|May 21, 2012 • VOL. 50, NO. 9 • Oakland, CA|
Catholic VOICE FILE photo
Bishop Begin: Blessed beginning, blessed ending
Our 50th Anniversary reminded me of a unique coincidence in my life.
Later, we came to see that he was all of that and more. He was bright, open, pastoral and thoughtful, with a great mind for details. He loved the church and the diocese from the very beginning.
One surprise was that he could call priests by name immediately. We discovered that he had asked to have pictures of all the priests sent to him in Cleveland. Before he arrived, he had memorized all their names and faces. It was clear that he cared. That day marked the beginning. He was both an experienced pastor of an urban parish and an experienced bishop ready to guide our newly established diocese with enthusiasm.
The coincidence I spoke of is that I was there, too, at the ending on the morning Bishop Begin peacefully passed away in Providence Hospital.
Though weak from progressing cancer and radiation treatments, Bishop Begin insisted, really insisted, that he would do the ordination to the priesthood on April 22, 1977. Knowing that the bishop's health was precarious, we had dimissorial letters signed and ready. This would allow another bishop to do the ordination, if necessary.
In January of that year, Bishop John Cummins, then auxiliary bishop of Sacramento, had graciously agreed to hold the ordination date for us. We did not know then that he would be announced as the new bishop of Oakland just a few days after the ordination and the death of Bishop Begin. Neither did we know that Bishop Begin's last official act as bishop of Oakland would be that priestly ordination.
Bishop Begin came home from the ordination tired but in wonderful spirits, pleased with the ceremony and grateful for five new priests to serve the people of God. He was feeling well enough the next day to enjoy the lunch quickly prepared by Sisters Thomasine and Lydia when Bishop Cummins dropped in to say hello to Bishop Begin and to see how he was feeling.
Sunday was the day of first Masses. I returned home to discover that the sisters were concerned that the bishop was not feeling well at all. The two sisters and I sat up all night with the bishop who was growing increasingly uncomfortable and weak. Very early in the morning on Monday, we made arrangements and Bishop Begin was taken to the hospital by ambulance.
We contacted the Begin family in Cleveland. Fathers Bob and Dan Begin and their mother Cady (the bishop's sister-in-law) arrived late Monday night and were able to visit a little with the bishop. Things seemed serious, but stable when everyone but Cady retired for a little rest. I remember her saying she would stay and pray the bishop into heaven. On the next morning, the bishop was very weak but was holding his own.
The day was Tuesday, April 26, 1977. Most of the "Fathers" had gone to San Francisco for the installation of Archbishop John Quinn, not knowing that Bishop Begin had taken a turn for the worse over the weekend after ordaining five new priests for our diocese.
Msgr. John Connolly and Father Bill Marshall had stopped at the hospital on their way to the installation and decided to stay with Bishop Begin along with Sister Lydia, Sister Thomasine, Cady Begin and myself.
At about 10 o'clock Msgr. Connolly and I went to the chapel and offered the Votive Mass for a Happy Death for Bishop Begin. It was during that Mass that Bishop Begin quietly passed away.
Word was sent immediately to San Francisco. Archbishop Jean Jadot, as concelebrant, was to pray the memento for the dead in the Eucharistic Prayer that morning. In doing so, it was Archbishop Jadot who announced to all present that Bishop Floyd Begin had died just a few minutes earlier.
On the eve of the 50th anniversary of his own ordination to the priesthood, Bishop Floyd L. Begin was buried at Holy Sepulchre on April 30, 1977.
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