Our Lady of Mt. Carmel
- Contact: 13541 Stoney Creek Rd., San Diego 858-484-1070 www.olmcsandiego.org
- Membership: 2,800 (pre-COVID 3,400)
- Pastor: Father Anthony Saroki
- Age: 46
- Born: Royal Oak, MI
- Formation: Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.; University of California-Berkeley Law School; St. John’s Seminary, Camarillo
- Years Ordained: 15
San Diego Reader: What is your main concern as a member of the clergy?
Father Anthony Saroki: What is God doing through the events that are happening these days – both COVID and the social unrest that has followed it? Part of this is supposed to be an opportunity for purification and renewal in the Church, and I don’t know if we’re responding to it well. There has already been a crisis of faith prior to COVID — so many people are only nominally Christian, and Christianity is much less important in people’s lives. So this has been something long developing. These current disruptions are God’s way of getting our attention.
SDR: Why did you become a priest?
FS: I grew up in a great Catholic family, the oldest of six. I was taught generosity and responsibility in my upbringing. But I had an adult conversion to Christ through a number of spiritual experiences and people I met as an undergraduate student. I went from not going to Mass to going to Mass every day. I still expected to become a lawyer and looking forward to being married, having children and a Catholic family. But after my first year of law school, in 1997, I went on a trip to France with some friends from college, led by a couple great Jesuits. At the time, World Youth Day was in Paris. Prior to that event, I went on a five-day silent retreat. In the quiet of that prayer I began to sense God calling me to the priesthood, and that call became clearer over time.
SDR: What is the mission of your church?
FS: Love, praise and proclaim Christ. We look to the basics of Christian life – liturgy and personal prayer, service and fellowship – and how we live these out in different ways. But we want to share Christ with others too through outreach, for instance, to fallen-away Catholics. We also have beautiful celebrations of the sacraments, and outreach to the poor, including a huge two-year process of advocating for a low-income housing community next to the parish, which was an amazing experience.
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
FS: Catholics believe in three options – heaven, hell and purgatory. I like Benedict XIV’s whole treatment of that in his encyclical Spe Salvi. His description of purgatory is excellent. Basically, Benedict says, nothing unclean can enter heaven, which we know from Revelation (21:27). So something has to happen between the moment of our death and fully enjoying God in heaven. It’s an act of purifying love from God to free us from our tendency to sin so that we can actually enjoy God in heaven. So God does something for us to complete our sanctification. Benedict focuses on one of Paul’s letters where he talks about each of us being built with different materials, and that which was built with straw is burnt away (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). That said, the suffering in hell is a hopeless suffering, a separation from God and a primary pain of hell, and there’s no prospect of seeing God face to face. But suffering in purgatory is a hopeful suffering because one there knows that he’ll see God face to face but he needs to endure certain things to enjoy that experience of being in God’s presence.