Actor and activist Edward James Olmos has known the Rev. Richard Estrada and the late Canon Lydia Lopez for years. Born in east Whittier, Lydia marched for Chicano and farmworker rights and fought to keep insurance companies and transit officials from disadvantaging Hispanic neighborhoods. She also helped form two generations of ordained clergy in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

Born in East Los Angeles, Ed was a professional baseball player and regionally famous rock star before becoming an actor. After he was nominated for a Tony Award for “Zoot Suit” in 1981, the phone started ringing. “Hey, Ed, we need you,” Lydia and Richard said.

Ed was there for them both once again on Sunday as historic Church of the Epiphany – Los Angeles officially launched the Immigration Welcoming Center, part of the new Lydia Lopez Center for Community Empowerment. During the festivities at La Plaza de Cultures y Artes near downtown LA, priest in charge the Rev. John Watson announced that Epiphany has already raised $100,000 for the project. Olmos gave a stirring talk about Lydia and Richard and the unity of all humanity.

Epiphany and the diocese took on the challenge after Lydia’s death in January 2023, catalyzed by Fr. Richard, who also founded Jovenes, Inc., which helps housing insecure young people. Veteran justice worker Grace R. Dyrness is spearheading the fundraising. Canon for Common Life Bob Williams brought along historical displays on Lydia and Epiphany.

I was along to say thanks. “The greatest sin of our civic life in the United States is that when it comes to immigrants and immigrant workers, we have forsaken the language of human dignity,” I said. “Our political debates on this issue have been curdled by the sour antidemocratic vocabulary of scapegoating and hate. As Canon Lydia would have us do, Fr. Richard and we begin with the dignity of every human being, with universal human rights, with a vision of the United States as a place of welcome, hospitality, and renewal – a society at last within sight of its destiny as the greatest pluralistic democracy on earth.”

Perfecting the union was also the overarching theme of “The West Wing,” in which Edward James Olmos famously figured (S1:E15) as Roberto Mendoza, President Bartlett’s first SCOTUS pick, who before his nomination hearings is unjustly imprisoned for drunk driving in a small Connecticut town.

“It’s a good Christian ethics test,” I ventured on Sunday. “Should your character have stayed in jail to make a point, or let the White House aides bust him out so he can go on the court?”

“That’s the question,” the Emmy Award winner said with a smile.