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 diocese.st 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.

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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