Mercy and the Holy Spirit


Jake Martin, SJ, will be ordained in June

This past week I had an opportunity to meet with my Jesuit brothers at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley. Sitting in a room with 17 men who are about to be ordained priests, I couldn’t help but reminisce on my own experience 30 years ago, when I was waiting to be ordained. These men have spent many years working towards this moment, an achievement that is just as memorable as it is sacred. May God bless them!

Photo courtesy of Rev. Thomas Massaro, SJ

divider bar for blogI also administered Confirmation for a group of students at St. Patrick’s church last week, a celebration I always enjoy. While I was there, I was blessed to meet a young man named Jesus Rojas. Jesus is currently battling leukemia; yet his spirit is so alive. Jesus is such a courageous boy, a warm, loving child who demonstrates all that God wants us to be. God is with him, as he is with us always. I pray the gift of the Holy Spirit will help heal him and carry his family through this difficult time. I have been also requesting prayers for him, so I would really appreciate if you can join me in praying for Jesus.

Photos courtesy of St. Patrick parish

divider bar for blogOn Friday, April 24, we had a National Congress on Divine Mercy at the Cathedral. It was a beautiful devotion arranged by Father Carl Arcosa, with help from the Marians of the Immaculate Order from the National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass. It was a delight to work with everyone and be a part of such a wonderful event!

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Photos:  Al Pacciorini/The Catholic Voice

divider bar for blogThe following Sunday I went to St. Margaret Mary parish to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. This new order has been serving the Extraordinary Form Latin Mass community of our diocese very faithfully these past 10 years. It was a joyful celebration, and a very well prepared and reverent liturgy. Moreover, the community was vibrant and full of life, and I was very happy to see people from all ages there.

divider bar for blogI enjoy going around meeting parishioners, speaking and answering questions about the work of our diocese at Capital Campaign receptions. I love events like these; being able to connect and engage with the public is one of the many benefits I find in my work. This last week I went to St. Mary’s in Walnut Creek, Our Lady of Good Counsel in San Leandro, and St. Joseph the Worker in Berkeley. It is always such a pleasure to meet members of the community and hear about their experiences in the church.

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Visit from Bishop Luke Kim Woon Hoe, Bishop of Chuncheon, South Korea

L-R: Terry Augustine Cho, Fr. Gabriel Kim, Bishop Barber, Bishop Luke Kim, Fr. Thaddeus Kim, Simon Peter Lee

This week, I also had an opportunity to welcome Bishop Luke Kim Woon Hoe, Bishop of Chuncheon, South Korea, for a courtesy visit last weekend. The bishop was in town to administer the sacrament of Confirmation to our two Korean Catholic parishes. We are blessed to have not only one, but two vibrant and growing Korean parishes in our diocese. As you probably remember, their choir was our special featured guest during our Chrism Mass in March, and they rendered an outstanding performance.

divider bar for blogMay the Lord continue blessing you and your loved ones. Please keep me in your prayers.

Installing, confirming and campaigning

Last week I made a quick trip to San Diego for the installation Mass of their new bishop, Most Rev. Robert McElroy, formerly auxiliary bishop of San Francisco.  I was able to see some of my former students who are now priests of the diocese of San Diego.  Here I am with Bishop McElroy.
Bishops Barber and McElroy

Procession, Installation of Bishop McElroy, Diocese of San Diego

Procession, Installation of Bishop Robert McElroy, Diocese of San Diego  Photo:  The Southern Cross

divider bar for blogOn Thursday the 16th I was invited to celebrate Confirmation at Holy Spirit Newman Center in Berkeley.  Great group of young people who responded enthusiastically during the service. There was an atmosphere of joy, respect, reverence, and communion-with-the-Church.

The Paulist Fathers are doing a very good job taking care of the Newman Center and parish, which has been in their care since 1908.  Here’s the “Official Photo” of the Confirmation class:

Holy Spirit officialHere’s the more fun selfie:

Holy Spirit selfiedivider bar for blogFriday, I visited two parishes at opposite ends of the Diocese.  I celebrated morning Mass at St. Michael’s Livermore, followed by a Capital Campaign reception.

Afterward, the pastor, Fr. Van Dinh, showed me the ceiling of the parish hall, which is collapsing inward.  St. Michael’s is going to use their return on the Campaign to make necessary repairs to the historic hall.

divider bar for blogI then went from Livermore to St. Anthony’s in Oakley.  Arriving at the parish hall for a lunch Campaign reception, I found the pastor, Fr. Ken Sales, in the kitchen, personally making a “Maja Blanca” dessert.  Fr. Ken takes our Lord’s words “Feed my lambs” seriously.  He even made an extra dessert for the bishop to take home.  Here he is with Deacon Alan Layden, putting last minute touches on the cake.

St. Anthony dessert

St. Anthony campaign reception

St. Anthony Campaign Reception

Giving me a tour of the grounds before our reception, Fr. Ken showed me where the parish would like to build an Adoration Chapel with the proceeds of the Campaign.  I am sure God will bless this undertaking.




divider bar for blogOn Saturday morning at the Cathedral I confirmed over 125 young people from St. Paul’s in San Pablo, St. Monica’s in Moraga, and St. Ignatius in Antioch.  Again, it’s thrilling to see the Cathedral filled with young people and their families, celebrating such a special day in their lives. I spoke to the congregation about Jordan Spieth, the 21 year old golfer who just won the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia.  The young man is so impressive, not only for his golfing abilities, but for his humility and care for his younger sister, who has autism.  And he is a graduate of Catholic grammar and high schools.  You can listen to my homily here:

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Photos:  James Scolamieri

divider bar for blogThat evening I celebrated a Vigil Mass at Santa Maria parish in Orinda, followed by a Campaign Reception in the parish hall.  They have a special choir at Santa Maria, composed not only of adults, but of children and teenagers.  One outstanding young fellow came to church literally right off the baseball diamond.  Jack sings in the choir with his sister and mom.

divider bar for blogOn Sunday morning I was back in Livermore, this time to visit the newer parish, St. Charles Borromeo.  I celebrated the 11:30 Mass and administered Confirmation.  Fr. Mark Wiesner, the pastor, is very tech-savvy.  He live-streams Mass on the internet every Sunday.  During his remarks at Mass, he mentioned how St. Charles’ Easter Vigil Mass had the second most hits on YouTube for an Easter Vigil after the Holy Father’s Mass in the Vatican. I would have gotten a haircut if I’d known he was going to broadcast my Confirmation all over the world.

I almost drove right by the parish.  The outside of St. Charles church looks like a Chinese restaurant.  The inside looks like a gym (the original purpose for the building).  Yet the liturgy was very beautiful.  There was enthusiastic participation at the Mass, especially from the Confirmation candidates.

Fr. Mark has done a great job here as pastor.  You can watch all or parts of the Mass here:

.  Here are the young people that were confirmed.

St. Charles Borromeo Confirmation 2015 GroupAbove Photos from St. Charles:  Clare Kalantar

Parish visits, Chrism Mass highlights and Holy Week begins

Pic 2 Church of the AssumptionLast week I visited Assumption parish in San Leandro for a capital campaign reception. Everything there looked familiar. I used to visit this parish regularly in the 1970’s and 1980’s as my aunt and cousins lived near there. Fathers Vince Scott and Chris Berbena kindly fed me beforehand. We had an excellent turnout. I praise Assumption parish, especially that they have recently given us a new priest in Father Derrick Oliveira, whose own father still lives in the parish.Pic 3 Church of the Assumptiondivider bar for blogThe next day I traveled to Union City and Our Lady of the Rosary parish. Fr. Jesus Nieto hosted us. It was Lenten “Soup Night” and parishioners had prepared about 12 pots of different soups to share. Our presentations that evening were evenly divided into Spanish and English in this richly diverse parish.

divider bar for blogOne of the highlights of the liturgical year for me is the annual Chrism Mass. Every year before the evening liturgy, all the priests gather with the bishop and we have a conference and meal together. I gave a presentation on “The State of the Diocese” to report to the priests on my stewardship.

