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

The Week in Review

Dear Friends,

It’s been a busy week. We had a great turnout at St. Isidore’s in Danville for our capital campaign reception.  The pastor, Fr. Gerald Moran, filled his parish hall with parish leaders who responded very positively to our appeal for 100% participation by all families.  After all, doesn’t Vatican 2 teach “The people are the Church”?  Kudos to Tanc Agius, the parish chair of the Campaign, for his leadership.

Last Friday I hosted a consultation with teacher representatives from our nine Catholic high schools in the diocese.  We discussed the issue of Catholic Identity in the schools from their perspective, and how we could best work together to strengthen that identity.  It was a very honest and fruitful meeting.  Most of the teachers chosen to represent their schools have been teaching for twenty years or more.  We are going to have another session soon, this time with representatives from our Catholic elementary schools.

Saturday morning I attended the Magnificat Prayer Breakfast in Concord.  There were about 500 Catholic women present, along with some spouses, priests and seminarians.  We sang and prayed, and then I was invited, not to give a lecture, but to “share my testimony.”  There is a big difference.  I spoke about the “Cross and Resurrection” in my life — actually more like “crosses and resurrections”  : )  You can hear the talk here (may take up to a minute to load, be patient).

Bishop at podiumI hesitate to talk about myself publicly.  Doesn’t scripture say “Not to us Lord, not to us, but to Your Name give the glory”?  But we do need to share with others the story of God’s love and grace, and how He  has always been present in our lives – even in times of trial.  I found the Magnificat members refreshing.  They take their spiritual lives seriously and — happily — they are providing the means for many women to grow closer to Our Lord through the Holy Spirit.  I highly recommend the Magnificat ministry.

_ABE4776 Magnificat Leadership

Saturday evening I celebrated Mass at St. John the Baptist Church in San Lorenzo.  San Lorenzo is the neighborhood where the 580 connects with the 880 freeway.  Fr. Michael Lacey welcomed me and gave me a tour of the church and grounds, while his able parochial vicar, Fr. David Mendoza-Vela heard confessions.  It was wonderful to see the new hospitality patio they built under the eaves of the church, as well as a fountain and well.

St. John procession croppedSt. John altar cropped

It was my first visit, and the church was packed: standing-room-only.  I was so impressed with the enthusiasm and diversity of the parish: not only folks from different nationalities, but all age groups were represented.  Many people complain when children cry during Mass, but I take it as a sign the Church is growing.  There were many young families present.  Kids should grow up being at home in their Father’s House.  The St. John’s School children presented me with a basket of hand-made cards and posters.  If you come to my office in the Chancery, you’ll see them, together with cards and letters I receive regularly from children of our schools.  (Just like you put your kids’ and grandkids’ art works on your refrigerator.)  St. John’s has a beautiful, charming, church, built in 1949.  Happily, most of the original art and architecture has remained.  I immediately felt at home.  And the people were so warm and friendly.  Makes me proud to be Catholic.

IMG_8507Sunday morning we celebrated the Vietnamese Martyrs together with the Solemnity of Christ the King (the Martyrs’ actual feast day being on Monday).  St. Anthony’s Church was filled to overflowing.  The youth group put on a short spiritual skit before Mass began in which they re-enacted the coming of the missionary priests and nuns, and the martyrdom of the saints of Vietnam.  It was very cleverly and reverently done, with costumes — but in total silence.  The teens had practiced well, and the message was clearly communicated, as all eyes were on them.

We then reverenced with incense a large reliquary containing remains of the holy martyrs, and processed with the relics around the neighborhood.  People stopped their cars. Others peered from behind their curtains as we processed, blessing the neighborhood with the presence of the holy saints.

VIMG_8582ietnamese Catholics are a solid rock of faith in our Diocese. They provide vocations of priests and sisters, and hundreds of faithful Catholics to the life of our parishes.  In my visit to Vietnam last February I met elderly priests and laypeople who had suffered by years of imprisonment for the Faith.  The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians!  Thanks to Sr. Rosaline who organized the celebration, as well as Fr. Juan Franco and Fr. Mark Hoc from the parish, and all the priests who concelebrated the Mass.  Special thanks to Bishop John Cummins whose presence adds so much to these holy celebrations.

(Thanks to Darwin Sayo/The Catholic Voice for the photos from the Vietnamese Martyrs Mass, and for members of Magnificat and St. John’s parish for the others.)