|February 21, 2012 • VOL. 50, NO. 4 • Oakland, CA|
Z'ma Wyatt PHOTOS
Spirit of old cathedral fills the new
With more than 300 people in attendance, the spirit of St. Francis de Sales, the first cathedral of the Diocese of Oakland, was remembered in words and music that filled the Cathedral of Christ the Light.
The liturgy of the first cathedral, implemented in accordance with the new vision of the Second Vatican Council, drew national and international attention. "How Awesome Is This Place!" a recently published memoir by the Rev. E. Donald Osuna, who served at the cathedral from 1967 to 1986, has revived memories of the time.
The gathering on Feb. 8, the opening of the three-day Lux Gloriosa festival at the Cathedral of Christ the Light, drew many people who had been parishioners at the first cathedral.
Remarks from the Most Rev. John S. Cummins, bishop emeritus of Oakland, and Sister Maureen Delaney, SNJM, who directed community outreach programs at St. Francis de Sales, brought applause and recognition from the gathering.
John McDonnell, who directed the Oakland Cathedral choir for many years, assembled a choir to sing at the prayer service, which also offered ample opportunity for participation from those in the pews.
The cathedral filled with the light of hundreds of candles lighted during the singing of "Those Who See Light," one of Father Osuna's compositions.
Sister Maureen recounted the first cathedral's legacy of social justice, service to the elderly, the poor, community organizing and neighborhood advancement. The Holy Names sister, who now serves in Tutwiler, Miss., said, "They were the vehicles we used when we finished our Sunday liturgies. We were challenged . . . we couldn't just sit there and listen."
Sister Maureen noted the contributions of Sister Thomasine McMahon, SNJM, who was in the pews at the celebration. Sister Thomasine, she said, developed ministry to the elderly who lived in the cathedral's neighborhood. Among the services was Tele-Care: "People from the parish would come into the rectory and call the older folks. — 'I'm from St. Francis. . . . How are you?' This was outreach and witness."
Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion would be commissioned on Sundays, she said: "Go out and visit the shut-ins and tell them they're important and we think of them."
Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners were particularly memorable, with people coming to dinner at the school, or receiving a home-delivered meal if they were unable to get out. The dinners later moved to the Baptist church down the street.
Community organizing was embraced by the cathedral community, she recalled, with neighbors banding together to get stop signs, and clean up junk in front of houses.
"They asked people what the problems are: 'We're tired of all these prostitutes on San Pablo Avenue.' We formed a hooker patrol. We'd go out and walk around with a sign: 'Johns, Go Home,'" she said.
Sister Maureen noted one of the major achievements had been the purchase and rehabilitation of a house on Willow Street, which was then sold to a low-income family. It was blessed by Bishop Cummins, she said, with a ceremony that included a recording of the cathedral choir singing, "Bless this house, O Lord we pray."
"The house is still going strong," she reported.
Among the neighborhood improvements was a plaza in front of the cathedral, which made it safer to gather in front of the parish. She told this story of Most Rev. Floyd L. Begin, who had said, "When that plaza is finished, I'm going to take that nun to lunch."
After the lunch at the Sea Wolf with Father Osuna, upon returning the bishop to his residence, Sister Maureen said he said to her, "You're not as bad as I thought you'd be."
"Liturgies we experienced every Sunday were the fuel that inspired us to spread the Gospel," Sister Maureen said. "We tried to do outreach, we tried to witness and we tried to live the Gospel. The spirit of what happened there is alive and well in all of us."
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