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CURRENT ISSUE:  October 6, 2008
VOL. 46, NO. 17   •   Oakland, CA
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Financial bailout crisis poses new concerns
Report: stronger U.S. – Muslim diplomacy urged
Cathedral dedicated as
mother church of diocese
Worshippers stream into the new cathedral at the beginning of the liturgy of dedication, Sept. 25.
Bishop Allen Vigneron uses his crozier to knock on the cathedral doors to signify the opening of the cathedral.
Tammy Valley, daughter of the late Wayne and Gladys Valley, and Michael Dessler, executive director of the Valley Foundation, bless themselves with water from the baptismal font as they enter the cathedral for the dedication liturgy. The Valley Foundation provided major funding for the cathedral.
Father Quang Dong, rector of the Cathedral Parish of Christ the Light, sprinkles his new home with holy water from the baptismal font which was filled with water from the fonts of the diocese’s 84 parishes on Sept. 14.
José Luis Aguirre photo
Bishop Allen Vigneron blesses the incense held in a silver bowl on the altar, praying that the “world will be filled with the fragrance of Christ.”
José Luis Aguirre photo

“This is our Father’s house. This is our house. Welcome home.” With those words, punctuated by enthusiastic applause, Bishop Allen Vigneron welcomed more than 2,000 invited guests to the Sept. 25 dedication of the Cathedral of Christ the Light.

During one of the rarest of sacred liturgies, Bishop Vigneron spoke of the new cathedral’s importance to the life of the Oakland Diocese which has been without a cathedral since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake irreparably damaged St. Francis de Sales Cathedral.

The new cathedral, said Bishop Vigneron during his homily, is the mother church for the whole Catholic community of the East Bay and “a most visible sign, a very public sacrament as it were, of the many ways we confess our belief in Christ the Light of the Nations.”

Speaking to the 1,350 seated in the cathedral and the 600-plus gathered in the plaza outside, the bishop said, “The Diocese of Oakland has built this cathedral to testify to this truth, which is for us life itself — that Jesus Christ is the light for all peoples, for all ages, and that he is found in our midst.”

The dedication Mass began with a procession of four cardinals, more than 30 bishops, 100 priests and dozens of deacons to the cathedral plaza where Bishop Vigneron and Bishop Emeritus John Cummins received the building plans, certificate of occupancy and a symbolic key.

Then as trumpets blared and drums rolled, Bishop Vigneron tapped on the12-foot high entry doors signifying the official opening of the cathedral at the corner of Grand Avenue and Harrison Street.

Worshippers, including parish representatives, school administrators and diocesan staff, filed into the cathedral, many in awe of its modern splendor. “It is just gorgeous, simple and elegant,” remarked Deacon Stan Lee, who serves as a missionary in the Philippines and was back in Oakland for the annual deacons’ retreat.

The 110-foot high concrete building — with its 26 curved Douglas fir ribs, 768 wooden louvers and glass veil — “is totally different from anything traditional and I’m glad,” said Jeff Ziarno, representing Oakland’s Sacred Heart Parish at the liturgy. He noted that the Church “is a living faith, a living history,” and the cathedral architecture reflects that reality.

Bishop Cummins, in remarks at the end of Mass, said the cathedral is truly “the work of the faith of the people of this diocese.” It was he who decided nearly a decade ago to build a new cathedral and participants at the dedication affirmed his decision with a standing ovation.

The dedication rites included an anointing of the altar with holy oil and incense by both bishops. Two diocesan priests used holy oils to anoint the cathedral’s main walls with the sign of the cross, and four women religious carried incense into the side chapels — all done to signify that the cathedral is foremost a house of prayer.

“Fill this world with the fragrance of Christ,” prayed Bishop Vigneron as he incensed those gathered in the cathedral.

For Debra Gunn, diocesan stewardship coordinator and a member of St. Bonaventure Parish in Concord, the anointing of the walls was “the most inspiring and most humble moment” of the three-and one-half hour service. “Today we saw the community coming together. We are all connected,” she said.

Appropriately, light was a dominant symbol as it streamed through the cathedral’s latticed walls and towering image of Christ replicated by 94,000 pixel cuts into aluminum as well as from the candles lit for the first time on the altar and tabernacle wall.

