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Independent Catholic Church offers services in Rocklin

Religion includes everyone in all aspects of church’s life
By: Gloria Beverage, Placer Herald correspondent
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Members of St. Michael’s Independent Catholic Church are finding joy in a religion they believe is truly universal and accepting.

Lifelong Roman Catholics and Rocklin residents Elizabeth and Carl Schooss are among the founding members of the Independent Catholic Church, a small but growing church community in Rocklin.

The couple, who are in their 70s, made the decision to join the Independent Catholic Church after becoming disillusioned with the authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

“Our hope was that the Vatican II Council would become up-to-date and all-inclusive,” Elizabeth Schooss said. “We just couldn’t take it anymore. We decided to get out, to stop paying them, to stop going.”

Carl Schooss added, “Fighting the hierarchy from within the Roman Catholic Church is counterproductive, not even possible in this political climate.”

What the couple sought was a religion that fully included everyone in every aspect of the church’s life without regard to sexual orientation, disability, race or age.

And they found it in the Independent Catholic Church, which was founded and incorporated in Florida in 1996 as both a denomination and an interfaith church fellowship. But the church’s history, they point out, dates back to 650 A.D., when traditional Old Catholics split with Rome.

The denomination shares the teachings and liturgical heritage of the Roman Catholic Church, including the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, Reconciliation (confession), Matrimony, Anointing of the Sick and Holy Orders.

“I supported the formation of a new kind of Catholic church here in Rocklin, where there are no paid clergy and the people make up the body of Christ,” Carl Schooss continued. “This new church recognizes equality among ethnic origins, genders, straights and homosexuals. We celebrated our first Mass (in Rocklin) on May 5.”

Independent Catholic churches, Carl Schooss continued, are “run” by the congregation with a pastor or parish administrator assigned to preside over Masses or sacraments.

Rocklin’s spiritual lead-er is Father Luis Gomez, who rejoices in his role within the church.

Raised in Mexico, Gomez was studying to be a Roman Catholic priest when he met his life partner.

“I met this person who became very important to me,” he said, adding he made the decision to leave the seminary. “I came to the U.S. with my partner and found the Independent Catholic Church. I liked it.”

Gomez was ordained at Good Shepherd Church in West Sacramento five years ago – fulfilling his dream of becoming a priest.

As with all clergy in the denomination, he continues his work in the community during the week, but brings his unique perspective to weekly services. 

“We want to reach out to Catholics who feel they were abandoned by the church in some way,” he said. “The sacraments belong to everyone. They’re a gift from God. It’s not for us to say who gets it and who doesn’t. It is a personal matter between the individual and God.”

In addition to Father Gomez, the Rocklin congregation shares a pastoral group of five ordained priests who take turns leading the weekly services.

Mother Elizabeth English, 62, was ordained a priest in the Independent Catholic Church three years ago.

Like Gomez, Elizabeth found the Independent Catholic Church a “welcoming place.”

“I no longer felt good about the Roman Catholic Church,” she said. “I was never called to be a nun. There’s no room for females in the priesthood. But, I was called to serve God. I just didn’t know it was going to be here.”

Roseville resident Lillian Crosson, 79, who describes herself as a feminist, enjoys attending the Rocklin services.

“I believe women should be equal,” she said. “That was very important to me – especially that they could be priests.”

Lincoln Hills resident Pauline Boccelli had an ulterior motive for attending services.

“Originally a friend was playing keyboard and singing,” explained the 71-year-old. “She asked me to come and play the organ. I didn’t quite realize what I was getting into.”

After a time, Boccelli added, she realized she was enjoying herself.

“I don’t like big fancy churches with huge crowds,” she said. “That is not what this church is all about. They accept everybody.”

Schooss points out the congregation is collecting hygiene supplies to donate to homeless at Francis House and helps serves meals once a month at Loves and Fishes.

“‘We affirm the freedom to follow one’s conscience as a part of a healthy life of faith,” Carl Schooss concluded.

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Know & Go

St. Michael’s Independent Church

When: Mass celebrated at 5 p.m. Saturdays

Where: Rocklin Parks & Recreation Building, 5460 Fifth Ave.

Info: www.stmichaelsrocklin.org