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CURRENT ISSUE:  January 8, 2007 • VOL. 45, NO. 1Oakland, CA

Bishop Vigneron urges Catholics to pray, act for end to violence
Gives progress report on new cathedral center

Bishop Allen H. Vigneron

Dear Friends in Christ,

Since this is my first column for the New Year, I want to begin by expressing my prayerful good wishes to all of you: I hope that these first days of 2007 have already been filled with God’s abundant blessings for you and for your families, and I ask the Lord in his mercy to keep you in his peace and joy every day throughout the year ahead.

In this column there are two very important topics I want to speak about, but they are both really aspects of one same theme: living out our vocation as Jesus’ disciples in this New Year. I want to consider, first, our vocation as agents of Christ’s peace and, second, our vocation as bearers of his light.

About being agents of peace: since the years when Paul VI was pope, the first of January, besides being the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God, has been designated as the World Day of Prayer for Peace.

It is fitting that a week after Christmas, on the first day of the New Year, we ask God to give us in our time the peace which Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, brought into our world through his birth in the flesh from the Virgin Mary. And I know that to consummate this prayer many of your parish priests offered the Mass for Peace on New Year’s Day.

As the pastor of our Church of Oakland, I am keenly aware of how much we, in our homes and our communities in the East Bay, are in need of this gift of the Lord’s own peace. Every day the papers, the radio or the television presents a tragic chronicle of the violence that has become part of the fabric of our daily lives.

Certainly we pray for peace in the trouble spots throughout the world. We ask God for wars to end, and ask him to keep safe until that day those who serve in our armed forces.

But, even as we think globally, we must not forget at the same time to focus locally. We must ask for the gift of peace here at home and ask for the grace to be instruments of that peace right here in our families and in our neighborhoods.

Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, in his “Message for the World Day of Peace” (www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages) insists that we Christians are God’s co-workers in establishing peace. The pope begins by reaffirming that God is the principal agent of peace, the first peacemaker, by creating the world according to the just order that blossoms in peace and by redeeming it from the sin and selfishness that threaten to blight our peace.

Nonetheless, in virtue of our Baptism, we are called, not only to receive this gift of peace, but also to work for it. As the Holy Father puts it, peace is both “a gift and task.”

So, it is not enough for us simply to bemoan the violence that the media report to us day after day. We have a two-fold call actively to respond. We must pray for God to end this violence, and we must work with God to end it.

In regard to our prayer: we need to make it ever more intense and ever more specific – ardent supplications and acts of mortification to obtain from God protection from violence for those we know experience it or are threatened by it.

In regard to our works: each of us, no exceptions, needs to ask the Holy Spirit to show us the situations in our community in which he wants us to get involved in order to end the violence and build peace.

We need to see where he is calling us to witness to the human dignity of our neighbors and calling us to help secure their right to life, a life free from the threat of violence.

Secondly, about being bearers of the light of Christ: This, too, is an essential (indispensable, non-negotiable) part of our call as the baptized. When we came up from the font, each of us was given a lighted candle with the charge: “Receive the light of Christ.”

The Lord expects that we will not keep this light hidden but hold it up for all to see. The world needs this light so as to walk securely toward the future God has in mind for us, and we minister to our world by serving this light.

A principal way we as a family of faith in this diocese are working to respond to this call to be bearers of the light is through establishing our new Cathedral Center, dedicated to Christ, the Light of All Peoples.
Building this facility and using it to its maximum potential in order to spread the light of Christ in the City of Oakland and throughout the East Bay is our answer to the Lord’s call.

As we begin the New Year, I want to give you an update on the progress of this project which is so important for our service of our Lord. And, by God’s providence, I can do it in the context of a local TV report on the cathedral which many of you saw just before Christmas.

The story focused on two strategic points I would like to mention and expand on. First, the piece did a good job of highlighting the anticipation with which I believe the Catholic community awaits the dedication and full operation of the cathedral, parish offices and hall, conference center and Chancery offices. To recap for you:
• We are about half way through construction, having begun in June 2005 and currently projecting completion in mid-2008. The Center’s primary component buildings are taking clear shape as everyone who walks by the corner of Grand Avenue and Harrison Street will see.

The magnificent cathedral edifice is presently being surrounded by its base concrete walls, out of which next year will climb the wood, steel and glass structure so beautifully conceived by architect Craig Hartman. We’re also finalizing decisions about the sacred art (altar, crucifix, stations, statues, paintings, icons, etc.) and fixtures that will glorify the cathedral’s interior.

Good progress is being made in building-out the conference center and parish offices. Walls have gone up in the rectory building and around the Catholic bookstore and café.

The underground mausoleum beneath the cathedral is taking grand shape.
In addition to what was in the news report, I want to let you know that the work which Sister Rose Marie Hennessy is directing – planning for the ministries the cathedral will offer to our diocese and to the civic community – has begun well. And Father Quang Dong, the cathedral rector, is doing a great job of preparing the parish community for its new home. So, overall we’re making very solid progress.

The local TV news story also reminded viewers that there is a great deal of expense involved in a cathedral designed and built to last centuries. This last point left questions unanswered so I want to fill that space with these thoughts.

Well before construction began, as is the norm, we identified an estimated cost for the total project. At the time we held the mausoleum and conference center costs out of the first estimate and knew the number likely to be low.

A year and a half into the project, with most major design adjustments and construction planning decisions now made, we are revising the cost estimate for the complete cathedral center to $190 million, a figure that is closer to probable reality than earlier estimates.

Fund raising to date accounts for over $91 million in pledges and gifts to the Cathedral Center. Our challenge remains the same and it is a large task: to raise the necessary money to build and finance Christ the Light Cathedral Center. The Center is nearly halfway to completion, as are our total funds raised.

Significant foundations and major benefactors have made important contributions to the project and we are actively seeking to add to that list. Please pray for the success of this effort, momentous in the history of the Diocese of Oakland, so important for the Church in the East Bay to fulfill our vocation.

Yours in Christ,
Allen H. Vigneron

Bishop of Oakland



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