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!!!!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
From September 22-30 I was in Rome for a planning session for the next International Eucharistic Congress, to be held in the Philippines in 2016. My trip coincided with the 200th anniversary of the re-constitution of the Jesuit Order, which was observed by Pope Francis in The Gesu (the mother-church of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits) – and I was able to attend that, as well. I wrote about those activities in my column for the Catholic Voice on October 6. Here are some photos that were not in the paper, and also a video that some of you may have already seen.
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!
Today we celebrated the annual Blue Mass for police, firefighters and all first responders. The mayors of Oakland and Hercules joined us, other elected officials, district attorney representatives, as well as numerous personnel in uniform. I am glad we had this opportunity as a Catholic community to show our appreciation for all who risk their lives for us on a daily basis. May God send His angels to protect them! Our hearts go out to the families of all who have lost their lives in the line of duty. Give them eternal rest O Lord.
Last week Bishop Larry Silva invited me to join him on a group pilgrimage to Kalaupapa, Molokai, site of Father St. Damien’s famous parish for patients with Hansen’s Disease (leprosy). We celebrated Mass for the pilgrims at Fr. Damien’s Church, and then visited his gravesite outside. We then went to visit the site of Mother St. Marianne Cope’s convent and Home for Girls. She was the Franciscan nun who came with eight Sisters to act as nurses for the patients. Unlike Fr. Damien, neither she nor any of her Sisters contracted leprosy.
Not only is this part of Hawaii extraordinarily beautiful, it is filled with the presence of two saints, and memories of the mercy they poured out on the 8,000 patients who died in their care. There are still 17 patients living in Kalaupapa, all elderly, receiving medical care for the same disease. Some of them attended Mass with us. Praise God for His mercies.
Today 1200 teachers, administrators and staff from our Catholic Elementary Schools visited the Cathedral for an In-Service. I was impressed looking out from the altar at how many colleagues we have in our mission to impart the Faith to our young people. This is a team effort: parents, priests, teachers, coaches . . . everyone has a part in modeling and teaching the Faith to our kids. I am very proud of our Oakland Diocese Catholic Schools, and all the sacrifices that are made to keep them open . . . and flourishing.
On Tuesday we welcomed 1,200 Eighth Grade students from our Catholic schools to the Cathedral. This is one of my favorite annual events. It allows the students to enjoy a solemn Mass at the Cathedral – with commentary by yours truly. I remember Monsignor Ronald Knox’s book “The Mass in Slow Motion” which were commentaries he gave school girls during Masses he celebrated for them. I was very impressed by how well behaved and interested our students were in the holy rites. Art, music, beauty and sacred mystery draw us to the Lord. I explained to the kids the meaning of each of my vestments – gave an illustrated homily — and presented each student a blessed medal of St. Michael (I know . . . my vanity!).
We posed for “photos with Pope Francis” afterward. It’s times like these that I am so grateful for our Catholic Schools – and our dedicated teachers and staff. I love seeing the cathedral filled to overflowing – especially for the sanctification of our young people. Thank you to all who donated to this beautiful Temple of the Living God.
(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.”
For 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.
Our 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.
Our 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.
May 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
Last 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
This week I am attending the Senior Leadership Symposium for all the chaplains of Captain-rank in the Navy and Marine Corps. We’ve been briefed by the Chief of Naval Operations, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. We’re learning not just about world affairs and US defense strategy, but also how to better provide pastoral ministry to our sailors and Marines.
The Armed Forces are very short of Catholic chaplains. I am one of only six priests representing the Catholic Church at such an event, where 20 years ago there would have been around thirty. It’s a good way, though, to catch up with old friends — from all denominations — as most of us have served together in the Navy for more than 20 years.
I was happy to see such a great turn-out, nearly 100 volunteers, at a reception we held recently at the Cathedral Center. These are some of the folks who will play vital roles to inform and educate their fellow parishioners about the stewardship needs within the Diocese. “Reclaiming Christ’s Mission Together” is the invitation our new Capital Campaign is giving to us. For me there are two pillars of this campaign that all can participate in: Prayer and Sacrifice. Here is our prayer:
God the Father of mercies, Creator and Giver of all that is good: we thank You for the many blessings You have bestowed upon us. We offer You thanks and praise for the beauty of the earth, for those who have handed down our faith from generation to generation, for our work, our family and our loved ones.
Open our hearts to Your call, teach us to serve You as you deserve, as good stewards of Your many graces. With hope and trust, we ask You to send Your Holy Spirit to guide our good work and to be with us as we strive to reclaim our mission to know Christ better and to make Him better known.
We remain grateful for Your constant love, and entrust our journey into Your hands, through the intercession of our Blessed Mother, Queen of the World.
The last few days we have seen pictures like this one all over the place. I think they are great, especially because we know Pope Francis is a big football (soccer) fan. He even belongs to the San Lorenzo Football Club of Buenos Aires. On the other hand, Pope Emeritus is not a soccer fan, which makes the pictures even funnier!
But what is truly important is what Pope Francis tells us about the World Cup and sports in general: “It is not only a form of entertainment but also a tool to communicate the values that promote the good of the human person and help to build a more peaceful and fraternal coexistence,” especially in our world today. I wish both teams all the best in the finals tomorrow.
Jesus said: “When I was sick you visited me” (Mt. 25:36). Father Seamus Genovese, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Oakland, has been ill with pancreatic cancer for over a year. It is a miracle he is still with us and we are very grateful to the Lord for that. It was a pleasure to visit him, and, as you can see from the photo I helped him take his medicine. He is doing great.
I was shocked by yesterday’s horrific news of the killing of three young abducted Israelis in the West Bank. They were laid to rest this morning – Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel. So soon after Pope Francis’ visit to Israel, let us pray with him that in the midst of terrible hatred and violence, God might inspire all with thoughts of compassion and peace. The Catholic Community of the East Bay and I join with our Jewish brethren in sharing their sorrow and pain at the loss of these young men.