150406_bbarber_priestsI then asked the staff of Catholic Charities to make a presentation. My goal was to continue implementing Pope Francis’ vision of care for the poor. Chuck Fernandez and his team have created a whole new initiative to place the resources of Catholic Charities in the hands of our pastors so they can respond to people who ring the rectory doorbell asking “Father, can you help me?”

I also had the happy opportunity of presenting Steve Mullin with the Diocesan Medal of Merit. Steve has just completed 14 years as Director of Parish Life at All Saints Parish Hayward, and taken up a new post as parish liaison at Catholic Charities. Thanks, Steve!

Fr.  Johnson Abraham

Fr. Johnson Abraham

In the afternoon we also held the ritual of Incardination of Fr. Johnson Abraham of St. Agnes parish, Concord. Incardination is the process where a priest formally transfers from a religious order or another diocese into the Diocese of Oakland. Fr. Johnson formally swore his fidelity and obedience to Christ and to the bishop, in the presence of the College of Presbyters (all the diocesan priests).

DSC_0149At the Chrism Mass I blessed the Holy Oils. The olive oil which I blessed is donated every year by the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose from their olive orchard. The original olive trees on their property were planted by the Franciscan missionaries who founded Mission San Jose in Fremont.

DSC_0117Since all the priests were gathered together for this Mass, we included the Ceremony of Candidacy. This is the final step before ordination to the diaconate. Our seminarian Luis Lopez was formally recognized and welcomed into the Presbyterate of the diocese. We could use many more young men like Luis to join the ranks of our seminarians and diocesan priests.

We were blessed at the Chrism Mass by Fr. Bud Stevens, rector of St. Patrick’s Seminary, who was the guest homilist. You can listen to his impressive homily here.

In the Chrism Mass, all the priests renewed the promises made at their ordination. It is quite moving to witness this solemn rededication of so many men to the service of Christ and His Church. I am extremely grateful for the daily sacrifice and hard work of our priests.DSC_0122 croppedPhotos:  Al Pacciorini/The Catholic Voice

divider bar for blogWe had one more capital campaign reception before Holy Week and Easter. We went up to St. Jerome’s in El Cerrito where Father Fernando Cortez welcomed us. At these receptions we talk more about Faith than money. It is one of the best opportunities I have as bishop to answer parishioners’ questions and hear their comments on the life of the Catholic Church in Oakland. I enjoy it.divider bar for blog

Then last Sunday we celebrated Palm Sunday. We had a procession in the Cathedral Plaza, made all the more special by the presence of the Ladies of St. Peter Claver, and the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre.

Holy Sepulchre croppedThe Cathedral was beautifully decorated with palms, and the music by our choir was wonderful. Helped by the beautiful music and architecture of our cathedral, I am reminded how participation in the Holy Week Liturgies is the best way to enter into the mystery of the Lord’s passion, death, and resurrection.Bishop mom and child croppedThank you to John Espinoza for these last two photos.


Saints Patrick and Joseph, and some campaigning

Last week’s activities began on St. Patrick’s Day with an early Mass at St. Patrick’s School in Rodeo. I visited the classrooms as the students arrived at 7:30 a.m.  There was a lot of buzz in the air, as everyone was dressed for St. Patrick.  Some kids even had green hair. I found very happy children, yet reverent and focused during the morning prayer-assembly and later at Mass.  They also have a full kindergarten, as well as preschool, and what looked like pre-pre-preschool . . .  for babies!

Just like when visiting Santa, babies cry when visiting the Bishop!

Just like when visiting Santa, babies cry when visiting the Bishop!

divider bar for blogLater on St. Patrick’s Day we held the funeral Mass for Father Seamus Genovese. There was a very impressive turnout of parishioners and friends, as well as diocesan priests.  Fr. Seamus was my neighbor . . . just a twenty minute walk across the top of Lake Merritt.  He always had a drink and a place ready at the table for guests who dropped in for dinner.  May he rest in peace!

Genovese,Seamus D resizeddivider bar for blogOn the evening of St. Patrick’s Day, when many people are having “a wee dram of the dew” or at least an Irish Coffee, a couple hundred parishioners of St. Joan of Arc parish in San Ramon came to hear me give a talk on “Discernment of Spirits, according to St. Ignatius Loyola.”  This is a method to discover God’s will in one’s life through following the influence of good spirits and recognizing the deceits of evil spirits.  We had a lively discussion. I was glad to see a van full of teenagers attending, as St. Ignatius’s method is particularly helpful in deciding which of many paths to follow in life.

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Photos: Dominique Ghekiere-Mintz

divider bar for blogLast week I continued my Capital Campaign parish visitations with visits to Holy Spirit Fremont, and Good Shepherd, Pittsburg.

Holy Spirit student presentation
A large group of students from Holy Spirit School came to the evening reception and presented me with a Pledge for $2,500!  That’s a lot of sacrificial Twinkies.  As I go around the diocese, it is heartening to see children from many of our schools participating in our campaign to Reclaim Christ’s Mission Together. Thank you, Holy Spirit students.



Pic 1 Bishop at Church of the Good Shepard In Pittsburg the parish has already achieved 25% of their goal, and I was touched by the number of people who approached me after our presentation to increase their pledges. Thank you for your love and generosity, Good Shepherd!


divider bar for blogHearts of loveOn St. Joseph’s Day, March 19, I was invited to St. Joseph’s Grammar School and St. Joseph’s High School in Alameda. We celebrated two Masses in the Basilica, one for each school. We could have had only one Mass, together, in the gym . . . but using the historic church is so much more conducive to prayer.  The elementary school students sang a song at the end of Mass, complete with sword and shield, and hearts of love.

St. Josephs second gradeWhen I visited the Second Grade, the children presented me with a spiritual bouquet. Each “flower” represented a Hail Mary that the kids prayed, complete with a special intention. They read off their intentions. One of them said “We pray that Bishop Barber will be the best bishop in the whole world!”  I think that role has already been filled by Pope Francis.  But what a nice prayer.  I’ll try and live up to that prayer.

St. Joseph high school groupThese St. Joe’s High School students gave me a full tour of the campus.  With 415 students, the school has a close community spirit. It is one of the very few remaining “parish high schools’ on the West Coast.

Fr. George Alengadan and his vicar, Fr. Thi, invited us for lunch — together with the members of the Diocesan Presbyteral Council.  We took advantage of Father’s hospitality to have our monthly Council meeting. Thanks, Fr. George!

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Photos:  Marylea Battaglia

On Saturday I went to St. Mary’s Church in Walnut Creek to confirm 88 young people.  Many family members and friends had to stand throughout the Mass, as the church was filled to overflowing.  One young fellow, Ian Mannix, Seventh Grader at St. Mary’s School, waited patiently in the parking lot for some time, protecting my parking place.  Thank you, Ian!parking spotdivider bar for blogBp with Hermana GlendaOn Saturday evening, our Hispanic Ministries division of the Department of Faith Formation and Evangelization sponsored a concert in Christ the Light Cathedral featuring Hermana Glenda, a nun from Spain.  Meeting her beforehand, Sister Glenda told me that although she has a degree in Scripture from the Jesuit Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, God has called her to teach scripture through singing. She does this quite well, as concert-goers were led not only to listen to her music, but to pray.  The event raised about half the funds needed to support the annual diocesan Our Lady of Guadalupe Pilgrimage, Procession and Mass.  Since meeting her, I’ve been listening to Hermana Glenda for free on Pandora.

divider bar for blogOn Sunday March 22, we had two celebrations, which when taken together, express the unity-in-diversity of our diocese:

St Margaret Mary servers

St. Margaret Mary altar servers and Rev. Rafal Duda

In the morning I celebrated Mass and Confirmation at St. Margaret Mary’s parish in Oakland for 15 students.  The Mass and Confirmation rite were in Latin, celebrated in accord with the post-Vatican 2 “Novus Ordo” Missal.  The students responded to the renewal of their baptismal promises with a loud “Credo!”  (“I believe”).   St. Margaret Mary’s is known for celebrating weekly and daily Mass with both the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite.  Since the group was small, I was able to quiz the kids about who they chose as their confirmation saint-names and why.  A good number spoke to a packed church about the inspiration they drew from their new patrons.

