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CURRENT ISSUE:  March 20, 2006VOL. 44, NO. 6Oakland, CA

Two Oakland parishes to merge
into Christ the Light community

 

Forty years after two Oakland churches were joined into St. Andrew-St. Joseph Parish, the parish is again being merged, this time with St. Mary-St. Francis de Sales to become part of the founding community of the new Cathedral of Christ the Light.

Bishop Allen Vigneron told parishioners of the decision in a letter read at Masses the weekend of March 11-12, but it came as no surprise. About eight months ago, Bishop Vigneron invited them to consider becoming part of the cathedral parish and they met with him a couple of months ago to express their support and concerns about the prospect.

The parish had been in dialog with the diocese for nearly a year, exploring ways to maintain their facilities and support essential ministries under serious financial limitations.

In his letter, the bishop said he is convinced the merger is the “best way for the people of St. Andrew-St. Joseph Parish to receive pastoral care and be supported in living out their Baptismal call.” He acknowledged that the decision might be difficult for some.
Father John Direen, parochial administrator at St. Andrew-St. Joseph, expects the majority of his 300 parishioners to make the move to St. Mary-St. Francis de Sales, but said that not all members are happy with the decision. “This is a difficult thing for people, especially those who live nearest the church.”

He said some parishioners have told him they will transfer to parishes other than St. Mary-St. Francis de Sales. The merged parish will be known as Christ the Light community.

St. Andrew-St. Joseph Church is located on San Pablo Avenue about two miles from St. Mary-St. Francis de Sales at Seventh and Jefferson. The church is also less than two miles from the site of the new cathedral at Harrison Street and Grand Avenue.

The St. Andrew-St. Joseph church will close, Father Direen said, but no decision has yet been made about what will happen to the property. The diocese is hoping the buildings “will continue to be used for the benefit of the community,” Bishop Vigneron said in his letter to parishioners.

Father Direen said the parish’s soup kitchen will continue at the present site, at least for now.

Father Quang Dong, pastor of St. Mary-St. Francis de Sales and rector of the new cathedral, welcomed the merger decision. “I am happy, optimistic and excited,” he said.

His 700 parishioners are ready and eager to help the two communities “become one family,” he said. The parish is a diverse one, with many Vietnamese and Filipino members as well as African Americans and Caucasians who were members of St. Francis de Sales Cathedral when it merged with St. Mary’s after the 1989 earthquake left the cathedral building unusable.

Eighty-five percent of the St. Andrew-St. Joseph community is Hispanic with the remainder mostly African American. The ethnic mix will create a truly multi-cultural parish, Father Direen said of the new community.

Spanish Masses will be added to the liturgy schedule at St. Mary-St. Francis de Sales church and there is discussion about adding a parish van or organizing car pools to bring parishioners from the St. Andrew-St. Joseph neighborhood.

The merger will also strengthen parish ministries, said Father Direen. Lay leadership is “well established” among his parishioners, and they will bring those skills to their new parish.

Both parish councils will meet on March 21 to discuss sharing responsibilities and planning for the future. The merger is expected to be completed by August.

Father Direen said he is concerned that people living in the neighborhood around St. Andrew-St. Joseph Church remain a pastoral priority.

“We don’t want people falling through the cracks in a kind of out-of-sight/out-of-mind situation,” he said. In particular, he cited the growing problem of prostitution, saying he hopes to be able to continue to reach out to the prostitutes and to mobilize forces to “put a stop to this.”


Father John Direen

 


Father Quang Dong


Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland

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