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November 5, 2007   •   VOL. 45, NO. 19   •   Oakland, CA
Bishop's Column

Our new cathedral:
a 21st-century idiom of timeless truths

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

On Oct. 23, I had the blessing of spending the day with the priests of Oakland at a seminar aimed at enriching our skills as pastors. During the course of the day, I had the particular joy of sharing with my brother priests the great good news about the date for the dedication of our new Cathedral of Christ the Light. The Liturgy of Solemn Dedication will take place on Thursday, Sept. 25, 2008 at 2 p.m.

Because the construction of the cathedral center is 75 percent complete and the contractor is on target with the schedule, we are able to fix this important date already and plan accordingly.

As you know, the cathedral project has as its centerpiece the building of a beautiful mother-church for our diocese, which will stand for centuries as a master-work expressing in our contemporary 21st century idiom the timeless gospel truths about the Church and her Bridegroom, Christ the Light of all peoples.

And, of course, the project includes many other elements: a cemetery/mausoleum, a full-facility conference center, offices for the parish that will call the cathedral home, offices for my co-workers in the diocesan Curia (the Chancery), a residence for the clergy who serve at the cathedral with an apartment for the bishop, and a large public plaza with a café and bookstore/information center. The cathedral center will also have two levels of underground parking.

The space available in this column does not permit me to go into great detail about each of these parts of the cathedral center, but I do want make some remarks about each. For further information you can consult the cathedral web site ( www.ctlcathedral.org).

Cathedral church
The cathedral church is a great soaring vault, which by its communicative power lifts all who enter to raise not only their eyes, but also their minds and hearts to God in heaven.
The cathedral is designed to display light in all its richness, not directly, but enriched and enhanced by being reflected from the wood which forms the great inner vault. In this way, our cathedral is a symbol.

The natural light that fills it is a symbol for the even more real light of Christ that fills our world. This light of Christ is the reality with which the Father began creation, and Christ’s light will, as the Book of Revelation says, fill the City of God at the end of time.

So, to enter the cathedral is to experience the world as God intended it at creation and as he restored it through redemption. And the Eucharistic Sacrifice which is offered there is the principal means by which Christ’s light grows ever brighter in our hearts and in our world.

The cathedral is a powerful symbol of the universe as God intends it to be. That is the vision of the world and our lives in the world that the new cathedral will proclaim on the west shore of Lake Merritt for centuries to come.

Conference center
The conference center will permit the various organizations of our local Church to hold meetings and celebrations in a convenient and modern facility at the heart of our diocese.

Having a cemetery at the cathedral has great symbolic force. It reminds us that the faithful departed remain part of our communion in Christ through the Eucharist that is celebrated in the cathedral above the mausoleum.

The offices for the parish and the diocese are great resources — “home base,” so to speak — for the individuals and teams that are working to advance the New Evangelization.

The plaza, along with the café and book store/information center, helps to make this religious project a civic fixture, a complex that says the Church of Christ the Light — both the church building and the Church community — is here in the East Bay for everyone.

And I am most grateful that I will be living at the cathedral center, right across the plaza from the church which is the focal point of my ministry of teaching, sanctifying and leading.
It was at another meeting recently that one of the insights about the cathedral center crystallized with even greater clarity in my mind.

I was on a tour of the new addition to Moreau Catholic High School in Hayward. I got a chance to see the great new labs, the beautiful new library and the remarkable video production center. This confirmed for me that a community’s investment in what we call “facilities” is really a commitment to what goes by the name of “programming.”

We build so that we can act, can do, can serve. For example, a married couple builds a house so that they can establish a home and raise a family. That’s the key to understanding the point in building this great center of the Cathedral of Christ the Light.

Diocesan pastoral plan
The dedication of the center is the occasion for all of us in the Catholic community of the East Bay to launch out anew on the great work of the New Evangelization, the mission, as we say in our diocesan pastoral plan, to “Know Christ better and make Him better known.”
For a diocese, the cathedral church is the mother church of all the faithful, a second home church that does not compete with but complements one’s parish home.

Our breathtakingly beautiful cathedral, a veritable hymn in glass and wood and concrete, is a powerful witness to the beauty of Christ’s light, the beauty of the life of light into which He wants to draw all men and women, and to which it is our mission to invite them.

The God who made us is all Beauty, all Goodness and all Truth; life with Him is a beautiful life, the best life, life in the truest sense. That’s what the Church knows in faith. It’s what we witness to and teach by our new cathedral.

All of the facilities that surround it in the cathedral center enhance our efforts to “Gather Good Together” at the corner of Harrison Street and Grand Avenue, for the sake of our mission as the new People of God.

As you’ve read here in The Voice, Sister Rose Marie Hennessy is working very closely with a planning commission to lay out the sorts of programs we will offer at the cathedral, precisely to bring the center’s potential to fulfillment. I am very grateful for this important help.

Apostolic works
In the light of my conviction about how a facility makes action possible, I want to say a word about the concern that is sometimes raised in regard to this project: that establishing it could mean shortchanging other apostolic works in the diocese. Quite the contrary, I believe. In the ways we will bring people from all over the East Bay together at the cathedral and there have opportunities for the Holy Spirit to engender in them new vision and renewed dedication, we will have more, not fewer, resources for the mission of the Church.

Let me sketch this out with an illustration. While not wanting to preempt the planning process, I can say that it is my hope to have an annual gathering at the cathedral for teachers – those who teach in our Catholic schools and Catholics who teach in other schools. At this Mass we will thank God for their service because they are great “agents of the light,” both the light of natural truth and the light of faith.

This diocesan recognition of educators will reinforce the commitment of us all to support the ministry of education in our own schools and to invest ourselves in the political process needed to improve public education. And that’s only one example of how the cathedral center will enable us to do more for Christ, to serve his mission better.

Let me conclude with a reflection that came from one more occasion, offering the 11 a.m. “Family Mass” at St. Mary’s Church in Walnut Creek on Sunday, Oct. 28. The church was filled with young children and their parents. I realized once more that it is for these children and their children and grandchildren and for the generations to come for centuries that we are making the sacrifices required to build the Cathedral of Christ the Light.

We are building this great new center for the Church in Oakland so that to those who come after us we will hand on a communion in faith, hope and love in the Lord that is strong and robust, and the foundation for a future filled with Christ’s own light.

As the days of the year ahead unfold, you will receive information about the festivities that will mark the cathedral’s dedication. These are being planned so that every member of the diocese will be able to share in them.

Please continue your prayers for the success of this project, not only for the successful completion of the construction, but most of all, for the cathedral to be a force for the renewal of our diocese to the glory of God the Almighty.

May Our Lady, Mother of the Church in Oakland and Queen of the Universe, obtain for us these great blessings from her Eternal Son.


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

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