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placeholder Five decades
of leadership

Bishop Floyd Begin,
a bridge builder for all

Oakland diocese's
first parish celebrates
its jubilee, too

The first priest
of the diocese

Commitment to a demanding life

Bishop Begin:
Blessed beginning, blessed ending

Fond memories of Bishop Floyd L. Begin

'Where were you …'

Pastoral Council made diocese a leader in giving laity a voice

Interfaith good feeling, openness part of our diocesan heritage

Housing to rise at former cathedral site

At Cooper Chapel, building community, Catholic identity

'Community' crypts provide peace of mind

Stewardship of the end-of-life

Institute aims to refute atheist influence in science

New film tells story of Cristero War


Catholic population at nearly 59 million in 2010

Religious freedom rally set for June 8

Fundraiser on May 26 for Haitian children

Visitation of the
Blessed Virgin:
What it means for us

50 years later, still answering Fatima questions

Magnificat Maternal Health: Mission to protect women in childbirth

Special collection
for Catholic Communication

Parishes lifeblood
of the diocese

placeholder May 21, 2012   •   VOL. 50, NO. 9   •   Oakland, CA
Weak from radiation treatments, Bishop Begin insisted on doing ordinations to the priesthood
on April 22, 1977. He died four days later.

Catholic VOICE FILE photo

Bishop Begin: Blessed beginning, blessed ending

Our 50th Anniversary reminded me of a unique coincidence in my life.
My brother Bill and I were seminarians at the time. Msgr. Nick Connolly, our pastor and our new vicar general, had told us the day and time that our new bishop was to arrive. So, I was there the day the helicopter landed in 1962 and was able to meet Bishop Floyd Begin as he set foot in the new Diocese of Oakland. He looked enthusiastic, self-assured, congenial and self-confident.

Later, we came to see that he was all of that and more. He was bright, open, pastoral and thoughtful, with a great mind for details. He loved the church and the diocese from the very beginning.

One surprise was that he could call priests by name immediately. We discovered that he had asked to have pictures of all the priests sent to him in Cleveland. Before he arrived, he had memorized all their names and faces. It was clear that he cared. That day marked the beginning. He was both an experienced pastor of an urban parish and an experienced bishop ready to guide our newly established diocese with enthusiasm.

The coincidence I spoke of is that I was there, too, at the ending on the morning Bishop Begin peacefully passed away in Providence Hospital.

Though weak from progressing cancer and radiation treatments, Bishop Begin insisted, really insisted, that he would do the ordination to the priesthood on April 22, 1977. Knowing that the bishop's health was precarious, we had dimissorial letters signed and ready. This would allow another bishop to do the ordination, if necessary.

In January of that year, Bishop John Cummins, then auxiliary bishop of Sacramento, had graciously agreed to hold the ordination date for us. We did not know then that he would be announced as the new bishop of Oakland just a few days after the ordination and the death of Bishop Begin. Neither did we know that Bishop Begin's last official act as bishop of Oakland would be that priestly ordination.

Bishop Begin came home from the ordination tired but in wonderful spirits, pleased with the ceremony and grateful for five new priests to serve the people of God. He was feeling well enough the next day to enjoy the lunch quickly prepared by Sisters Thomasine and Lydia when Bishop Cummins dropped in to say hello to Bishop Begin and to see how he was feeling.

Sunday was the day of first Masses. I returned home to discover that the sisters were concerned that the bishop was not feeling well at all. The two sisters and I sat up all night with the bishop who was growing increasingly uncomfortable and weak. Very early in the morning on Monday, we made arrangements and Bishop Begin was taken to the hospital by ambulance.

We contacted the Begin family in Cleveland. Fathers Bob and Dan Begin and their mother Cady (the bishop's sister-in-law) arrived late Monday night and were able to visit a little with the bishop. Things seemed serious, but stable when everyone but Cady retired for a little rest. I remember her saying she would stay and pray the bishop into heaven. On the next morning, the bishop was very weak but was holding his own.

The day was Tuesday, April 26, 1977. Most of the "Fathers" had gone to San Francisco for the installation of Archbishop John Quinn, not knowing that Bishop Begin had taken a turn for the worse over the weekend after ordaining five new priests for our diocese.

Msgr. John Connolly and Father Bill Marshall had stopped at the hospital on their way to the installation and decided to stay with Bishop Begin along with Sister Lydia, Sister Thomasine, Cady Begin and myself.

At about 10 o'clock Msgr. Connolly and I went to the chapel and offered the Votive Mass for a Happy Death for Bishop Begin. It was during that Mass that Bishop Begin quietly passed away.

Word was sent immediately to San Francisco. Archbishop Jean Jadot, as concelebrant, was to pray the memento for the dead in the Eucharistic Prayer that morning. In doing so, it was Archbishop Jadot who announced to all present that Bishop Floyd Begin had died just a few minutes earlier.

On the eve of the 50th anniversary of his own ordination to the priesthood, Bishop Floyd L. Begin was buried at Holy Sepulchre on April 30, 1977.

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