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.

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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.

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