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 October 3, 2005 VOL. 43, NO. 17Oakland, CA
Bishop's Column

In gratitude to God for two years as your bishop

Dear Sisters and Brothers:

By God’s providential design my column for this issue of The Voice comes just as I celebrate the second anniversary of my becoming the Bishop of Oakland. As you might recall, I arrived after New Year’s of 2003 and spent several months as Bishop John Cummins’ coadjutor bishop, that is, designated as his eventual successor, with some months to serve as his assistant and learn the job before taking over. The transition was completed on October 1, 2003.

I recall very vividly that, in the homily I preached in St. Elizabeth’s Church at the Mass celebrated to welcome me to the Oakland Diocese, I borrowed expressions from the Marriage Rite to pledge to you my faithful love in good times and in bad. I am happy to say that as I look over these past two years, most of the times have been good.

I’d like to reflect a bit on these two years with you, so that you can join with me in thanking God for his faithful love.

One of the best parts of the good times God has given me is the many opportunities to get to know and to work with so many wonderful brothers and sisters in the Lord. This new “family of faith” that Christ has given me is rich in faith, hope and love, and in the good works that are the fruit of his grace.

A most powerful way for me to see these gifts and graces is my pastoral visits to the parishes. Sharing totally in the life of one of our parish for a full weekend – preaching at all the Mass, offering the Holy Eucharist, hearing confessions, anointing the sick, dialoguing with leadership, visiting the school – these visits have been one of the great joys of these past two years.

I, likewise, praise and thank God for the co-workers I have come to know and love since my arrival. Here, of course, I first have in mind my brother priests, my closest collaborators in serving the Lord’s flock.

Likewise, I praise God for the generous deacons of our diocese. And my joy is only intensified as I think of the priests and deacons I have ordained since my arrival, now sharing with me and my brother bishops in being consecrated to the pastoral care of God’s People.

I magnify God’s name for the many devoted religious women and men I have come to know and respect since my arrival. They pour themselves out unstintingly to build up the kingdom, especially in the midst of the poor and the marginalized here in the East Bay.

As I do my review of life in preparation for celebrating my second birthday as your bishop, I am vividly aware of our teachers and catechists. I have spent some of my happiest hours in Oakland meeting with you and exploring how we can become even more effective in handing on to those we teach the treasure of wisdom entrusted to us by Jesus’ Apostles.

Being a teacher has been one of the richest and most rewarding dimensions of my priesthood. I love being with my fellow teachers, so that we can generate new energy and new enthusiasm for our great mission.

While reference to consultative bodies might not make it on the list of gifts for which to be thankful in every diocesan bishop’s reflections, it is on mine. I continue to marvel at the effectiveness and spirit of cooperation that animates our Diocesan Pastoral Council, the Presbyteral Council, and the other consultative bodies. It is a great comfort to me to experience their support and to benefit from their insights.

This point seems an appropriate place to acknowledge my appreciation for the wonderful co-workers God has given me in the Chancery, the central service arm of the diocese. They are zealous to spread the Kingdom, and filled with ardor for the glorious name of Christ Jesus. I am deeply indebted to them for their assistance.

And finally as I take stock of the persons who have been a blessing to me these two years, Bishop Cummins comes particularly to mind. When I arrived in 2003 we were acquaintances from our presence in the U.S. Episcopal Conference. In our mutual love for the People of God in Oakland, we have become friends and true brothers in our service to this beloved diocese. I continue to try to learn from Bishop Cummins’ store of wisdom and deeply appreciate his unfailing fraternal support.

In looking back on the past two years I am very much aware of the significant efforts we have made to deal with the consequences of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy in our diocese. These have taken a great deal of time and energy.

As I told you earlier this summer, I am profoundly grateful to Divine Providence that we have reached a settlement of these lawsuits. However, settling lawsuits is only a part of our task.

There are all the forms of our ministry to victim survivors that justly demand time and attention. It as for this reason that I began the apology services in all parishes where abuse had occurred. I bless God’s name that these have born fruit. They will continue until the whole set is completed.

In our Ministry to Victim-Survivors Committee we are exploring other ways whereby we can further the reconciliation and healing that has begun. And the diocese remains committed to its program for providing safe environments for all children in our church communities and gatherings. Here, the safety of children is our first priority

Coming up to my second anniversary, I am aware that I have helped us to make a good beginning on a great project: building the Cathedral of Christ the Light.

Launching this initiative has been a significant part of my focus in these first years of my service to you. I do it gladly, because I believe with full conviction that the cathedral will be a great new heart and home for the people of our diocese.

Building this cathedral is not just erecting a structure, it is establishing a new center and source of energy in which all of us can encounter the life-giving presence of Christ in word and sacrament and from which we can go out to do his works of mercy, justice and charity.

With a reasonable lead time before the transition to Bishop Cummins’ retirement and my succeeding him, the Vatican wrote to say that this would become official on October 1, 2003. In consulting the calendar I realized that this date is the feast of St. Theresa of Lisieux, the Little Flower. Ever since, I have considered her my special patron and advocate in my ministry as Oakland’s bishop.

I greatly admire her “Little Way,” her habit of doing even the smallest task for the love of God, because being about that work is what he wants. I have tried to walk her Little Way very carefully for these past two years.

For the times I stayed on track, I praise and thank the Father of grace and mercy; for the times I have strayed off the mark, I ask the Lord’s forgiveness and apologize to you.

For what lies ahead, I plead for the continuing support of your prayers. Please join with St. Theresa in asking that the Good Shepherd give me the graces I need to be his worthy sacrament.


Previous "In His Light" Columns by Bishop Allen H. Vigneron

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