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Catholic Voice
  January 18, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 2   •   Oakland, CA
Bishop's Column

New year off to a good start

Most Rev.
Michael C. Barber, SJ

At the end of our Christmas and New Year's dinners, my brother Jesuits and I used to have a toast with a single malt scotch. These can range from sweet and smooth, like Dalwhinnie — to those that are strong and smoky, like Laphroaig.

The scotches are expensive, so we only would enjoy them on special occasions. Imagine my joy, when at last year's FACE auction, a kind benefactor donated a "Scotch Tasting Party with the Bishop" as an auction prize. At the event, we got to taste about 15 different scotches (just small sips, mind you).

The tasting raised about $10,000 for scholarships for Catholic schools. The gentleman who made the donation invited his colleagues and friends as guests, in order to encourage them to become benefactors of Catholic schools. As the sponsor left, he said to one his colleagues: "You can never outdo God in generosity. The first time I made a major donation to the Catholic scholarship fund, the next week at work I landed a huge contract and a substantial commission." How true.

I wrote to all our priests in December and asked them to join me at Christmas in responding to Pope Francis' invitation to parishes and monasteries to sponsor a refugee family. In our diocese, we are already helping about 200 refugees a year, in full cooperation with the U.S. Department of State.

Not every parish can fully sponsor a whole family, but a number of parishes can combine to help. We call all do something: furnish an apartment, pick up a family at the airport, bring them some food and show them around town, donate clothes, help toward the first months' rent. Be their friends.

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Some refugees are coming from Syria and the Middle East, but others are coming — escaping actually — from Mexico and Central America — fleeing execution by drug lords and extortionists.

Two weeks after I wrote to the priests, Pope Francis gave his annual "State of the World" address to diplomats accredited to the Holy See. The pope called on the world to hear "the plea of the thousands who weep as they flee wars, hunger, persecution, political and social instability, and martyrdom solely on account of their religion."

Wouldn't it be great if we became the first diocese in the USA where every parish co-sponsored a refugee family with Catholic Charities? I've asked each pastor to discuss the Holy Father's invitation with his parish council, and make a decision. Catholic Charities is standing by to assist.

In the spirit of "you cannot outdo God in generosity" ... Father John Prochaska, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe parish for the past 12 years, is going to work in Peru "on loan" to a rural diocese. He has done a wonderful job in Fremont completing the merger of two parishes, and building a new church.

People are asking, "Bishop, how can you let him go? We need Spanish-speaking priests here in our diocese." It's true, we are in great need of more Spanish-speaking priests. But the needs in Peru are much greater. We all live within a half-hour drive or less of a Catholic Church. Where Father John is going, it is much harder to find a Mass. I am proud of Father John for making this sacrifice.

I look forward to reading his reports in The Voice. When he asked for permission to go, I knew we needed him ... but they needed him more there. I also knew that God would not be outdone in generosity.

A few months after I gave Father John permission to go, a young man came forward from Our Lady of Guadalupe parish to ask to enter the seminary for our diocese. And he's an excellent candidate.

"Lord, every nation on earth will adore you!" (Mass for the Epiphany).

Happy New Year to you all!

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