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 April 11, 2005 VOL. 43, NO. 7Oakland, CA
Bishop's Column

Cathedral of Christ the Light:
mission and ministry

Soon in the pages of The Catholic Voice you will see the latest renderings for the design of our new Cathedral of Christ the Light, and you will read about the plans for the groundbreaking festivities on Saturday, May 21.

This historic event gains renewed poignancy for me now as I reflect on my meeting last May with Pope John Paul II, during which we discussed with great hope the life of the Diocese of Oakland, including our new cathedral.

As we approach this exciting moment, I have been asked to share with you my sense of what the building of our new cathedral will mean for the life of our Catholic community in the East Bay.

After all, building a new cathedral is not an end in itself. The cathedral is a means for us and future generations to grow in our identity as God’s People and to be strengthened to live out our mission of witnessing to Christ and serving in His name.

Cathedral’s unique mission
Let me begin with a word about the identity of the cathedral:
Just as the home supports and fosters the life that family members share, the Cathedral of Christ the Light nurtures the life that we Catholics in Alameda and Contra Costa counties share. It is our Mother Church, our “parish-in-common.”

The cathedral is a highly visible sign of both our presence here and our ongoing commitment to our neighbors in the city of Oakland and all the cities and districts that surround it. An elegant architectural work of the highest quality, the cathedral enriches our civic community and is a welcoming place for visitors of all faiths and cultures.

The Second Vatican Council’s “Constitution on the Church” tells us that the Church’s mission is to be “a sacrament – a sign and instrument… of intimate union with God and of the unity of the whole human race” (n. 1).

It is from this mission which Christ has given to his Church that the Cathedral of Christ the Light receives it own unique mission, as the foremost resource for our diocese to build up the unity of men and women with God and with one another.

The ministries at the cathedral and its adjacent campus foster this unity through worship, teaching and evangelization, and service – particularly to the needy and those at the margins of society.

These ministries are accomplished by the whole Catholic community of the East Bay, the cathedral parishioners, and by all persons of good will who want to join with us in working to establish a society of justice and peace, according to God’s plan for the human family.

Fulfilling the mission
Let’s speak then about ways for the cathedral to fulfill its mission of being the Mother Church of the Diocese of Oakland.

• The Cathedral of Christ the Light is the ideal gathering place for unifying events in the diocese.
Among the events that will be moved to the cathedral immediately after its dedication are events that solidify the Catholic community in our two counties: the bishop’s celebration of the most important holy days (especially Christmas and Holy Week) and culturally important feast days, ordinations, adult Confirmations, welcoming of new Catholics from across the diocese (“Rite of Election”), the Mass for the Blessing of the Holy Oils, celebrations of Catholic organizations and associations, gatherings from our many Catholic schools, and Chautauqua – our annual celebration of the ethnic diversity with which God has blessed our diocese.

Needless to say, the cathedral would be the site of Masses of remembrance for people loved by our community, such as our dear, departed Pope.

Our cathedral will also be extremely active with new events that allow us to reach out to the broader community: annual celebrations for police and firefighters, doctors and health care workers, teachers, members of the bar, university professors and administrators, nuns, brothers, and other members of religious orders, and more.

We will invite clusters of parish groups for Sunday Mass, and we will offer to Confirmation classes the opportunity to come there for their celebrations.

I envision the cathedral being a center for furthering the renewal of Eucharistic devotion in our diocese: for example, as the site for an annual Diocesan Corpus Christi procession on the plaza, or gatherings to pray for peace and solace in times of tribulation.

One more idea I have in mind: an annual celebration of Epiphany, as the Feastday of the Cathedral, with a solemn Mass preceded by the pageant of the Three Kings arriving in the plaza to distribute gifts to children, truly bringing Christmas to downtown Oakland.

• The Cathedral makes greater impact when we lead by example.
Gathering people together frequently from all parts of our diocese strengthens the awareness that, despite our wide-ranging backgrounds, we are one faith family.

This heightened bond accomplishes two important aims:
Our fellow citizens see the Church as a model of unity that can and should be woven all across the rich diversity of our area.

We educate the next generation to realize their responsibilities for the city of Oakland and for the whole region. For example, our city schools depend upon the support of suburban Catholics for their survival.

•The liturgical celebrations at the Cathedral of Christ the Light will enrich liturgies throughout our diocese.

