New Catholic Charities Service Center in Richmond

(Comments from the blessing of the West County Service Center on Wednesday, August 20)

Before the cardinals enter the Sistine Chapel for the Conclave, and elect a new Pope, they meet several times and share their vision, hopes and concerns. In 2013, before his election, Pope Francis also had a chance to address his brother cardinals.

In his four-minute speech, he talked about the Church as the “mysterium lunae” (The mystery of the moon). The Church is like the moon because she does not have light by herself… the only way for her to shine, is to reflect the light of the Sun, who is Christ.

And when the Church evangelizes, it is always because she is reflecting… we are reflecting, the light of Christ into the lives of others.  “Evangelizing, said the soon-to-be Pope, presupposes a desire in the Church to come out of herself. The Church is called to go to the peripheries, not only geographically, but also existential peripheries: the mystery of sin, of injustice… and of all misery.”

LQ3A4709For almost 80 years, Catholic Charities of the East Bay has been caring for the poor and disadvantaged… going to those peripheries with the light of Christ, changing the lives of children, young adults and families, promoting self–sufficiency, strengthening families and pursuing safety and justice. They welcome the stranger and heal the traumas in the lives of those who suffer, regardless of religious beliefs, age, race or gender. And we do that not just as another non-profit organization. We do that because of love, reflecting, like the moon, the love of Christ to those in the periphery, bringing them inside…inside our society, inside our lives, inside our hearts.

LQ3A4605Our mission at Catholic Charities is founded on the teachings and on the love of Jesus Christ, who commands us to stand with the poor and disadvantaged, to welcome immigrants and refugees, to find shelter for the homeless and bring light to the lives of those victims of violence.  When I am with Catholic Charities, I truly see how our Church shines, not with her own light, but with the light of Christ himself.

I am pleased to be here today to join them in their effort–our effort- by dedicating the West County Service Center right here in the heart of the Iron Triangle of Richmond. Looking around this room I see many who helped to plan for this service expansion and who put in tireless hours to make it shine today. As I came through the door, I saw the names (within the new Donor Plaque) of so many recent donors who have helped the work of Catholic Charities.

LQ3A4528Our Catholic Charities is the social services arm of our Diocese and we are very proud of their work, as it is our faith in action. We also appreciate the strong volunteers who directly help in our work, including our valued Board of Directors and our dedicated staff.


I pray today that our Lord will continue strengthening us all to continue this work with our brothers and sisters in need, especially with those who are less fortunate. The real story of Catholic Charities’ success has always been a face, a person who receives not only help, but love.

LQ3A4617May God bless this building, those who work here, those who support its works of mercy and those who come here seeking relief. May this building be a tangible component of the service of the Church, reaching out, coming out to embrace those brothers and sisters in the peripheries who await and deserve our love.  Thank you and God bless you.

 Photos:  Jose Aguirre/The Catholic Voice

Forming Holy Priests

DSC_0043Last Wednesday, we had a very special gathering at St. Paschal’s Parish in Oakland. We honored Fr. Ken Nobrega, who has been working as our Director of Vocations and is now moving back to parish ministry, and we welcomed Fr. Neal Clemens who is our new Director of Vocations.

This moment helped me to share with our seminarians some of my thoughts about their formation process. As many of you already know, I was very involved in seminary formation before becoming the Bishop of Oakland. I worked at St. Patrick’s Seminary for eight years and at St. John’s Seminary in Boston for three years; but I also had a long experience of formation myself with the Jesuits: I had twelve years of formation before I got ordained, and they gave me a lot of extra training about my own personal needs.

Thus, my thoughts about priestly formation are part from the Jesuits and part diocesan, and I believe that there is no “cookie cutter stamp,” or an automatic process for a man to become a priest: we need to tailor the formation process to the man, to each one, according to the many different backgrounds, strengths, gifts and needs of each one of our candidates. It is my goal that each one of our seminarians will become the best priest each individual can be to serve the needs of our diocese.  That is the goal: be as well prepared as possible to become a holy priest.

As our seminarians are getting ready to start their new school year, let us pray for them, but let us also pray that in our families and parishes many young men will have the courage to hear the call from our Lord: “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

 Photos:  The Catholic Voice