On Sunday afternoon, I was invited by the Oakland Catholic Worker community to celebrate Mass in commemoration of the martyrdom of Archbishop Romero, which took place on March 24, 1980. This year was particularly special, as the Holy Father has just approved the Beatification of Archbishop Romero, which will take place in El Salvador on May 23rd.  So many people attended, we had to have the Mass outside, under tents.  Everything was in Spanish.

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At the request of the Salvadoran Catholic community of our diocese, we will arrange a special Mass in our Cathedral in honor of the Blessed Oscar Romero (date TBA).  I am very proud and pleased at the spiritual and corporal works of mercy offered by the Catholic Worker communities (Oakland and Berkeley) in our diocese.  They quietly and faithfully house immigrants and refugees, shelter those who are in trouble, and consistently feed the poor.  All this service is given with love for Christ and the Church, as exemplified in the life of their founder, Dorothy Day.   I await with hope the day she will likewise be beatified by the Church.

Photos: Raúl Ayrala/The Catholic Voice-El Heraldo Católico

Music and Oakland’s diversity in a week

Last week I traveled around the Diocese, and the Country.

st. john 1Fr. Michael Lacey invited me to St. John the Baptist parish in San Lorenzo for a Capital Campaign reception. The parish is excited because they have just bought a large parcel of property next door and can finally create a proper playground for the students in their parish school. The parish had been landlocked for years, but with the help of the diocese, the parish was able to acquire an adjoining Japanese nursery which ceased operations. The Diocesan Capital Campaign is designed for such opportunities. Strong parishes make for a strong john SLZ cropped

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On Wednesday I flew to Washington, D.C. for a meeting at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) headquarters. I am on the “Higher Education” committee, helping Catholic Colleges and Universities strengthen their Catholic identity and mission. I stayed with the Jesuit Community at Gonzaga College High School. Founded in 1821, it is one of the oldest Jesuit apostolates in the USA. Here’s a view of St. Aloysius, the parish church attached to the school.

School Blog

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Last Saturday we hosted the University of Notre Dame Glee Club at the Oakland Cathedral. They gave a Benefit Concert for FACE: “Family Aid for Catholic Education.” This is a fund that helps parents with financial aid to send their children to our diocesan Catholic schools.

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The Glee Club sang a variety of music, from sacred to barbershop quartets. We enjoyed their music, and the choir clearly loved singing in our majestic cathedral with its impressive acoustics. Notre Dame University also helps our diocese by providing “ACE teachers” (Alliance for Catholic Education) who help in our urban Catholic grammar schools.

Photos:  Jose Aguirre/FACE

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image2On Sunday we had a “Double-Header”: Morning Mass in the Cathedral in honor of St. Joseph Vaz, newly canonized saint from Sri Lanka. In the afternoon, I celebrated Mass for our diocesan Indonesian Catholic Community.

The morning Mass was preceded by a Buddhist choir who came to sing hymns of peace in honor of the new Saint. Joseph Vaz was an Oratorian Catholic priest of Indian birth who went as a missionary in Sri Lanka in the 17th century. image3He was protected by the Buddhist king from arrest by the Calvinist Dutch colonizers. Without Buddhist protection, he would not have been able to carry out his ministry. The Buddhist choir came to celebrate that connection. Although I have seen fervent Hindus venerating the tombs of St. Francis Xavier and Mother Teresa, it is the first time I have heard a Buddhist choir sing in honor of a Catholic saint in a Catholic cathedral. I was very grateful for their visit and their reverence. We had a very good turnout of Indian and Sri Lankan Catholics from our diocese. Pope Francis just performed the official canonization on his visit to Sri Lanka in January of this year.

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The afternoon Mass with the Indonesian community was held at St. Anne’s Church in Union City, thanks to the hospitality of the pastor, Fr. Geoffrey Baraan. I was intrigued by the Indonesian choir and their unusual wooden instruments. The exotic sounds reminded me of the Arthur Lyman records my parents used to listen to when I was a kid.

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Catholicism is a minority in Indonesia. The largest Muslim country in the world, only 3% of the population is Catholic. In spite of this, the Catholic Church is famous there for our Schools, where many Muslims send their children to be educated. Our Mass was preceded and followed by elegant traditional dances, which in the culture are used to welcome and honor guests. The youth who danced were reverent, respectful, and exceedingly graceful. There is so much joy and kindness in the Indonesian Catholic community, and they contribute so much to the rich makeup of our diocese.

Photos:  Darwin Sayo/The Catholic Voice

Oregon, and then into the Diocese

Early last week I flew up to Oregon and visited our three Oakland seminarians studying at Mt. Angel Seminary: (left to right) Garrett McGowan, Huong Dinh, and Jose Morales. They are studying in the college seminary there.  (Fr. Neal Clemens, diocesan Vocations Director, is on the far right.) Mt. St. Angel 2Mt. Angel

It is a beautiful spot, about an hour and a half outside Portland.  It was about 20 degrees cooler there than Oakland, that’s why the guys without coats are shivering in the photo.

divider bar for blogAlso last week I visited St. Leander’s parish, San Leandro, for a Capital Campaign reception.  One of our diocese’s oldest parishes, St. Leander’s has a great diversity of parishioners: Portuguese, Italian, Anglo, and now a large Latino congregation. We held the reception in English and Spanish.  I also got to practice my Italian.

divider bar for blogcristo rey logoOn Thursday we had the kick-off meeting to begin a feasibility study for a new Cristo Rey High School in Oakland. The former director of Catholic Charities, Steve Wilcox, is heading the project, and we were pleased to have representatives from the Chicago-based Cristo Rey Network join us.  This is a unique model, where students attend classes four days a week, and work in a business on the fifth.  The school is designed for students from low-income families who may not have the financial resources for Catholic school tuition.  Money earned by working is applied to their tuition. You’ll definitely hear more about this project in the months ahead.
divider bar for blog Friday evening brought another Capital Campaign reception, this time at St. Margaret Mary parish in Oakland. Fr. Rafal Duda scheduled a Lenten dinner following Stations of the Cross, which insured a huge turnout. St. Margaret Mary’s also attracts parishioners from the West Bay who cross bridges to attend their Extraordinary Form Latin Mass, celebrated by Canon Meney of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.

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Thanks to Jay Balza for these photos.

divider bar for blogLast Saturday and Sunday I spent the weekend at St. Isidore’s in Danville.  In my almost two years as bishop of Oakland, I had not yet had the chance to pay an official visit to the parish. I made up for it by preaching at all the Masses . . . so I could literally “meet everybody.”  The pastor, Fr. Gerald Moran and his new vicar Fr. Gerald Pedrera warmly welcomed me to the rectory, as did hundreds of parishioners at coffee and doughnuts after Mass. St. Isidore’s is one of the very few parishes left in California that has a “double” Catholic school: two classes of every grade. I was happy to see so many families at Mass.