The Church also expects that the celebrations at the cathedral will exemplify the highest standards in liturgy, and so the experience of prayer and worship in the cathedral by people from throughout the diocese aims to raise the caliber of liturgical celebration in our parishes.

This tradition of leadership started with Mission San Jose in Fremont, which was renowned throughout the California missions for its liturgies.

It was very much the case before we lost St. Francis de Sales Cathedral in 1989, and it will be the case in our new Cathedral of Christ the Light.

To intensify this result, I have in mind initiatives like: form at the cathedral a “College of Preachers,” who exemplify “best practices” through their preaching at the cathedral and who can assist our priests and deacons to improve their preaching; or establish an annual choral competition in order to stimulate improved music programs in our parishes.

•The Cathedral of Christ the Light will be the new home of the parish community of St. Mary’s / St. Francis de Sales.

A cathedral is uniquely positioned to attract a wide range of talents from throughout the diocese and connect them to serve those in need. Many of the most important forms of ministry at the cathedral will be those offered by the cathedral parish itself, whose current home is St. Mary – St. Francis de Sales in Oakland.

Our first cathedral parish continues to have a vibrant life that models ethnic diversity, worship, learning and outreach to the central city.

All the current social ministries of St. Mary’s-St. Francis de Sales will be continued when the parish moves to its new home, including: community organizing, Habitat for Humanity, tutoring and winter shelter.

The parish’s close ties to local services such as St. Vincent de Paul Dining Room, A Friendly Place and Friendly Manor, and the Next Step Learning Center may be expanded.

I deeply hope that the energy generated by the cathedral dedication will enable us to add more ministries, particularly to sponsor a health clinic for those who cannot afford care.

At its new site on the shore of Lake Merritt, the parish will offer a warm welcome to the many new members that demographic experts tell us we ought to anticipate, including over 1,500 planned new residences in the immediate area.

The parish and its clergy will also evangelize and minister to the spiritual needs of the many people who work in that part of the city.

• The other buildings on the cathedral campus strengthen our diocese’s effectiveness.

The Cathedral Center will bring together in one place, alongside the cathedral, a large meeting facility and central chancery and pastoral offices — the support services for all our parishes, schools and communities throughout the diocese.

This arrangement will provide greater efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of these services, and heighten the sense of our common mission throughout all our parishes and schools.

Locating the personnel of the diocesan central services on the very campus where so many people from throughout our diocese come together will increase their interaction, to the mutual enrichment of all.

This will generate new ways to serve and renew energy for our mission. The large conference center is an ideal and convenient gathering place for major education events, workshops and addresses.

In the spirit of hope
I have high hopes for the cathedral and its mission.

The past 16 years of changing sites, disrupting parish schedules and using less than adequate and less than central locations, has severely limited our ability to shine out in witnessing to the God who makes us one-in-many and many-in-Christ.

The vibrant program of ministries at the Cathedral of Christ the Light – our “parish-church-in-common” – will profoundly strengthen the bonds that make us not just 89 separate congregations, but one Church, one Catholic Church, from Byron to West Oakland, from Richmond to Lafayette and Orinda, and from Fremont to Martinez.

In recent years, while Bishop John Cummins and I have strived publicly and privately to rectify mistakes of the past, you lay and ordained Catholics throughout our diocese have quietly continued the Church’s mission and looked to its future.

These inspiring efforts, for which Bishop Cummins and I are humbly grateful, include thousands of volunteer hours and substantial financial pledges committed independently to build our new Cathedral of Christ the Light.

Just as we began the Third Christian Millennium, the Holy Father wrote an Apostolic Letter urging all of us to take up initiatives to build up Christ’s Kingdom in our own age: “Now we must look ahead, we must ‘put out into the deep,’ trusting in Christ’s words: Duc in altum! What we have done this year… should inspire in us new energy, and impel us to invest in concrete initiatives the enthusiasm which we have felt.” [n.15. (www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_letters/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_20010106_novo-millennio-ineunte_en.html)]

I believe the building of our new cathedral is very much a response to the Holy Father’s call.
In building the Cathedral of Christ the Light for 300 years and then using it to build up our local Church and our East Bay community, we are, indeed, putting out into the deep.

The cathedral will, as the sign on the site says, “Gather Good Together” – because from the energy that it produces God will be glorified and his work will be done.

The many cathedral volunteers, Bishop Cummins and I cordially welcome you to gather with your Catholic community at the cathedral groundbreaking on May 21!


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

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