|May 21, 2012 • VOL. 50, NO. 9 • Oakland, CA|
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Oakland diocese's first parish celebrates its jubilee, too
A growth spurt accompanied the newborn Diocese of Oakland. New churches and schools moved from drawing boards to reality, particularly in the growing suburbs of the East Bay.
As the diocese observes its 50th anniversary, the parish established by Oakland's first bishop, Most Rev. Floyd L. Begin and named in honor of the patroness of the diocese, is planning a golden anniversary celebration.
The parish developed from two small mission churches, St. Francis of Rome (est.1914) and St. Philomena (est. 1940), beginning with about 300 families. On the south shore of Suisun Bay, the parish covers a lot of ground, stretching from Pittsburg to Avon. According to the parish history, areas that, at times, were called Bella Vista, Ambrose, Shore Acres, Nichols, Clyde, Port Chicago and the Naval Weapons Station are within its boundaries.
"We have 41 cultures," said Father Richard Culver, who serves as pastor of the 2,000-family community.
The largest, he said, are the Filipino, Anglo, Vietnamese and Hispanic communities. The planned anniversary Mass, scheduled for August, will reflect that with readings in Spanish, Vietnamese and English. Petitions will be offered in several languages.
Among the smaller communities are people from Tanzania, Nigeria, Korea and Japan. "We have two Austrians," Father Culver said, "me and somebody else."
"Father Theo is Lithuanian," he said, adding that the former pastor, Rev. Theo Palis, 92, makes his home at Mercy Center. Father Culver came to the parish in 1994.
The parish benefits from generosity of each of the cultures, Father Culver said, with people bringing their various talents to the care of the parish.
The active Parish Council, Knights of Columbus and Regina Mundi Society all donate time, energy and finances to the parish he said "Everybody does their part."
"I'm grateful to the people who have done so much for our community."
Another place where those cultures come together in an appreciated fashion is at the table. The anniversary Mass, which will be celebrated at noon Aug.19, will be followed by a barbecue that will include food from various parts of the globe.
"They all want to make their own foods and bring them," he said.
The parish celebrates its anniversary every year, Father Culver said, but decided to forgo a major celebration last year. "We wanted to save up," he said.
On Saturday night, before the anniversary Mass, the parish will revive the Cobalt Club, an old-movies-inspired supper club, where women will dress in finery, men will don tuxedos, a sit-down dinner will be served and a band will play in a supper club atmosphere.
"It is really special," Father Culver said.
The celebration will be a special time for the parish, which is in one of the areas hardest-hit by the economic downturn, unemployment and foreclosures.
"We struggle every week in the collection," Father Culver said "mostly because people have lost jobs."
But it is a place of pitching in. "We have a very good parish," he said.
"Little by little, we save up," he said. "The heating and air conditioning will need to be replaced.
The parish has been sprucing up during this special year, and hopes to have new carpeting installed for the anniversary.
Outreach is a high priority. "We get a lot of calls from the community," Father Culver said. The parish has received a call to participate in a Memorial Day parade in which the city closes off a major street.
The parish also looks out for those for whom hard times are a constant companion. There were Easter baskets, filled for food, for 70 families. It's the same at Christmas. They put up a tree and people can choose gifts to give. "The parish gets calls," Father Culver said, "asking, 'Can we be considered?'"
Faith formation is important in the parish, with a parishioner-run youth group, and third-year confirmation students come to the Holy Spirit Novena. "I give them the retreat," Father Culver said.
RCIA is also a high priority for the parish. "I like to teach that personally," he said. A dozen people entered the church this year. "I validated four marriages," he said.
"Every Friday we have Adoration. At times in Vietnamese. … Father is trying," he said.
"We have a very good seminarian in his pastoral year," Father Culver said. "This is Joseph Le. He has a lot of knowledge. He works out wonderfully. He's kind and very generous with his time, and very compassionate. We appreciate him."
Last year, Father Culver celebrated his 25th anniversary of the priesthood, with about 500 parishioners joining in the festivities.
The parish looks forward to offering hospitality to the bishop, Bishop Emeritus John S. Cummins, and the priests of the diocese, including several Vietnamese priests who visit the Bay Point parish to serve the community.
"We have fun," Father Culver said. "Parish life is not to be boring. Jesus was never bored. He went to parties. He sang and danced. We do, too."
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