Out in the parishes

Last Tuesday (Feb. 24) we had meetings of the Confirmation Program Coordinators/ teachers from our parishes.  I led the morning session at the Cathedral and Fr. George Mockel addressed the evening meeting in Walnut Creek. 20150224_191314_resizedThese folks do a fantastic job preparing our young people for the Sacrament. We all get to see a beautiful ceremony and the kids all dressed up, but our Confirmation teachers do a lot of work behind the scenes to get the candidates ready. We owe them a big “thanks!”

divider bar for blogThe next day I visited Transfiguration Parish  for a Capital Campaign reception. Great turnout, and good questions. Fathers Mario Borges and Terry O’Malley cooked a dinner for me beforehand.  Saved me from a peanut butter and jelly sandwich when I got home.  These evenings provide the opportunity for me not only to explain the mission and direction of our diocese, but to get feedback and answer all kinds of questions. I enjoy being able to have time to meet, pray, and share with so many people of our diocese.  Here are a few of my remarks:

divider bar for blogOn Thursday we had a Campaign reception dinner at St. Bonaventure in Concord. I went back on Sunday for two Masses, and two receptions: one in English and one in Spanish. Thanks to Fr. Mangini and his outstanding leadership staff for making all the arrangements.

Photos:  Anthony Arteaga

divider bar for blogWe had over 90 priests and deacons come together for a bible study day Friday, on the Lectionary readings for Lent and Easter.  Fr. Michael Castori SJ, serving at All Saints in Hayward, was our speaker and teacher. I’ve known Fr. Michael since the 1980s when he was working as a Jesuit Volunteer Corps lay missionary in Micronesia, and we’ve been friends ever since.  He has since become a Jesuit priest, and got his doctorate in Biblical Hermeneutics at Cal Berkeley.  It was absolutely enlightening to hear Fr. Michael open up the scriptures for us.

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Photos:  Fr. Gus Acob

divider bar for blogLater that day we had a lovely pot-luck dinner Campaign reception at Santa Maria in Orinda.  I met some very kind parishioners, many of whom have been in the parish since the 1940’s and built the present church and school. Fr. George Mockel pastors this parish, as well as serving as our Diocesan Vicar General.

divider bar for blogDSC00212Saturday morning I celebrated Mass for the Diocesan Confraternity of Eucharistic Devotion (CEDDO).

Knights in vestibuleWe had a full honor guard from the Knights of Columbus, and the Cathedral Children’s Choir sang the Mass, dressed in their new robes.  I have never seen choir members so happy to be singing at Mass as these young people.  Our CEDDO group, through  their prayer and adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, intercede for us all, and call down many graces from heaven on our diocese.  Thank You, CEDDO members!

Photos:  Courtesy CEDDO and Knights of Columbus

divider bar for blogThe next day, after the two Masses and receptions at St. Bonaventure, I went to St. Isidore in Danville to celebrate Mass for the Italian Catholic Federation.

Following Mass we had a wonderful (dare I say “Italian”) dinner: salad, pasta, roast pork, roast potatoes, green beans, and  for desert …………………… Tiramisu!  (I gave everyone a dispensation).  The ICF presented me with a Spiritual Bouquet which included over 2,800 Masses offered for my intentions, plus two checks for our Seminary fund.  Thank you!

ICF round tablePhotos:  Msgr. Daniel Cardellidivider bar for blogMonday is supposed to be my day off, but the Naval Order of San Francisco had repeatedly invited me to be the speaker at their monthly meeting. The Naval Order is composed mainly of retired Navy and Marine Corps officers and senior enlisted leaders.   I served on duty with many of the members who are from the East Bay when I was assigned to the Navy Reserve Center in Alameda in the 1990’s.

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I spoke about the changes taking place in the military to accommodate religious practices: e.g. Sikh members of the US Army now have permission to wear their turbans in lieu of berets or campaign covers.  Lots of heated discussion followed.

Photos:  Bill & Kathleen Mero

Catholic Charities of the East Bay, Serving the Immigrant

In the midst of the political complexity surrounding immigration in this country I am very pleased that the social service arm of our diocese, Catholic Charities of the East Bay (CCEB), is fully engaged. They have attorneys, law students, accredited paralegals, teachers and counselors providing legal, resettlement and employment services to very needy refugees and immigrants, our neighbors.

On Ash Wednesday I was happy to hear their fine work highlighted on a national NPR news broadcast.  Listen to that here. Parishes can reach out to CCEB to connect parishioners who need that help by calling Maciel Jacques, Legal Services Program Coordinator, at (510) 768-3137.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley is co-chair of the US Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.  He reminds us, “Immigration is not primarily a political problem, but rather a deeply human and profoundly moral challenge facing our nation.”   Catholic social services provide one of the refuges for those grappling with these very human challenges.

These challenges are world-wide. Speaking on the Italian island of Lampedusa, at the borders of Europe, Pope Francis said “We have lost a sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters.  We have fallen into the hypocrisy of the Priest and the Levite whom Jesus described in the parable of the Good Samaritan: we see our brother half dead on the side of the road and perhaps we say to ourselves, ‘Poor soul’ and then go our way.”  His words resonate in our part of the world as well.

I invite all to join voices with the California bishops: “We call on Congress and the President to work together toward a more comprehensive response to the humanitarian crisis of a broken immigration system.  We will work with the California Congressional delegation and the President to accomplish that goal.”

Last week: Ash Wednesday and beyond

p1010689Last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, and I was glad to see the Cathedral packed for noon Mass. I spoke about the need to do something for Lent, and not just put off making a resolution. I also encouraged us to do our Lenten sacrifice out of love for Him, who first sacrificed for us.  You may read the text of my homily here.  I was pleased the Oakland Tribune featured a prominent photo of our Ash Wednesday Mass the next day. They also had a very fine article recently on Father Jay Matthews appointment as the new Rector of the Cathedral. See it here.  Nice to get some good publicity for the Church from our local media.

p1010704Photos:  Al Pacciorini/The Catholic Voice

divider bar for blogIn continuing my visits to our parishes for our Capital Campaign, I went to Queen of All Saints in Concord.  Fr. Michael Cunningham and Fr. Enrique welcomed everyone for a totally bilingual reception.  It was good to see such a large turnout from both language groups in the parish.  We are one family in Faith.

Photos:  Jose Felix

divider bar for blogI spent last Friday morning at the Marines Memorial Theatre in San Francisco for the annual Memorial Service for over 120 deceased service members from Northern California.  This non-denominational service, sponsored by the “Blue Star Mothers” is held to help the parents of the deceased find support and help in their grief.  There were a number of parents present from our Diocese.  Here I am with Elsie Silva from St. Anne’s in Union City, who lost her son Lance Corporal Andrew Silva, USMC, last year.  Please remember the souls of our deceased service members, as well as their families, in your prayers.

Photos: © Michael Mustacchi; courtesy

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The horrific murder of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya a week ago came as we began the Journey of Lent.  The next week on Ash Wednesday throughout the Diocese we wore the ashes of Penance on our foreheads, the sign of the Cross and of our faith visibly proclaimed to the world.  Those Christians in Libya were killed simply because they confessed Christ and his Cross.  Please join me standing together united with all Christians in prayer for our brother Copts, the newest martyrs.

20150220_151216_resizedAnd so last Friday I went to visit Saint Antonius Coptic Orthodox Church in Hayward to express condolences on behalf of everyone in our diocese on the murders in Libya. Fr. Ramon Gomez and Fr. Alex Castillo accompanied me and we were greeted very warmly by Fr. Bishoy Ray Ibrahim. I assured him that the Catholic  clergy, religious and laity of the Diocese of Oakland stand one in faith and in solidarity with the world Coptic community. We prayed together for the protection of religious freedom and of practicing the faith, and I asked Fr. Bishoy to deliver a letter from me to his patriarch His Holiness Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria.  He agreed to do so and then invited me to read my letter to his congregation assembled for the Friday afternoon liturgy. You can read my letter here.

Fr. Bishoy and I exchanged our blessings and then exchanged gifts as well.  In the name of the Diocese I gave him the pectoral cross of The Good Shepherd which is worn by Pope Francis.  Fr. Bishoy presented each of us with a warm loaf of  leavened altar bread (unconsecrated) used in their Eucharistic service.  Straight from the oven!