The cathedral takes its name from the Vatican II document “Lumen Gentium” (Light of the Nations) and its patronal feast day will be Epiphany, which commemorates the manifestation of Christ to all people.

Terry Barber, principal of St. John School in El Cerrito, called the symbol of light “a positive influence” on Catholic educators who have a role as “light for the community.” She also said the cathedral can help make people “more responsible as Christian leaders. I think it’s time.”

A choir formed especially for the cathedral dedication sings during the Mass.
José Luis Aguirre photO
The 60-voice choir, made up of parishioners throughout the diocese and led by Mark Sullivan, sang throughout the liturgy, including compositions by four local musicians — Precious Blood Father Jeffrey Keyes, Father Donald Osuna, Janet Sullivan Whitaker and James Maxwell Whitaker.

The choir was accompanied by the new cathedral organ, the bell choir of the Golden Gate Boys Choir and other musicians. The choir also sang during the Sept. 14 pre-dedication liturgy at which the baptismal font and liturgical art were blessed.

Sheila Cushing of Christ the King Parish in Pleasant Hill said the dedication ceremony “was like coming home. I think it will be a great gathering place.”

Sister Rosaline Nguyen, director of the diocesan Vietnamese Pastoral Center, carries incense from the altar to one of the cathedral’s side chapels.
José Luis Aguirre photO
Rye Bogard of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Crockett brought his wife and two toddlers to the dedication and predicted they would return soon. A contractor for Oliver & Company, which built the cathedral mausoleum, he has watched the building rise from a parking lot into an “awesome” structure.

Some of those seated on the plaza, however, were less enthusiastic because they were seated outside and had to watch the service on a large video screen.

Father Jayson Landeza, pastor of
St. Columba Parish in Oakland, anoints the cathedral wall with the sign of the cross as part of the dedication ritual.
“My understanding was we were there for the dedication, but we did not feel part of it,” said Pam Lloyd, who had taken the day off from work to attend as part of the delegation from Sacred Heart Parish. She likened the plaza seating to being invited to a wedding and then being escorted to watch from outside the ceremony.

“The term that comes to mind is ‘elitist,’” Lloyd said. “The people from the parishes were treated as though they were expendable.” She said she did not know until she arrived that her green ticket indicated outside seating.

Still others, who did not have tickets to the ceremony, expressed dismay that they had not been given an opportunity to obtain one. “How were they distributed?” asked one woman. “In our parish there was never any mention of tickets.” She and other parishioners had gathered on Harrison Street in the hope that they would be admitted. The best they could do was watch from behind security barriers.

Callers to The Voice as well as visitors to the cathedral bookstore were also upset about the lack of information about how to obtain tickets.

Cathedral officials said each parish received a set of tickets with distribution left to the pastor’s discretion.

The dedication was the culmination of a three-year, $190 million project that includes the new cathedral, diocesan and parish offices, residences for the bishop and parish priests, a mausoleum, a book store, a conference center and public café, a parking garage, a plaza and park, and a free health clinic for the uninsured supported by the Western Association of the Order of Malta.

(Sharon Abercrombie, Rosa King, Carrie McClish and Dan Morris-Young contributed to this report.)

Father Paul Minnihan, cathedral provost, assists Bishop Allen Vigneron as he pours holy oil on the altar.
Luis Gris photo

Bishops John Cummins and Vigneron anoint the altar with the holy oil. In the background are, from left, Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit, Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, and Cardinal William Levada, formerly of San Francisco now working in Rome.

Susanna Alatorre, a member of Christ the Light Parish, proclaims the Second Reading in Spanish. The first reading was done in Vietnamese.
Luis Gris photo

Diocesan priests walk past the baptismal font as they enter the new cathedral.

ABOVE: Relics of more than a dozen saints as well as a rock from Calvary and dirt from Auschwitz were sealed in a reliquary box that was placed in the altar on Sept. 18. The relics included those of St. Andrew, St. Perpetua and St. Francis de Sales.
RIGHT: In a symbolic gesture
appropriate for the Cathedral of
Christ the Light, a priest lights one of
the candles set high on the cathedral wall.

Bishop Vigneron offers the Eucharistic Prayer during the dedication Mass. San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer (left) and Bishop John Cummins (far right) are concelebrants.

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