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:

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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

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

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.




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.

A Big Gift from the Little Ones

I am moved to joy and tears at the generosity of the students of St. Francis of Assisi School in Concord. They have pledged the amazing sum of $6,000 spread over four years toward “Reclaiming Christ’s Mission Together”, our capital campaign.   They even made a glass church and put our Mission goals on it.

This is so inspiring. It shows that our Faith and the message of Jesus in our diocese is being received and acted upon, even by the little ones, and reminds me of Christ’s words: “Unless you become like this little child, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 18:3)

Thanks to our youngest donors.  Thanks also to Sr. James Marien, principal of St. Francis School.   You are an absolute inspiration to us all! May God reward you!

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