The next day during evening Mass at the Cathedral I recounted this visit during my homily, which is linked below in the section on the FACE benefit.

As our beloved Pope Francis said last week, “The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard. It makes no difference whether they be Catholics , Orthodox, Copts or Protestants.  They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same…”

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divider bar for blogThis weekend we had a special Mass and reception for FACE, Family Aid for Catholic Education, to thank our benefactors.  These generous people contribute to a scholarship fund helping our students pay tuition at our Catholic Schools.  Part of the funds raised in the Capital Campaign will go to creating an endowment for tuition assistance for Catholic Education. At the reception I was pleased to present Ron and Betty Courtney with the first Founders Award for their leadership and generosity.  You can listen to my homily here.

LQ3A0764divider bar for blogThis past weekend we had three large ceremonies, the “Rites of Election” to recognize Catechumens (those who are going to be baptized at Easter) and Candidates (those who, having been baptized are going to receive more sacraments, or those baptized in another Christian church who are converting to Catholicism).  When you see the Cathedral filled “times 3” it shows how alive and well the Catholic Faith is in our diocese.  In my homily I spoke about the witness of the Coptic Christian Martyrs in Libya.  You can listen to the homily in English or in Spanish.

Photos:  Darwin Sayo

divider bar for blogLast but not least we had our annual celebration of Mass for the Chinese Catholic community in honor of the Lunar New Year at St. Leo the Great parish in Oakland  They have a fantastic choir singing sacred music in Chinese.  St. Francis Xavier would have been proud to see how the Faith has taken root and continues to grow in China, in all of Asia, and in our Chinese community in Oakland.  Gung hay fat choy!CNY 2015 altarCNY 2015 bishops envelopes CNY 2015 bishops standing resizedPhotos:  Darwin Sayo/The Catholic Voice

On Retreat

This past week Bishop Cummins and I have been making our annual retreat with 13 bishops of Northern California and Nevada. We make a silent retreat, with individual spiritual direction, at El Retiro San Inigo, the Jesuit Retreat Center in Los Altos.  One of the benefits of being there is that one has a view of the East Bay from San Jose up almost to Oakland.  I prayed for you all every day. Here the sun is rising over the Diocese of Oakland.

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Here is a view of the “Rossi Chapel” at El Retiro. It was donated in 1928 by the Rossi family, founders of Italian Swiss Colony Wines. Their son, Fr. Carlo Rossi, became a Jesuit and taught for years at USF.  The Jesuit Retreat Center has retreats for lay men and women year ‘round.


As part of my retreat, I visited the Jesuit cemetery, which is located on what once was the grounds of Mission Santa Clara.  At one time each Jesuit got a full headstone, with the dates of our Birth (Natus), Entrance into the Society (Ingressus), and Death (Obiit) engraved in Latin.  Here you can see the tombstone of Father Hilary Werts (a priest: “Sacerdos”).  In the past twenty years or so we’ve been running out of room, and now multiple Jesuits are being combined in one grave.  It seems a little crowded, but then again, we’re not going to be in the grave forever.  We’re just waiting for the Resurrection on the Last Day.

Visiting a cemetery is a good way to prepare for Ash Wednesday “Remember that you are dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.”  It helps us live each day to the fullest and keep things in proper perspective.

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A Very Diverse Week

On Sunday, February 1 I had the great opportunity of celebrating Mass for one of our Korean Catholic congregations, in Pleasanton.  240 families worship in an auditorium of a public school, and the parish rents the classrooms as well for religious education for the children.  With limited facilities, our Korean Catholics do a superb job.  The Mass was reverent, with 100% participation.  There was a choir singing sacred music in Korean and Latin, with cellos and violins.  Afterwards we had a Korean lunch in a warehouse, which the parish rents for their offices. I will be doing everything I can to help this thriving community find a more permanent home.bishop-2 cropped

Photos courtesy of Tri-Valley Korean Catholic Community

divider bar for blogLEMC tweetLater in the week I gave the Keynote address to the annual Convocation of our Lay Ecclesial Ministers (on Friday).  These good folks use their gifts and charisms in many essential roles: administration, youth ministry, religious education, evangelization, music and worship . . . to name a few. I shared with them my “take” on Pope Francis’ vision for the Church: that the parish be a leaven in the community, and not a self-enclosed community, and that we make every effort to grow our parish communities . . . and not be content to be just a “community of the saved.”  Using Pope Francis’ Encyclical “Evangelii Gaudium” I encouraged our Lay Ministers to be bold and creative, and think outside the box.  We had a very lively discussion.  And it was apparently a Twitter sensation!

divider bar for blogBishop, Jack del RioAlso last week I was delighted to meet Jack and Linda del Rio.  As you may have heard, Jack is the newly hired coach for the Oakland Raiders.  They are coming back to the Bay Area from Denver, where Jack was coaching for the Broncos. On behalf of all of you (even 49ers fans!), I welcomed them to our diocese.  They are practicing Catholics, and now members of our family.  I am now praying to “Notre Dame des Victoires” (Our Lady of Victories) on their behalf.

divider bar for blogOn Saturday, Feb. 7 we had a double-header at the Cathedral.  First, the annual Mass for the World Day of the Sick. Begun by Pope St. John Paul II, the Order of Malta organizes the Mass near the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.  I was joined by a dozen priests, and many Knights and Dames of Malta.  We administered the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick during the Mass. It was beautiful to see the faith of our people, in the midst of suffering.  With a bill pending in Sacramento promoting assisted suicide for the ill and elderly, I spoke about the Christian meaning of suffering.  You can listen to my homily here.

Photos:  Raúl Ayrala/The Catholic Voice

divider bar for blogSaturday evening we began our observance of The Year of Consecrated Life, proclaimed by Pope Francis. This is to honor the consecrated religious: members of religious orders, congregations and institutes, in our diocese.  Holy Family Sister Mary Lange and Conventual Franciscan Father Robert Herbst organized the committee which prepared the Mass.  Being a member of a religious order myself for 41 years, I joined all the Sisters, Brothers and Fathers present as we renewed our vows. I was very pleased by the turnout of dedicated religious, who represent ministries in Catholic education, social work, hospital and detention ministry, evangelization, and care for the poor. I thanked them on your behalf for their contributions to our diocese.   Homily

Photos:  Darwin Sayo/The Catholic Voice

divider bar for blogThen on Sunday I was invited to join St. Peter the Martyr Parish in Pittsburg as they celebrated their Centenary.  The church was packed, standing room only. The hall below the church was packed as people listened to the Mass on loudspeakers. There was an incredible energy and enthusiasm shown by the parishioners for the Faith.  They have 7 Masses in Spanish each weekend, so I got to practice my Español.   Fr. Ricardo Chavez, whose parents were married in the parish, and who was ordained there in 1963, gave an historical account.  All our Latino seminarians served.  I am hoping for great things — especially vocations — from this vibrant parish. I am proud of the Pastor, Fr. Jesus Hernandez, and vicars Fr. Salvador and Fr. Leonardo.

 Photos: St. Peter Martyr Parish

Catholic Schools Week 2015 and More

Last Sunday (January 25) I began the observance of Catholic Schools Week with a Mass for Our Lady of Guadalupe School in Fremont.  I had recently dedicated the new church in December, but this was the first time I could see it in daylight, and appreciate the stained glass windows.  The students provided the choir and music for the Mass, under the direction of Sister Janice, O.P., the principal.  In my homily I told the students how much Catholic education had done for me in my life.  Here I am with the Student Council.

