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December 17, 2007   •   VOL. 45, NO. 21    •   Oakland, CA

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Festival of lights in Livermore

Deacon Dave Rezendes heads up Santa’s Secret Service

Diocese honors Our Lady of Guadalupe

California bishops offer suggestions for immigration reform

Mary Help of Christians Parish faces challenge of sustainability

Recycle your e-waste at St. Vincent de Paul thrift stores

Retiring funeral director reflects on 60-plus years of service

Abortion’s impact on men examined in S.F. conference

Annual Walk for Life set for January 19 in San Francisco

Nun-critic offers viewers’guide for ‘The Golden Compass’

Catholic radio begins in Bay Area

Christmas marks 100th anniversary of first Mass in Berkeley church

Christmas programs to air on EWTN

War might end Christianity in Iraq

Mary’s singular grace proclaimed at Lourdes

A pilgrimage to Lourdes is a journey of expectant faith

Plenary indulgence authorized for visits to Lourdes

Report examines retailers’ marketing practices on violent video games

OBITUARIES

 

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Festival of lights in Livermore
 


Deacon David Rezendes blesses the lights and assembled crowd as he celebrates the 25th year of creating a Christmas display at his home. This year’s theme is “The Silver Bells of Christmas.”
GREG TARCZYNSKI PHOTO

Deacon David Rezendes blesses the lights and assembled crowd as he celebrates the 25th year of creating a Christmas display at his home. This year’s theme is “The Silver Bells of Christmas.
GREG TARCZYNSKI PHOTO

Deacon Dave Rezendes has a passion for Christmas and every year it is literally on view for the world to see.

He is responsible for what has become a Tri-Valley Christmas tradition — a massive outdoor presentation at his Livermore home illuminated by more than a quarter of a million lights.

This month marks the 25th year that the deacon, who is celebrating the silver anniversary of his ordination, has created the Christmas spectacular that draws visitors from throughout the Bay Area as well as Manteca, Tracy, Modesto and other central California communities.

The display requires months of planning and construction before it is revealed to public on the first Friday of Advent. But it is not about the decorations and lights, insists Deacon Rezendes; it is about the Light who came to the world over 2,000 years ago bringing a message of love and salvation.

Deacon Rezendes calls the project his “ministry of lights” and says the displays have been a source of inspiration and blessings for many of the thousands who visit each year. “It is really amazing about what goes on behind the scenes,” he said.
One man approached the deacon, saying he wanted to be baptized but was unable to attend the regular RCIA classes because of his work schedule as a police officer. Deacon Rezendes gave him private lessons.

Viewing schedule
Deacon David Rezendes’ Christmas display is located at 352 Hillcrest Ave in Livermore. It is open for viewing until Jan. 1, 2008. Viewing hours: Sunday through Thursday, 6 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 6 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. through Dec. 24; Christmas Day, 6 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.; Dec. 26 – Jan. 1: 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. The display is subject to closure due to inclement weather. For more information about the display or directions to the house, visit the website at www.casadelpomba.com.
 
One night while Deacon Rezendes was greeting visitors to the display, a woman approached and fell to her knees at the deacon’s feet. As he was trying to help her stand, he noticed that she had black and blue marks all over her face. He learned that her husband had beaten her. She began crying out, “This is the sign I have been waiting for!” Whatever she saw, it was a sign that she should leave the abusive relationship, Deacon Rezendes said.

At other times people have asked him about returning to the Church or having their marriages blessed. “I am finding that I do have a lot of ministry from this. I always have a pen and paper in my pocket so I can jot down their name and their phone number, and I tell them that after Christmas I will call them.”

Though the vision for the display comes from Deacon Rezendes, the execution is a collaborative effort that involves a planning team of about 25 people who share the deacon’s love for Christmas. Each year’s decorations begin when he identifies the theme and some basic concepts. The team develops the ideas further, though Deacon Rezendes reserves the right of final approval.

Construction begins in August and continues over most weekends until the week before the opening when the crew of volunteers is on site daily. The “light crew” starts its work in September. In all, about 3000 hours of volunteer time goes into each year’s display.


Shawn Cantlin, a member of St. Michael Parish in Livermore, carries his four-year-old granddaughter Amberley Gill into the Christmas display.
GREG TARCZYNSKI PHOTO
While the outdoor decorations are being put up, Deacon Rezendes decorates the inside of his home with about 40 Christmas trees. Seven or eight can be viewed from the outside; the remainder are seen only by invited guests that include the staff of St. Michael Parish, where he has served as deacon for the past 25 years.

A fourth generation resident of Livermore, Deacon Rezendes comes from a ranching family. His great-grandfather and grandfather had farms on the old Beck Road, now known as North Livermore Avenue. His home, which he calls the House of the Dove (Casa del Pomba), sits on an acre of land that contains winding pathways that lead to renovated buildings including a chapel as well as fountains, man-made waterfalls and bridges.

He traces his penchant for Christmas decorations back at least a couple of generations. He recalls hearing many stories about his grandmother decorating the family home for Christmas, creating scenes of a tiny ranch farm around the Christmas tree.

One year his grandfather told his wife that there was not enough money to have a tree for Christmas. The woman saved up money from the sale of eggs and bought a little electric tree and enough butcher paper to wrap her husband’s desk from top to bottom. Then she painted the paper red to create a faux fireplace. On top she placed the tiny electric tree with the little village and ranch houses around it.

Deacon Rezendes still has the tree, which he nicknamed the Tree of Humility. He displays it every year as a tribute to his grandmother and as a reminder that anyone can enjoy Christmas when it is celebrated with love.

Children peer into one of the family Christmas scenes within the display created by Deacon Rezendes.
GREG TARCZYNSKI PHOTO


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