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…”

20150220_151545_resized 2Photos:  Al Donner/The Catholic Voice; Fr. Alex Castillo

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.