BishopStudentCouncildivider bar for blogOn the same Sunday afternoon I celebrated a Confirmation Mass in Spanish in the Cathedral for 36 candidates.  Even though I often have five Confirmation Masses on a weekend, I never get tired of them.  It is thrilling to me to see the joy on the faces of the newly confirmed, as they glory in the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  (Si se habla español, se puede escuchar a la homilía aqui – Homily.)

Photos: Raul Ayrala/The Catholic Voice

divider bar for blogOn Wednesday we continued the celebration of Catholic Schools Week with Mass for all 800 students, and staff, of Carondelet High School in Concord. It was my first visit to the school.  The young women were exceptional in their respect and reverence during the Mass.  I could see how carefully their campus minister had prepared the servers and readers, and the wonderful music, for the Holy Mass.  Since it was the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, patron of education, I spoke to the girls about the difference between Intelligence and Wisdom, and how the difference was portrayed in one of my favorite shows, Downton Abbey, and the film The Imitation Game.  The faculty and staff of Carondelet are doing an excellent job of forming young women to be friends and disciples of Jesus Christ. Here’s a selfie with a few of the Carondelet students.







divider bar for blogLater on Wednesday I traveled to St. Patrick’s Seminary to deliver a talk during Compline (Night Prayer Service) for the Order of Malta.  I spoke to them about Pope Francis’ devotion to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots.  I have never heard of that particular devotion in the USA (it originated in Bavaria, Germany).  Here’s a photo of the painting of Mary taking the knots out of a Bavarian marriage ribbon.  The story goes that a couple who had been considering divorce went to a Jesuit priest for counseling. They brought him the ribbon which had been used to join their hands in the German custom during their nuptial Mass. The priest prayed to Mary to help them, and as he untied the last knot in the ribbon, it suddenly glowed white. They took it as a sign from Our Lady, and the couple stayed together.  Archbishop Broglio brought a copy of the painting from Germany to Argentina, and the devotion spread. May Our Lady, Undoer of Knots help us undo the knots in our lives.Mary

divider bar for blogOn Thursday I visited the School of the Madeleine in Berkeley and celebrated Mass for them.  The Fifth Grade designed a virtual cathedral on their class computer which they delighted in showing me.  They also designed a ship and named it the USS Barber.  I told the teacher to give them each an A+!

Madeleinedivider bar for blogI then went over to the UC Berkeley campus to do something I’ve wanted to do ever since becoming bishop. I wanted to stand with the Catholic students in Sproul Plaza, heart of the campus, and witness to the Catholic faith.  St. Paul himself preached in the central marketplace of Athens on behalf of Jesus.  Our “Catholics at Cal” regularly set up a table, hand out brochures with Mass times, give holy cards, and most importantly, present a friendly and welcoming face on behalf of Christ and His Church. I am so proud of these students, and their Paulist chaplains who support them.  It was fun!

Sprouldivider bar for blogOn Friday I was invited to a reception to meet the new mayor of Oakland, the Hon. Libby Schaaf.  Fr. Jay Matthews, our new Rector of the Cathedral, accompanied me.  Leaders of all faith groups in Oakland were invited. The mayor is very personable and told us of some of her priorities: affordable housing, reconciliation in the community, improvement in education – especially for Pre-K children.  It was also one of the first opportunities I had to meet representatives of so many churches and faiths in Oakland. It was a very positive and hope-filled evening.




Week in Review Part 2, Jan. 22-24

Last Thursday, January 22, we had a Kick-Off meeting for Block 2 of our Capital Campaign. I met first with the pastors of 40 parishes . . . then met with representatives and campaign leaders from all their parishes.  I was completely overwhelmed by the huge turnout. We had to open the walls of the Cathedral event center to keep adding tables and chairs.  The priests and lay leaders were very supportive of Christ, His Church, our diocese, and our campaign.  We had a lively Question & Answer session in both meetings.   I want transparency and honesty to be the hallmarks of our campaign, and our whole diocesan administration.

DSC_0639I found our priests and people alive with faith, and strong hope that we can — together — carry on Christ’s mission.  I felt the Holy Spirit with us that evening . . . because the campaign is not primarily about money, but about our Faith.  It is a spiritual mission we have been given.  As I mentioned in my address at my consecration as bishop in 2013, if we do God’s work, He will provide what we need to do it.  My sincere thanks to the priests and lay leaders who turned out last week, and who are working diligently to support us. I am looking forward to my next round of parish reception visits in the months ahead.







DSC_0736On Friday I was invited to pastor Walter Hoye’s fundraising dinner for his pro-life ministry, Issues4Life.  Rev. Hoye is well known to Bay Area Christians, as he has been one of the strongest Protestant leaders in support of life.  Our St. Margaret Mary parish hosted the banquet in their hall, and many of our fine young people acted as waiters.  This dinner was important as it was truly ecumenical, and had a very large attendance from the African- American Baptist churches in Oakland.  United to defend the defenseless, we are truly united in loving and serving Christ.  I have never felt closer to our Protestant Christian brethren.  I like that our fellowship took place during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

divider bar for blogThe next day, Saturday January 24, I attended the annual Mass for Life at St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco.  This year, the papal nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó came from Washington, DC to join us.  We had another fantastic turnout for Mass.  I was so proud to see a large group from St. Edward’s parish in Newark — with their noticeable yellow t-shirts.

After Mass I walked down to the SFO Civic Center for the Rally.  What most impressed me were the quality of the speakers: women who spoke of the effect of having an abortion; another young woman who took the RU486 pill to try to end her pregnancy, then changed her mind and discovered doctors had found a new medicine to reverse the abortion pill.  She held up her curly-haired year-old baby boy in thanksgiving to God for the gift of life.  I was impressed by the age of the group.  KCBS put the attendance at 50,000 marchers.  CNN said “many thousands”.  The group was primarily YOUNG PEOPLE.  The future belongs to the young. And the young believe in life. Thanks be to God.

Here I am with a new friend I met at the rally:


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IMG_2412Later, after the Walk for Life, I attended a “Catholic Underground” event at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Berkeley.  This was awesome. Over 200 young people, mainly of college age, met for holy hour, exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, confession, and entertainment.  I spoke to the youth in the hall, noticing that through receiving confession, we come closer in friendship from Jesus.  It is there we receive his most intimate love.  The entertainment was a great party. We had a quartet of musicians from Cal called “I Celli”.  They were so good I invited them to perform during a Solemn Mass at our cathedral.  We also had Christian Rappers performing: especially Brother Victor from the Capuchin House of Studies in Berkeley.  It was such a blessed evening!

divider bar for blogLast but not least: a few weeks ago I visited Fr. Ken Nobrega for a tour of St. Joseph’s parish in Berkeley.  As we were inspecting the outside of the church, a man drove up and went into the church to pray.  Father introduced him to me.  Jay is from Sri Lanka, and visits the church at least 12 times each day to pray.  He told me the story of his life, and how blessed he is to be a Catholic.  He is a pizza delivery man, and every time he passes by the parish church, he stops in to pray.  He promised to remember all of us, and our intentions.  Meeting him made my day.  May I ask all of you to pray for our diocese, that we may be faithful to carry out God’s will, and He will give us the means to do it.  Thanks!



Thanks to Fr. Alex Castillo and to The Catholic Voice for these photos.

Week in Review Part 1, Jan. 18-21

I had a pretty full week.  Last Sunday I celebrated two Masses at St. Clement’s Church, Hayward. The pastor, Fr. Ramon Gomez, was alone and had six Masses to say and needed some help.  His parochial vicar, “Fr. Bart” was in the Philippines to see the Pope.

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On Monday, Martin Luther King holiday, our diocese was blessed with a visit from Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich, Germany.  He’s young, intelligent, and sits on the Pope’s “Council of Eight” cardinals who are drawing up a reform of the Roman Curia.  He was on a speaking tour of the West Coast, and gave a lecture at Stanford University.  He came to Oakland to visit the Motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose.  Our sisters were founded in 1875 from the Dominican Sisters’ Motherhouse in Bavaria, Germany.  Recently the remaining sisters in the German convent came to Fremont to live with the “daughter house” community, and the original Motherhouse was closed.  Cardinal Marx came to visit “his” German sisters who are now happily living in California. We had a lovely luncheon of Mexican food and beer.  (I gave general absolution to all the nuns who were drinking beer for lunch . . . just kidding).

