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.)

Danny McHale, diocesan hero!

Last Saturday evening the Knights of Columbus sponsored the spectacular Vocations Dinner.  It was sold out for weeks, with over 600 people in attendance.  I was proud to give awards to over 60 altar servers from our parishes.  One of the servers received a special Leadership Award:  Daniel McHale from St. Joan of Arc in San Ramon.  The fourteen year old son of Mary and Joseph was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA).  He  can’t move, and gets about in a wheelchair, which he steers with his fingertips.  Danny asked if he could become an altar server like his younger brother, Robert.  Fr. Ray Zielezienski trained him, and now Danny serves Mass with the other young people of the parish.  I’m really proud of him.  Dan McHale is one of my “Heroes of the Diocese of Oakland!!!!”

Bishop Barber with Danny and Robby McHale.

Bishop Barber with Danny and Robby McHale. Photo: Christine Schreck/The Catholic Voice

Why Mission San Jose for our deacon ordinations?

Last Saturday (November 15) I had the pleasure of ordaining three new Transitional Deacons for our diocese: Michael Nufable, Peter Tu Nguyen, and Huong Van Le.

We held the ordination in the Mother Church of our Diocese: Old Mission San Jose in Fremont.  I say “Mother Church” because Mission San Jose was our first parish, started in 1797, where the first baptisms took place.  Although the current Mission church is a reconstruction, it is based on the original plans.  Many of the religious artifacts are from the original church.

I chose the Mission because I wanted the young men to have their deaconate in our oldest church, and their priesthood will be in our newest: the Cathedral of Christ the Light.  I also wanted the very building to remind the newly ordained of what Jeremiah said in the first reading of the deaconate Mass: “Don’t say you are too young!”  The founding Franciscan pastor, Fr. Isidore, was only 31.  His parochial vicar, Fr. Augustine, was only 23.  Look what they accomplished!

Having the ordination at Mission San Jose also highlights the fact that Spanish was the official language of California before English – and that the Ohlone Indian language preceded both.  The new priests had to first learn the Native Americans’ language before they could even begin to build their parish.  Same is true today in our Diocese.  New priests and seminarians come to us from abroad and need to master English — and increasingly Spanish — in order to minister to our people.

Thanks to Darwin Sayo/The Catholic Voice for these photos.


Last Saturday was an historic occasion for me. It was the first time I have been invited to attend and speak at a Jewish Synagogue for Shabbat (Sabbath) services.  I’ve attended Jewish services before aboard Navy ships and bases, but never with a full Temple community.  Fathers Sacca, Castillo, and Nguyen accompanied me, as well as Deacon McGowan, our Ecumenical Committee chair.   Rabbi Mark Bloom of Temple Beth Abraham had kindly invited me.  This Jewish Congregation is located very near our Cathedral parish in Oakland.  The service was conducted almost totally in Hebrew.

The next day I invited Rabbi Bloom to share his  reflections after Communion at our Cathedral Sunday Mass. The Rabbi gave an outstanding talk on the Book of Ezekiel passage we had proclaimed at the Mass.  Rabbi Bloom’s parents attended, as well as about twenty members of his Congregation.  Rabbi Bloom’s talk was very moving and I invite you to listen to it here.  Pope Francis has said “Inside every Christian is a Jew.”  I hope we Jews and Catholics can work together as witnesses to God’s loving presence in our city of Oakland.

Fr. Nguyen, Rabbi Bloom

Bishop Barber and Rabbi Bloom after MassRabbi and Bishop, Parish HallPhotos courtesy of Al Pacciorini/The Catholic Voice


All Souls’ Day Requiem Mass

I was so pleased with the turnout at our first Solemn Requiem Mass for All Souls Day, where our Cathedral Choir sang Gabriel Faure’s Requiem.  The beauty of the music led so many to a heightened interior participation in the Eucharist.  The choir and musicians did a superb job, and I look forward to making this an annual tradition.

All Souls Day Choir

As the theologian Karl Rahner said, “When a person is with God in awe and love, then he is praying.”  The sacred music, in the context of the Church’s highest act of worship, was a vehicle for us to experience the awe and love of God.  It was made all the more tender with thoughts and prayers offered up for our deceased parents, relatives, and friends.

Click here to listen to homily.


Thanks to Jose Aguirre of the Catholic Voice for these photos and video clip.