Rafael Luevano awoke Sunday with a twinge in his heart.
His father has been dead for 18 years, and Luevano has no children.
But the 47-year-old priest preached at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Santa Ana on Father's Day, and his mood lifted as he shook hands, kissed cheeks and accepted hugs.
"It still remains an issue not to have children of my own," the Roman Catholic priest said. "But I still feel like the head of a family . . . accepted and loved in the most intimate way."
Like fathers religious, biological and adoptive across the county, Luevano found himself the center of attention Sunday. Even though he cannot marry or have children of his own, his parishioners showered Father Rafael with good wishes and invitations to dinner.
Although Luevano said he sometimes envies couples with children, he always feels part of a larger family on Father's Day because so many of his parishioners reach out and include him in their family.
"That's part of the irony and joy of today," he said.
At Mile Square Regional Park in Fountain Valley, the holiday was a new experience for Roberto Lopez, whose daughter, Emily, is 6 months.
Before his daughter was born, the 24-year-old Lopez said most of his Father's Days were spent much like any other Sunday--watching sports on TV.
But this year, he said, the holiday has taken on new meaning.
"Right now, it's a chance for me to think about how I'm going to raise her," he said, nodding toward Emily, who was sleeping peacefully in a crib under the shade of a tree. "But hopefully in a few years, this will be a day when she thanks me for doing a good job."
The Grants of Fullerton get together at this time every year at Mile Square Park to barbecue and spend time together for that very reason.
"It's a good chance to let your father know you appreciate what he did, and maybe set an example for your own son," said Gary Grant, 64, as he threw a football to his son, Steven, 34, who, in turn, heaved the ball to his son, William, 10.