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Here we are: Bishop Cummins, Sr. Gloria OP, Prioress, Cardinal Marx, and two of the German Sisters

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blog 2bWhile visiting the MSJ Dominicans, I always like to stop in and see Sister Mary Henry.  She is celebrating her jubilee this year, 70 years of religious profession!  She has gone blind, and spends her days praying for the Church . . . and for me.  She is one of my “heroes of the diocese”, one of the spiritual pillars of our Church.  Her prayers guarantee the success of our capital campaign, and many other initiatives that will succeed only through prayer.  She is a lovely person, as you can see from the expression on her face.  When I visited with Pope Francis last September, he gave me a gift of a rosary, in a case with his coat of arms on it.  I gave it to Sister Mary Henry, as she prays so much for me . . . and for us.

Thanks to St. Clement’s church, Fr. Alex Castillo, and the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose for these photos.

Christmas Week 2014

It is still a busy Christmas season in our Cathedral. I would like to share with you a few thoughts in my Christmas homily and published in the Catholic Voice as well.  Be the peace you want to see in the world. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you!

My Christmas Homily [in Firefox, ctrl-click]

Catholic Voice — January 5, 2015  — With all the evil going on in the world this season, one can be tempted to despair: beheadings in the Middle East, kidnapping of college kids and their execution in Mexico, the murder of two New York police officers in cold blood as they sat in their patrol car, the wanton destruction and vandalism of stores and businesses in our own city of Oakland. Even our cathedral was not spared.

Yet Isaiah prophesied: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” For those who love and follow Christ, the way is bright, joyful, and peaceful.

On Christmas this year, 2014, we celebrate one of the finest examples of the in-breaking of Christ’s light: “The Great Christmas Truce of 1914”. German and British soldiers were dug-in for miles in trenches. Snipers and poison gas took their toll. Yet on Christmas day, soldiers on opposing sides put up signs reading “Merry Christmas” on them. Then men from each side got up, unarmed, and walked toward each other in no man’s land. They shook hands, traded gifts, sang carols, ate and prayed together. They even played soccer with improvised balls. The truce spread for hundreds of miles and lasted up to New Year’s Day. When Pope Benedict XV heard about it, he asked England and Germany to extend the truce indefinitely. It took the threats of senior officers to force the men back into the trenches to resume the war.   But look what common love and regard for Christ’s birth accomplished. It is still possible.

In our liturgical calendar the Feast of the Holy Family follows on the Sunday after Christmas. I am one who believes that before there can be peace “in the world” there has to be peace “inside me” and then “inside my family”.   Yes you say, “But my sister did something really awful to me some years ago that really hurt.” Or, “My brother does not help support our aging parents, I have to do it all by myself.” Hurt is real. Pain is real. Yet so is Christ’s power to heal. When Christ went through his passion and death, he absorbed all the pain caused by our sins. Often when I go to the hospital to anoint a dying grandmother, I find the family – usually grown adult children – around the bed. Mother is usually unconscious. I ask the family to join hands and pray with me. I invite them, in their hearts, to forgive their mother for any sins she may have committed against them . . . and ask them to forgive any sins or hurts they may have inflicted on their mother. Many a family have been reconciled on their mother’s deathbed.

Christ’s overpowering love and sacrifice enable us to do the same.

I was impressed by how many parishes in our diocese held Reconciliation Services before Christmas – and how many people took advantage of them. I heard confessions at one of these Services in Pleasanton. But I knew I could not be a sign of reconciliation to others without going to confession myself first.

“His name will be called Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 6)

Be the peace you want to see in the world. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you!

The Fourth Week in Advent

Last Thursday I was invited by Fr. Paul Minnihan, Pastor of Catholic Community of Pleasanton, to join in helping hear confessions for his parish Advent Penance Service.  There were about 20 priests who assisted, and we were treated to a generous dinner beforehand in the Rectory.  I was able to go to Confession myself.  There is no better way to prepare for the coming of the Lord than to clean one’s house – in this case the house of our souls.  Confession brings us to an intimate encounter with Jesus and  His overwhelming mercy.

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On Friday I hosted the annual luncheon for our chancery staff.  What a treat it was this year to be entertained by the St. Mary’s College High School Jazz Band, complete with a chanteuse!  I told the young people they played and sang so well, they could perform at the Fairmont Hotel or the Top of the Mark.  They were that good.  In addition the third and fourth grade violin class from St. Martin de Porres School came and performed some Christmas songs for us. I could not believe children so young could play such a difficult instrument as a violin.  They were amazing, and their talent brought smiles to all our faces.  It made me feel proud of these students, and grateful to them for sharing their talents with us.  It reminded me of the good work being done by our Catholic School teachers throughout the diocese.  I am also grateful for our staff at the chancery who support our pastors and school principals working out “on the front lines.”

St. Marys jazz ensemble Bill Ford and violinists

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Later the same evening I was happy to welcome our priests for our annual “Christmas Party with the Bishop.”  It gave us a chance to relax and enjoy each other’s company, and to anticipate the celebration of the birth of our Savior.  As I looked around the room, I could see that there is no one “type” of priest: we are all different, yet all called to serve the one Lord in His one Church.  Like you, I am grateful for the service and dedication of our priests, who take care of you, our beloved parishioners, 24/7.  For their Christmas gift this year, I sent each priest a copy of one of my favorite books: “Saints Behaving Badly” (no, I wasn’t implying anything . . . ).  Stay tuned. You should hear some excerpts in homilies in the coming months.

Photos:  Rev. Gus Acob

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Then on Saturday, I was invited to celebrate an anticipated “Christmas Mass” for the inmates at the West County Jail in Richmond.  We were not able to come on Christmas Eve, as they did not have the staff available that day to accommodate us.

I am grateful to the County Sheriff, David O. Livingston, for giving us permission and support in offering the Holy Sacrifice to the inmates.  Pope John XXIII, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Francis offered Christmas Mass to the incarcerated, as they were able.  It was very gratifying to me personally to see how much the men appreciated the Mass, and how much they wanted to be there with Christ in the Eucharist.  Some rose and offered testimonies of faith and thanksgiving to God for the gift of Christ, and how He was active in their lives


After Mass we had some extra time before the men had to go back to their cells for the afternoon count.  When I asked if there were any questions, some came up to me and asked me to pray over them and bless them.  Those who need Him most, appreciate Him most.

Photos: Michele Jurich/The Catholic Voice

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When it comes to volunteering, one of my favorites is the Sunday morning breakfast served to the homeless by Catholic Worker of Berkeley.  For 17 years, Mr. J.C. Orton has gotten up early and cooked a hot breakfast which he loads into his period VW van.  Breakfast is served at 7:15 at People’s Park to those who have spent the night sleeping in the park and the surrounding streets.  He then packs it all up and takes it about a mile to King Park, near the Berkeley civic center, and sets it all up again.

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As always, this past Sunday I met kind and interesting people who have risen early to help out.  J.C. (above, second from left) always begins the serving by inviting everyone present to join in prayer. He then announces where meals will be served later in the day, which shelters will be open in case of rain, and where he will next be giving out free sleeping bags.  It feels good to feed people who are hungry in their body, as a sign of Christ’s mercy filling their souls with his love and goodness.  Then I return to the Cathedral or one of our parishes, to feed people with Jesus’ very own Body and Blood.

