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placeholder Parish remembers murder victims

Local Franciscan priest detained on Cairo street while on march to Gaza

Marin teens struggle after parents’ deportation to Guatemala

Danville Knights of Columbus deliver 500 Christmas baskets

Catholic Charities East Bay celebrates 75 years of service

Why I became a priest:
My vocation journey — a long discernment towards ‘yes’

Diocese provides ‘clear speech’ training for foreign-born priests

Dominican Sisters from Mexico observe 25 years in diocese

Sister Michaela O’Connor SHF:
‘It’s great to work for a God who loves to surprise you’

Laywomen reflect on their role as ecclesial ministers

Convocation to explore lay ministry as a fulfillment of the call to holiness

Lay ecclesial ministry one of foremost ministerial shifts of past 2000 years

Continuing education courses for lay Catholics offered on HNU campus

Walnut Creek dentist composes musical about St. John Vianney

Faith groups seek ‘say on pay’ for CEOs

Environmentalism promotes peace, pope says

Books offer tips on going ‘green’

Manhattan Declaration support grows

SF Boys Chorus joins Oakland cathedral as Chorus-in-Residence, auditions Jan. 16

Sister Marian Therese Kohles, S.P.

placeholder January 11, 2010   •   VOL. 48, NO. 1   •   Oakland, CA

Father Aidan McAleenan, parochial administrator of St. Columba Parish in Oakland, blesses the 109 crosses in the parish’s front garden during a Dec. 31 ritual marking the end of another year of violence in the city.
Janet M. Sheard Photo
Parish remembers murder victims

On the last day of 2009 a small group of people gathered outside St. Columba Church to mark the end of another tragic year of violence in the streets of Oakland. Standing around more than 100 crosses set in front of the church, each representing a victim of homicide, the ceremony began with a recitation of The Beatitudes.

Participants hold crosses representing homicide victims in Oakland during 2009.

Father Aidan McAleenan, St. Columba administrator, spoke to the group of the need to prevent these crosses from being planted again in 2010. “We can never get used to these crosses being there,” he said.

On Dec. 31 there were 109 crosses in the garden outside the church. The previous year it was 122. The assembly prayed that the number would be greatly reduced in the new year.

During the service, people spoke about the impact of violence on their lives and told stories of efforts to combat crime.

Father McAleenan recalled a parishioner from Emeryville who wanted to start a fund to help people who couldn’t pay for funerals. In addition to thanking the woman for her generosity, Father McAleenan had suggested to her that money is needed to work toward not having to place any crosses at the church.

He invited her to a meeting of Oakland Community Organizations (OCO) where community members, including those from several Catholic parishes, are working together to reduce violent crime. After the meeting, the woman wrote a check that enabled some OCO members to travel to New York to attend a crime fighting conference.

Father McAleenan blessed the crosses, then parishioners removed them and carried them into the church while singing “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

After making a procession to the altar, the congregants laid the crosses in front of the altar. Assistant Police Chief Howard Jordan of the Oakland Police Department joined Father McAleenan at the altar and talked about the tragic loss of life during the year, including the murders of four Oakland Police officers in March.

“It was very emotional,” Father McAleenan said later of the ceremony. “Everybody felt it.”

The ministry of the crosses began at St. Columba several years ago during the pastorate of Father Jayson Landeza, whom Father McAleenan succeeded last year. Each wooden cross, painted white, bears the first name, age and the date of death of a person who has been killed. The cross is placed in the garden shortly after the murder is made known.

In past years the crosses were simply removed on Dec. 31 to be cleaned and repainted for later use, if needed. Last month Father McAleenan decided to mark the removal with a ritual.

The crosses remained stacked in front of the altar until the New Year’s Day Mass when members of the congregation were again invited to come forward, pick up several crosses and walk them out of the church.

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