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A reader writes … By Timothy Yanni

March 09, 2001

In the past years there have been many negative letters sent in to the Imperial Valley Press with negative feelings toward St. Mary's parish and St. Mary's Catholic School.

This letter is to refute all those letters.

I am a 1996 graduate of St. Mary's and it pains me to read so many letters that talk down about my "alma mater" if you will. It is equally painful to read letters that discriminate against the parish I have called home for well over 10 years.

The first thing I have to say is if a parishioner is unhappy at St. Mary's, all he or she has to do is leave.

No feelings will be hurt if they decide not to attend Mass at St. Mary's anymore. It is between their conscience and God and no one else.

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With this being said, there is no need to go around displaying why that individual is dissatisfied. The church does not tell any secrets about her members to the general public, so her members should show her equal respect. The same is true for St. Mary's School.

Attending St. Mary's School is a privilege. If a family becomes dissatisfied with the education that its children are receiving at St. Mary's, that family can simply register at a public school and waive that privilege, no questions asked.

There is no need to explain one's dissatisfaction so publicly about such a personal matter. When so many people show their disgust with St. Mary's as a parish, there are non-Catholics who use these complaints to form a negative image of the church I love.

To those of you who have publicly written about your dissatisfaction with St. Mary's, I ask you from my heart to no longer do so.

By writing negative letters, you portray a bad image of a good man, Monsignor Thomas Vidra; of a fine parish community, St. Mary's Parish; of a wonderful diocese, the Diocese of San Diego; and even of the church instituted by Christ Himself, the Holy Roman Catholic Church.

The next time you decide to write a letter to the editor about St. Mary's or the church as a whole, for that matter, ask yourself whom you are going to hurt.

After today, you know that you are hurting me. I take these letters personally and I know there are a lot of loyal parishioners who feel the same way.

You do not see the church mocking anyone's employment, status or education, so please do not mock the church.

If you feel you must protest, you do have that right. But do so quietly

.Being a lector, extraordinary minister and usher, it is easy for me to identify when a regular member is not present. I'm sure Monsignor Vidra can identify your absence as well. Simply by not being there, your protest is being heard.

If you comply with my request, thank you.

For those of you who have formed a negative image of St. Mary's because of reading these letters, I ask that you open your eyes to the good the parish and school offer our community.

Imagine how terrible the world would be if only the bad in it were seen.

Everyone in the Imperial Valley should know that St. Mary's is here for all of us, Catholics and non-Catholics alike. All parishes and schools are here for all of us.

St. Mary's School participates in all the events that other schools participate in and possibly more.

Money is raised and food is collected by students of St. Mary's for those who are less fortunate. Students at St. Mary's do community service, both in the United States and Mexico. And students who attend St. Mary's are given a thorough background in their religion before entering high school.

I know I would not be where I am today if I hadn't attended St. Mary's. The memories and experiences I obtained from St. Mary's will remain always with me, and I feel I am a better person, simply because I went to St. Mary's. I feel much the same way about St. Mary's parish.

As I said earlier, I am very active in the church. When I was younger, I was an altar server and I sang in the children's choir. St. Mary's parish has given me the opportunity to serve in these ways and more.

A new parish hall will be completed this month and will be put to good use for community functions. I would be highly supportive of youth activities to take place in this hall and I would be glad to donate my time to youths of our community to take advantage of the hall.

St. Mary's parish and school are fine institutions and I have them always in my heart.

I ask from my heart that no more letters be written to portray St. Mary's as negative. If for no other reason, discontinue writing them out of consideration for those you are hurting, myself included.

TIMOTHY YANNI is an El Centro resident and student at Imperial Valley College.

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