Oakland experiences will serve
Retired Archbishop John Quinn of San Francisco greets Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone at the Oakland diocese's 50th anniversary Mass Aug. 22. Behind them are Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit and Bishop Emeritus John S. Cummins.
JosÉ Luis Aguirre/The Catholic Voice
new archbishop well in SF
Most Rev. John S. Cummins
Farewell and good wishes to Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone are still immersed in the surprise of his appointment. This sensitivity may arise from our recent but lengthy experience of bishops coming out of San Francisco, not going in. San Francisco men have gone to Sacramento, to the Central Valley, to Nevada, to Utah. The direction seems to be west to east.
Archbishop Salvatore appears to have accepted his new appointment with admirable ease. To quote an old expression, "'Twas not always thus." In 1849, shortly after the annexation of the southwest by the United States, the American bishops, gathered in Baltimore, felt obligated to appoint a bishop to the Diocese of the Two Californias. The lot fell to a Dominican priest from Zanesville, Ohio, Charles Pius Montgomery. He politely but firmly refused the invitation of the then Pope Pius IX. The Holy Father quickly turned to the American Dominican Provincial, the more agreeable Spanish born Joseph Sadoc Alemany, who at the time was attending a Dominican chapter meeting in Rome. A half century later, a rising episcopal star in the American scene, Denis O'Connell, formerly the president of the Catholic University of America, was appointed auxiliary to the archbishop of San Francisco. He felt his liberation less than two years later when he was invited to become bishop of Richmond, Virginia.
The ferry ride from Oakland to San Francisco is 20 minutes and it hides the symbolism of change. Archbishop Salvatore will bring some experiences from Oakland that may serve him in the far more demanding San Francisco. There is the remembrance of Archbishop Patrick Riordan who in 1908 took the largesse given him on his 25th anniversary as bishop to build a Catholic center at the University of California at Berkeley. Only 267 Catholics were enrolled in the school. He turned the work over to the Paulist Fathers from New York who are very well known at Old Saint Mary's in San Francisco. The word "Mercy" is attached to the retirement home in Fruitvale here, a name similarly attached to San Francisco institutions, a heritage of the Mercy Sisters since 1854. The Salesian Boys Club in Richmond would be a shadow of the Salesian Boys Club of North Beach, whose alumni constitute a kind of "Who's Who" of prominent civic and church leaders in San Francisco.
Our bishop's friendship with Dominican fathers and brothers on this side of the Bay will continue with the beautifully restored St. Dominic's Gothic church in San Francisco, a magnet kind of center for pilgrims and devotions. Undoubtedly, relations with the Franciscans will continue with St. Boniface in the Tenderloin where the ministries in the West of the Mission San Jose Dominican Sisters began. Creative energies of the parish appear in the paper at times. The spirit of Father Alfred Boedekker continues with St. Anthony's dining room, the shops for clothes and gifts and the rehabilitation farm in Marin County. The Christian Brothers, so soundly established in the East Bay will be proximate neighbors of our bishop, their institution of Sacred Heart/Cathedral High School surrounding the current residence of the archbishop.
A remarkable biography of Archbishop Patrick W. Riordan done by Monsignor James P. Gaffey of Santa Rosa bears the title, quoting both St. Paul and the Archbishop, "Citizen of No Mean City." At the ordination of our St. Patrick Seminary class in 1953 I learned from my first appointment at Mission Dolores in San Francisco that the city had a population of 750,000 with perhaps 250,000 of those Catholic. The clergy had a reputation of being an educated crowd since one of Archbishop John J. Mitty's priorities was graduate work in several majors for his diocesan priests. Perhaps there was a touch of competition with the Jesuits at the University of San Francisco, an institution established by two roaming Italian Jesuits from the northwest two years before there was an archbishop in San Francisco. We were gratified if not proud of the regard in which the San Francisco clergy were held within the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
The archdiocese in those days extended from Mendocino in the north to Stanislaus County in the south. The Catholic population was perhaps 1.2 million. There were 356 parishes. One of the classes ordained in my time were told by Archbishop Mitty, with a notable touch of sadness, "I probably will not get to know you."
Thus came the division of the archdiocese in 1962 into Oakland, Santa Rosa, Stockton and a decade later San Jose. At the anniversary mass in 1995 at St. Mary's Cathedral honoring the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations at the Opera House in San Francisco, the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Pio Laghi, leaning against the vesting table in the sacristy, said to me, "You are larger than San Francisco." I believe I nodded affirmatively. "That's not right," he said. I lightly retorted, "I believe that is more your responsibility, archbishop, than mine."
But San Francisco's diminishment in size did not alter its preeminence. The archbishop was indeed "no mean citizen" of that city. Archbishop Edward J. Hanna was a public figure. The governor and at one time President Roosevelt invited him to mediate labor conflicts and the General Strike of 1934. An amusing incident was told to me by the general manager of the 49ers football team, Lou Spadia, a devout parishioner of ours at Mission Dolores. In the mid-1950s, team owners were interested in pursuing television production of the games. Sunday afternoon football began at 1:30, the customary starting time of St. Mary's College and Santa Clara University whose home field was Kezar Stadium. The preferable television time was 1 p.m. The owners however did not pursue that option, fearing the possible condemnation by Archbishop Mitty of their interference with 12:15 Masses in the parishes.
The role of the archbishop went beyond the city and the archdiocese. Cardinal William Levada, now retiring from his responsible position in Rome, is a striking illustration. Archbishop John Quinn was president of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops; he was called upon to help resolve national tensions within the church; his continual writings with their insightful depth have touched upon national and international concerns. Our retiring Archbishop George Niederauer served the communications arm of the American bishops as well as the universal church together with his command of language and eloquent preaching. I remember particularly the Vatican Council years. Each afternoon in Rome there was an American press conference, explaining the agenda of the daily sessions of the 2,300 bishops attending. The moderator all four years was the Archbishop of San Francisco, Joseph T. McGucken, outlining and interpreting to a group of international journalists the happenings of each day.
A reflection on the duties and opportunities of an archbishop of San Francisco brings to the mind good wishes and prayers. Cardinal Newman remarked that opening the word of God to the faithful is a humbling experience since each of us is aware of his limited grasp of these awesome mysteries. We are not however deterred. A direction however of the Vatican Council may give us greater pause. The bishop is to shepherd the faithful to unity and to the awareness of all the baptized that they are responsible for the life and mission of the church and its service to the world. For assurance in this pursuit we rely on the Holy Spirit, with conviction of his presence and grace and the evidence of that presence in the church, in its sacraments, in families, in the work of religious communities of women and men, and in the holy lives of so many of our people.
Therefore with prayers and good wishes. Ave atque vale, hail and farewell.
(Bishop Emeritus Cummins was bishop of the Oakland diocese from 1977 to 2003.)