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  September 17, 2007   •   VOL. 45, NO. 16   •   Oakland, CA

articles list

"St. Bonaventure Parish – a journey of 50 years

Newly arrived Iraq refugees eager to find work

Corinne Mohrmann named Bay Area Catholic Woman of the Year

USF leaders see reality of global poverty in Nicaragua

Holy Names University: record enrollment

Observance of 75-year history of DSPT
begins with tour of St. Albert Priory

Pope’s letter on Church in China: a ‘new moment’ of hope

Chautauqua 15 to be held Oct. 6

























St. Bonaventure Parish – a journey of 50 years

Bishop Emeritus John Cummins preaches the homily during St. Bonaventure Parish’s 50th anniversary Mass on Sept. 9. He also led the dedication ceremonies for the parish’s new church on Sept. 15, 1985. The church seats about 800 people.


While it lacks the girth of a Harry Potter book, the Sunday bulletin of St. Bonaventure Parish in Concord is nonetheless a substantial read.

Sandwiched between the front cover — which depicts a serene color portrait of the parish church — and the back cover’s display of advertisements — are signs of a bustling and vibrant faith community.

The dozen pages of articles, announcements and appeals in English and Spanish address a myriad of interests and concerns: youth faith formation, a grief workshop, a Scripture study class, a new ministry for mothers, and support groups for survivors of cancer, individuals in recovery, and those who are separated or divorced, some of the 108 ministries and organizations in the parish.

The original St. Bonaventure Church (above) was built about a year after the parish was established on June 26, 1957. The parish’s first Mass was celebrated in historic Clayton Hall, now known as Endeavor Hall, on Aug. 18, 1957. This was more than four years after Mrs. Minnie Rose gave a five-acre parcel of land to the San Francisco Archdiocese for a second parish in Concord.


In a bulletin report on the recent “Outreach BBQ,” parishioners are reminded about three groups benefiting from parish support: St. Cornelius Elementary School in Richmond, the Garden Park Apartment Complex in Pleasant Hill which provides permanent housing for those who were previously homeless, and an elementary school and high school in the barrios of San Salvador.

It doesn’t stop there. St. Bonaventure, which is celebrating 50 years as a parish, has also helped build affordable homes for low-income families in Pittsburg and funded the construction of a maternity unit at a hospital in Kenya.

“We keep busy,” said parishioner Pat Conroy with a laugh. A member of St. Bonaventure for some 35 years, Conroy marvels at the bigheartedness that emanates from the community. “Any visiting priest who comes through who has a cause is generously given,” she said. “The response is extremely generous.”

Just where does that generosity come from? Conroy, who heads the parish’s social justice committee, believes a lot of that spirit was sowed and nurtured by the priests who have served at St. Bonaventure.

Parishioners place candles on the altar during the anniversary liturgy, marking 50 years of parish life.


Father Richard Mangini, pastor, carries the pastoral staff during a procession that was part of the 50th anniversary Mass.


Diocesan priests were the original pastoral leaders, starting with the founding pastor, Father Matthew Carolan. In 1979 the Claretians assumed pastoral responsibility. Father John Martens was the first of four Claretians to be pastor over a 15-year period. Diocesan priests resumed pastoral duties in 1994 under Father Michael Norkett. Father Richard Mangini, the current pastor, took over in 1996.

Outreach was a philosophy of the Claretians, Conroy said. “They presented the congregation with ways of looking at Church other than a building and coming together on Sunday.”

Tom Payne, a member at St. Bonaventure since 1971, recalled that in the early 1980s the parish participated in a dozen parish renewal weekends. Through those experiences, he believes, God “poured out His Spirit into the community.”

James Craig of Antioch holds his four-month-old daughter Isabella Christina as he looks at photos of the history of St. Bonaventure Parish after the anniversary Mass.


Soon after the renewal weekends the parish developed youth programs that involved the children and young adults of the parish,” said Payne.

St. Bonaventure Parish, formed from a core group of 130 Catholic families who petitioned the San Francisco Archdiocese in the early 1950s for a parish near their homes, is currently made up of 2,750 families. The population is well mixed generationally speaking — with young couples and their children, families with teens and young adults, and people of retirement age.

The parish staff tries to respond to issues and concerns that cross these generations, said Father Mangini.

The parish also sponsors a number of peer group ministries including one for people dealing with addictions. It is a way for people to help others who are struggling with recovery and need support, he said.

In recent years the parish, with a membership that is predominately Anglo and Filipino has been working to respond to the needs of a growing number of Spanish-speaking members, many of whom joined the parish following the dissolution of the Concord Hispanic Ministry about four years ago. Deacon Mariano Preza, who had been serving the Concord Hispanic Ministry, joined the staff at St. Bonaventure to help serve the Latino parishioners.

Father Mangini, who had served the Concord Hispanic Ministry as pastor, said the majority of the Latinos come from Mexico, with other significant groups from Peru, El Salvador and Colombia.

Father Mangini has tried to bring all the cultures in the parish together, said Deacon Bill Gall, noting parish-sponsored multicultural celebrations and bilingual Masses.

Another issue of concern in the still growing parish has involved an extended discussion over whether to open a Catholic elementary school. The results of a recently concluded parish survey led the pastoral council and parish staff to shelve plans for a new school and to focus instead on constructing buildings to house the parish’s religious education and other ministry programs.

Father Mangini credits the Cursillo movement with developing Christian vitality among many parishioners. There is “a long history among a significant group of parishioners who have been committed to living the Catholic life fully in the parish,” he said.Visitors to the parish see that spirit in the warm welcome they receive from parishioners.

Christa Fairfield, parish life director, said, “There is a vibrancy and energy at St. Bonaventure that one feels nearly immediately. There is a lived sense of community and welcome that emanates in every facet of our parish life.”

Fairfield felt that embrace when her family moved to Concord and joined the parish when she was 10. She married her husband in the original church in 1983 before moving to Martinez and then to Antioch.

She returned to Concord and the parish nine years ago and worked as the parish business manager before Father Mangini created the new job of parish life director last August. Since then Fairfield has been overseeing parish operations including finances, facilities, human resources, and ministry programs, allowing the pastor to focus his energies on pastoral and sacramental care.

“I love the opportunity to bring my managerial gifts to a community that feeds the spiritual needs of a community I care for,” she told The Voice.

Like Fairfield, Deacon William Gall found himself drawn to a deeper involvement in the parish during the years he served as choir director and a fundraiser for the new church, which opened in 1985. He was encouraged by Father Martens to become a permanent deacon and he was ordained in 1995. He has spent the past 12 years as deacon at St. Bonaventure and he wouldn’t have it any other way. “This is a wonderful parish to be a part of,” he said.


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