Frequent pastoral visits connected
Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone and Rev. Richard Culver, pastor of the 2,000-family community in Bay Point.
Z'MA WYATT/THE CATHOLIC VOICE
archbishop with East Bay
In August 2009, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone made his first of many weekend visits to a parish in the Diocese of Oakland, a few months after being installed as its fourth bishop.
The parish was Our Lady, Queen of the World in Bay Point, a Catholic community of extraordinary diversity, with 42 cultures represented and Masses in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. The weekend was close to Aug. 22, the feast day of Our Lady, Queen of the World, which resonated for the archbishop, since Our Lady, Queen of the World is also the Oakland diocese's primary patroness.
There's even more symmetry to the story: Our Lady, Queen of the World was the first parish established by the then-new Diocese of Oakland in 1962 — and this year both parish and diocese celebrate their golden jubilees.
Almost three years to the day later, quite by chance, on Aug. 18 and 19, Archbishop Cordileone made his 38th visit to an Oakland diocese parish to Our Lady, Queen of the World, where the faithful said they were blessed by the visits.
"It makes us feel more Catholic," Ellen Carstensen of Pittsburg, said of Archbishop Cordileone's visit. She and her husband, Steve, presented him with a handmade fan from the Philippines with the inscription, "God Bless Our Home."
Archbishop Cordileone will be installed as the ninth archbishop of San Francisco on Oct. 4, when many Catholics in the three counties it serves will begin to get an idea of his pastoral approach, which in part is getting to know parishioners, priests and parish staffs and others and, he said, to affirm what's going well and noting what needs attention.
The visits say a lot about a parish. At Our Lady, Queen of the World, a procession preceded the Mass, with a dozen or more parishioners in the garb of their historic nationalities. There were readings and singing in multiple languages.
"What a way to go out," Archbishop Cordileone said, as he began his homily, noting the twin 50-year anniversaries and the shared patroness as her feast day, Aug. 22, was approaching. He said he "appreciated the opportunity to have these visits as bookends."
Looking over the standing-room-only crowd in the church that seats 450, he marveled at the diversity.
"The church from the beginning was destined to gather people from all over the world, of all different races and languages and nations, so well reflected here at Our Lady, Queen of the World parish," said Archbishop Cordileone. He added, "It is so well reflected, really, throughout the Diocese of Oakland. We are really a microcosm of the universal church, represented by so many different races and languages and people who all gather sharing in common our faith in Jesus Christ, our belief in the teaching of the church and sharing in the sacramental life of the church."
The cornucopia of cultures at the Bay Point parish, however, is typical in the diocese, with 86 churches. "Oakland is probably, proportionately, the most culturally diverse diocese in the country," Archbishop Cordileone said in an interview. "But not (unlike) San Francisco or San Diego where I was before," he added.
The August visit to Our Lady, Queen of the World was over two days, including a Saturday evening dinner noting the 50th anniversary and celebrating Mass the following day. The other 37 parish visits were more extensive, including preaching at all Masses, meeting the pastoral councils and finance councils and the staffs and visiting parish schools.
"It really gives you a good sense of the parish, of the priests, and it gives you a good sense of the diocese, the strengths and areas for improvement," he said of the visits and how they affect his pastoral approach. The purpose is to mingle with people, "but also to observe and listen, try to understand and then try to identify what are the strengths and resources that can be leveraged for the mission of the church."
Here's what he came away with after the 38 visits: "People love their parish, they love their priests," and in many visits he has honed in on vibrancy, which, he said, is key to parish life.
"You get it in many ways. One is participation. And we need to spread the percentage of participation," he said. "I think vibrancy comes from living the spirituality of stewardship — time, talent and treasure." Using a talent brings out vibrancy in people, he said, "and when we tap into that resource then we will increase stewardship of time and treasure as well."
After Mass there were games on the lawn and food of many lands — New Orleans gumbo, Vietnamese, Spanish, Filipino, food from Fiji and Jamaica and beyond. There was ethnic dancing and singing, and Viet Dinh, a Vietnamese who works in accounting and who sings in the Filipino choir, summed up the parish: "Even though we are different races we are all God's children."
Father Richard J. Culver, the pastor for the past 17 years, summed up the archbishop's visits and service to the diocese: "I think he has been very, very supportive of the priests and the people."