with many historical figures, there can be conflicting stories of their veracity. Padre Jorge says that The Virgin of Guadalupe was Spain’s way of influencing the indigenous people of Mexico to become Christian. The indigenous people worshiped many gods, male and female, so it was difficult for them to conceive of one male God. So, the missionaries introduced a brown-skinned Virgin Mary.
For an alternate point of view, we spoke to 97-year-old Gloria Cavazos Quezada, who was raised in Mexico. “To my knowledge, she is considered a universal Mary. They are all St. Mary in different apparitions, so that is how Mexicans celebrate her.” Quezada stated that Mary appeared to Indian Juan Diego and told him she wanted a shine built in her honor at the place she appeared, Tepeyac Hill. Juan Diego took her request to the Bishop and he asked for proof.
Diego went back to the Virgin and she told him to gather roses in his huipal, which is like an apron, and to take the roses to the Bishop. “When he goes to show him, he empties his apron for the Bishop and her image was there.”
Padre Jorge says of Dias de los Muertos, “In the Spanish culture, we have the tradition of paying honor to our ancestors. On November 2, we had an altar in the outer courtyard with pictures, food, and drink that they enjoyed when they were here. We pray for them, but we now know that Purgatory doesn’t exist, but we are trying to teach the people that we are in communion with people who have died and are in the presence of God.”
Quezada remembers that one of her childhood homes was a few blocks from the cemetery. They celebrated Dias de los Muertos, and it was like a big carnival. They also celebrated Dias de los Santos (All Saints Day) on November 1, a two-day carnival.
Padre Jorge says that Las Posadas is a nine-day celebration. However, they will only have one celebration. Las Posadas is a reenactment of Joseph and Mary going from place to place, looking for a place to stay when they had to leave Nazarene to go to Bethlehem for a census. St. Michael’s will celebrate with songs, traditional foods, candies, and piñatas for the children.
Quezada is familiar with Las Posadas but remembers hearing about it being celebrated in the villages, although she lived in the city.
During the Lenten season, St. Michaels will offer, in English, two Stations of the Cross services on Flex Fridays. One of which will be a Migrant Service, which may be in Spanish. This is especially for those who have come from a different country. Padre Jorge says, “It’s from Jesus’ arrest through His death and even taking him down from the cross. There are 12 icons and 14 statues around the perimeter of the church’s interior. There are special prayers that are said for each station.”
Padre Jorge came to St. Michael’s from the Diocese of Connecticut, where he served for four years. Prior to that, he served at the Diocese of Los Angeles for ten years. He was ordained in Mexico, and after serving for two years, he was asked to join the Diocese of Los Angeles, which needed a Spanish-speaking priest.
“I grew up in a highly religious family,” he says. “My mother was Roman Catholic, and my father was a Methodist. I grew up in the Roman Catholic Church. I served as an acolyte for a long time. But you know, we are out of the church when we are teenagers.” He became a Civil Engineer and had his own company. He was very successful and could be considered wealthy. “But God has his own ways to call us. I always attended church on Sunday.” Then, on a visit to Visalia, California, he attended St. Paul’s Anglican Church. “We liked it so much when we came back to Mexico we looked for the Episcopal church, and we knew that it is called the Anglican Church in Mexico.”
He became involved and then started studying in the seminary. It took him six years to become ordained because he was working during the day as a high school principal. He attended seminary daily after work and then all weekend. After being ordained in 2006, he worked without pay for two years.
The Anglican priesthood was difficult for his family to understand. Roman Catholic priests are not allowed to marry, but Anglican priests can. “I felt called to this to the ministry and to leave behind everything: the business, my original career, Civil Engineer. Many of us face opposition from friends and family because they say, ‘How can this guy who has money and is his own boss? Is it possible that he will be a priest? What kind of church is that?’ It is an extraordinary situation because, in Mexico, most people know the Roman Catholic Church but not the Anglican Church. They don’t know a priest can be married and have children.”
Padre Jorge and his wife wanted to return to California and are very happy with their home here. He says, “I think it is a perfect place for us. Very peaceful. I think it is a safe place. And I feel very, very happy to be with this congregation.” The parishioners are happy to have them after being without a priest for five years. Deacon Cathy Kline says, “Our last priest moved back to New York because the desert wasn’t for her. We then had a supply priest from Ridgecrest, a Lutheran, with whom our church is in communion. He came to do Holy Communion service once a month, and we used Morning Prayer services led by Lay Ministers the other three weeks until COVID hit. During the shutdown, we only met by Zoom without a priest. With the priest shortage throughout the US, we could not find anyone until Padre Jorge.”
Padre Jorge extends an invitation, “If you need a place where you feel comfortable and welcomed, here we are.”