IMG_2288I think if someone in our diocese is a Eucharistic Minister, you should also help feed people at a soup kitchen, food pantry, St. Vincent de Paul, Catholic Charities, or Catholic Worker.  Spiritual and Corporal works of mercy go together.  J.C. Orton is one of my heroes in the Diocese for providing this mission of mercy for so many years – rain or shine.  If you would like to donate, you can contact him at: Night on the Streets – Catholic Worker, PO Box 13468, Berkeley CA 94712-4468, Phone: 510-684-1892, Email:  Or just show up at 7:15 a.m. at People’s Park in Berkeley.

Sacrifice and Light

Last Tuesday I had the pleasure of meeting John and Wendy Hallett at a fundraising reception for the Archdiocese of the Military Services in San Francisco. We were raising money to fund seminarians who are preparing to become chaplains in the military.

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The Halletts’ son, Captain John Hallett III, died in Afghanistan, the victim of a roadside bomb. They told me how their son was able to receive Holy Communion from an Army chaplain just days before his death. The Halletts are members of Our Lady of Mercy parish in Point Richmond. Let’s remember their son John in our prayers and Masses, and the heroic sacrifice he made. At Christmas we miss our departed loved ones all the more.

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Photo: Sheila-Anne Flores

Last Wednesday we had the opening Mass for the Simbang Gabi Novena in preparation for Christmas. It is a longstanding Filipino Catholic tradition in which Catholics rise early before dawn and go to Mass in their parish church.  Simbang Gabi means “Dawn Mass.” Families carry brightly decorated lamps in the shape of stars, called parols.  We had a wonderful procession of parols at the start of Mass, which lined the walls of our Cathedral.  They are most appropriate for our Cathedral named “Christ the Light” as the Epiphany Star of Bethlehem is the symbol of our Cathedral and Diocese. I am so pleased with the faith, devotion and service of our Filipino Catholic community in the Diocese of Oakland.

Photo: Tess Morales


Our Lady of Guadalupe Pilgrimage

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Last Saturday, December 6, we had the annual Diocesan Pilgrimage and Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (held in advance of the actual Feast of Dec .12). I was thrilled with the turnout, as thousands of parishioners from all over our diocese converged on the parish of St. Louis Bertrand for the start of the march. I blessed all the parish floats, musicians, choirs, and folk dancing groups. We walked straight down International Boulevard all the way to the Cathedral of Christ the Light. It took five hours!

OLG procession

The cathedral was filled to overflowing for Mass in honor of Our Lady, with the plaza outside and the downstairs conference center also full of participants. In these days when there are protests and violence and destruction, it was beautiful to have a pilgrimage walk in honor of the Queen of Peace. I am proud of our strong Latino community in the Diocese of Oakland. May the Blessed Virgin, who appeared to St. Juan Diego at Tepeyac, intercede for all of us.

Thank you to Raúl Ayrala/The Catholic Voice for the photos and video clip.

Link to Homily (Spanish) [in Firefox, ctrl-click]


Call to Veterans

Archbishop Broglio

with Archbishop Timothy Broglio, Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA

I’ve written before on this blog and in the Catholic Voice about military service and the role I continue to fill as a Navy chaplain.  There are fewer and fewer Catholics in the Military Chaplain Corps these days. The need has never been greater to attract seminarians to this military ministry to provide pastoral care.

I would like to invite all, particularly Veterans in the Diocese of Oakland, to join me and Archbishop Timothy Broglio at a benefit reception next week to raise interest and support for this ministry.   The reception is on Tuesday, December 9 at 6PM at Marine’s Memorial Club & Hotel in San Francisco.  For more information click here.  If you would like to attend please RSVP here or to simply make a donation click here

The Week in Review

Dear Friends,

It’s been a busy week. We had a great turnout at St. Isidore’s in Danville for our capital campaign reception.  The pastor, Fr. Gerald Moran, filled his parish hall with parish leaders who responded very positively to our appeal for 100% participation by all families.  After all, doesn’t Vatican 2 teach “The people are the Church”?  Kudos to Tanc Agius, the parish chair of the Campaign, for his leadership.

Last Friday I hosted a consultation with teacher representatives from our nine Catholic high schools in the diocese.  We discussed the issue of Catholic Identity in the schools from their perspective, and how we could best work together to strengthen that identity.  It was a very honest and fruitful meeting.  Most of the teachers chosen to represent their schools have been teaching for twenty years or more.  We are going to have another session soon, this time with representatives from our Catholic elementary schools.

Saturday morning I attended the Magnificat Prayer Breakfast in Concord.  There were about 500 Catholic women present, along with some spouses, priests and seminarians.  We sang and prayed, and then I was invited, not to give a lecture, but to “share my testimony.”  There is a big difference.  I spoke about the “Cross and Resurrection” in my life — actually more like “crosses and resurrections”  : )  You can hear the talk here (may take up to a minute to load, be patient).

Bishop at podiumI hesitate to talk about myself publicly.  Doesn’t scripture say “Not to us Lord, not to us, but to Your Name give the glory”?  But we do need to share with others the story of God’s love and grace, and how He  has always been present in our lives – even in times of trial.  I found the Magnificat members refreshing.  They take their spiritual lives seriously and — happily — they are providing the means for many women to grow closer to Our Lord through the Holy Spirit.  I highly recommend the Magnificat ministry.

_ABE4776 Magnificat Leadership

Saturday evening I celebrated Mass at St. John the Baptist Church in San Lorenzo.  San Lorenzo is the neighborhood where the 580 connects with the 880 freeway.  Fr. Michael Lacey welcomed me and gave me a tour of the church and grounds, while his able parochial vicar, Fr. David Mendoza-Vela heard confessions.  It was wonderful to see the new hospitality patio they built under the eaves of the church, as well as a fountain and well.

St. John procession croppedSt. John altar cropped

It was my first visit, and the church was packed: standing-room-only.  I was so impressed with the enthusiasm and diversity of the parish: not only folks from different nationalities, but all age groups were represented.  Many people complain when children cry during Mass, but I take it as a sign the Church is growing.  There were many young families present.  Kids should grow up being at home in their Father’s House.  The St. John’s School children presented me with a basket of hand-made cards and posters.  If you come to my office in the Chancery, you’ll see them, together with cards and letters I receive regularly from children of our schools.  (Just like you put your kids’ and grandkids’ art works on your refrigerator.)  St. John’s has a beautiful, charming, church, built in 1949.  Happily, most of the original art and architecture has remained.  I immediately felt at home.  And the people were so warm and friendly.  Makes me proud to be Catholic.

IMG_8507Sunday morning we celebrated the Vietnamese Martyrs together with the Solemnity of Christ the King (the Martyrs’ actual feast day being on Monday).  St. Anthony’s Church was filled to overflowing.  The youth group put on a short spiritual skit before Mass began in which they re-enacted the coming of the missionary priests and nuns, and the martyrdom of the saints of Vietnam.  It was very cleverly and reverently done, with costumes — but in total silence.  The teens had practiced well, and the message was clearly communicated, as all eyes were on them.

We then reverenced with incense a large reliquary containing remains of the holy martyrs, and processed with the relics around the neighborhood.  People stopped their cars. Others peered from behind their curtains as we processed, blessing the neighborhood with the presence of the holy saints.

VIMG_8582ietnamese Catholics are a solid rock of faith in our Diocese. They provide vocations of priests and sisters, and hundreds of faithful Catholics to the life of our parishes.  In my visit to Vietnam last February I met elderly priests and laypeople who had suffered by years of imprisonment for the Faith.  The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians!  Thanks to Sr. Rosaline who organized the celebration, as well as Fr. Juan Franco and Fr. Mark Hoc from the parish, and all the priests who concelebrated the Mass.  Special thanks to Bishop John Cummins whose presence adds so much to these holy celebrations.

(Thanks to Darwin Sayo/The Catholic Voice for the photos from the Vietnamese Martyrs Mass, and for members of Magnificat and St. John’s parish for the others.)