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CURRENT ISSUE:  January 10, 2011
VOL. 49, NO. 1   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
30,000 expected at Walk for Life
Youth rally ignites ‘Fire Within’
Bishop leads national committee on marriage
Bishop Cordileone’s report for the New Year
A time for reflection on
accomplishments, challenges

In addition to making New Year’s resolutions in looking toward the future, the beginning of a New Year is also a time to look back, reflecting on the accomplishments and disappointments, joys and sorrows in one’s life over the previous 12 months. In the Diocese of Oakland, as in every other Catholic diocese in the United States, it is the time to do exactly that, as dioceses all across the country are required to compile statistical information on their previous year’s ministries and activities, and submit it to the Official Catholic Directory for publication in the New Year.

Our diocese’s 2010 statistical report was placed on my desk the day after the New Year’s Day weekend, and it does, indeed, reveal accomplishments and ongoing challenges. One immediate challenge is simply calculating the number of Catholics in our diocese, comprising all of Alameda and Contra Costa counties! The official number, based on the total registration in our parishes, is 432,453. However, we know that there are many other Catholics in the East Bay — some active in their faith, others more nominal — who are not registered in any parish, possibly half again as many as the official number.

The actual number, though, is not all that important. What really matters is how our people are being assisted in growing in the knowledge and love of the Lord, in putting their faith into action, and therefore making progress in the path to holiness. Our people are being served in 84 parishes by 94 of our 158 diocesan priests (another 55 are retired, and nine are involved in ministries outside the diocese), 120 permanent deacons, 22 women religious and 124 lay ecclesial ministers. Others are being served by many of the 194 religious priests in our diocese. And these numbers do not include the many lay volunteers who are active in our parishes.

In addition to the 22 sisters involved in parish ministry, another 307 serve in other ministries throughout the diocese, as do 93 brothers. Most especially, these consecrated women and men religious work in the area of education at all levels. Indeed, one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Church here in the East Bay is the active presence of many religious orders in educational ministry, going back well over a century.

The statistical overview also makes evident the fruits of the labors of these dedicated servants of the Church:

• 8,398 infants were baptized (preceded by catechesis for the parents and godparents) and another 1,175 adults and children were fully initiated into the Church;

• 3,756 young people and adults received the sacrament of Confirmation;

• 1,125 couples vowed unconditional love and fidelity to each other in a Church marriage;

• 2,414 deceased brothers and sisters in Christ received Christian burial.

Much was accomplished as well in the area of educational and social ministry:

• 11,858 students are receiving a Catholic education at our 46 Catholic elementary schools and nine Catholic high schools;

• Another 26,020 Catholic public elementary and high school students receive faith formation through the religious education programs in their parishes;

• 3,700 needy people were provided health care at the Order of Malta medical clinic operated out of the Cathedral of Christ the Light;

• 253 elderly people were assisted at two homes for the aged and infirm, while 516 children were cared for at the one day care center in the diocese;

• 531,464 people were assisted with a wide variety of other temporal needs, from emergency housing to crisis pregnancy care.

While all this may seem impressive, it is really just a small part of all the good that is actually being carried out in our diocese (for a more complete picture, consult the opening pages of our diocesan directory!), and especially in our parishes, in helping people in the East Bay with their material and spiritual needs. These are accomplishments that should give us encouragement as we move forward in meeting future, as well as current, challenges. In fact, if we consider these statistics closely, we will notice that they also point to some of these challenges.

First, there is the challenge of promoting a sense of vocation, especially among our young people. The Christian understands that the true path to happiness lies in responding to God’s call in his or her life, and in developing the virtue to be able to persevere in answering that call. Primarily, God calls His people to live out their Christian vocation within the specific vocation of marriage, priesthood, religious life or single life in the world. We especially need to encourage our young people to be open to the call to priesthood and the life of consecrated religious, certainly a very counter-cultural way of life in today’s world but so very necessary for guiding God’s people in the way of truth and goodness. Also included within the Christian understanding of vocation, though, is the sense that all of one’s gifts and talents come from God, so that they should be used, not for one’s own glory, but for the glory of God. This transforms a “careerism” mentality into a spiritual disposition which lives the Beatitudes.

This leads to another ongoing challenge, namely, promoting the spirituality of stewardship. Stewardship means precisely seeing all of one’s time, talent and treasure as a gift from God, to be returned to Him with increase by sharing them with others and furthering the mission of the Church. It is a distinctively Christian way, the practical application of one’s spirituality in the temporal order, treating the passing things of this world in such a way as to be beneficial in the eternity of the next world.

The accomplishments pointed to by the statistical data were made possible because so many of our good people are living this spirituality faithfully. Still, it is a minority of Catholics who do so. Imagine how much more the Lord could accomplish through us if everyone lived as a faithful steward of God’s gifts. The needs will always be there, and likely will even increase. We will be up to the challenge, though, by engaging the power of spirituality through putting our faith into action.

I thank all of you, and especially the priests and religious of our diocese, for all you have done to help further the mission of the Church over this past year, and I look forward to working with you in this New Year to accomplish all that God will set out for us.

May the blessings of God’s peace and goodness be with you throughout 2011 and beyond.

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