Michael Gallagher, a parishioner at St. Mary Church in Walnut Creek, is congratulated by Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone and Stephen Cordova, coordinator of academic affairs of St. Francis de Sales School for Pastoral Ministry.
DEACON NOÉ GONZALES PHOTO
46 graduates complete faith courses
Hector Aguirre, at 27, had recently been confirmed, and was thinking about the next step in his faith journey.
He had recently moved to Berkeley and was in the pews at St. Joseph the Worker Church in 2008 when the Rev. Stephan Kappler announced the next course at the School of Pastoral Ministry would begin in three weeks.
Aguirre, who had prepared for confirmation at St. Agnes Church in San Francisco, enrolled in La Escuela de Ministerios Pastorales.
"The lay people in charge of instruction were so remarkable," Aguirre said. "Part of understanding my faith is the people of my community," he said.
Aguirre, now a parishioner at St. Ambrose Church in Berkeley, completed the course last spring, and returned to St. Joseph the Worker Church for Mass and graduation on March 10. He was one of 14 graduates of La Escuela, and 20 graduates of the St. Francis de Sales School for Pastoral Ministry to be honored at the event.
The graduates successfully completed the program, which met one Saturday a month for three years at St. Joseph the Worker Church. Among the topics covered by the course are the Documents of the Second Vatican Council, Sacred Scripture, The Power of Language, Church History, Sacraments and Liturgy, The Foundations of the Faith, Catholic Social Teaching, Catholic Moral Thought and The Canon Law of the Sacraments.
Also receiving recognition were a dozen students who completed a course in Theology of the Body. Completion of the 27.5-hour class, which meets one Saturday a month for five consecutive months, prepares the certificate holder to lead a Theology of the Body study group in his or her own parish.
The pews of St. Joseph the Worker Church were filled with graduates, families and well-wishers for a 9 a.m. Mass celebrated by Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone. The liturgy included songs in Spanish, English and Latin.
Bishop Cordileone thanked graduates of the school for their commitment to their studies.
In a homily drawing on the Gospel story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15, 1-3, 11-32), the bishop told the graduates, "There are a lot of people that are still in that distant land, that are still mired in the world of sin."
"People do at many times in their life come to their senses. Where will they turn? They will turn to you. You need to be the ones who help lift them up from that world of sin so they might return to their Father, to know the glory and joy of the Resurrection."
At the graduation ceremony, which followed the Mass, Mary Ann Wiesinger, associate director of the Department of Evangelization and Catechesis, which directs the school, said graduates often ask, what comes next?
"Remain close to Christ," she told them. "Now you are representatives not only of the school, but of the diocese, of the bishop and, most importantly, you are representatives of Christ in the world."
Through participation in the sacraments and Liturgy, she encouraged them to "be those witnesses the world so desperately needs."
Graduates gathered at the parish hall of St. Mary Magdalen Church to greet their guests and receive good wishes from Bishop Cordileone.
Tony Lau, a parishioner at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Fremont, was joined by representatives of three generations of his family in celebrating his completion of the school.
Lau, who is active in the music ministry and the Legion of Mary at his parish, said he found the school to be "one of the best ways to learn about the faith."
"It's been wonderful," he said.