'Where were you …
The Catholic Voice asked readers to send in their recollections of the formation of the Diocese of Oakland.
More than 2,000 people attended the Sept. 25, 2008 dedication of the Cathedral of Christ the Light.
Catholic VOICE FILE photo
Sharing a golden jubilee
It was 1962 and Jawaharlal Nehru, a world famous statesman, was elected de facto prime minister of India, the largest democracy of the world.
And I, a young woman who was living in distant Mumbai (Bombay) did not in my wildest dream think that one day I would be a part of the newly formed Oakland diocese. I was busy preparing for tying the matrimonial knot with my now husband, Ernest. The marriage was initiated by our parents and with their blessings we were married on April 29, 1962. I feel honored to be celebrating my wedding Golden Jubilee with that of our diocese.
The Christmas carol "Do You Hear What I Hear?" was written by Noel Regney with music by Gloria Shayne.
After marriage, life went on an even keel. After three years we were blessed with our first child Anil. Then came three more.
In 1983, with the help of my sister we migrated to America. On landing in Oakland, we faced the usual struggles that most immigrant families have to face, besides there was recession and lack of employment in this country that year. However, with the help of family and friends we managed to settle down in the diverse Oakland Diocese.
At our 25th anniversary in 1987, Father Cozina who was pastor of St. Margaret Mary Church presented us with a certificate blessed by Pope John Paul II. I always cherish this certificate and have been comforted by it.
One of my aha moments was, when I, with my Asian Indian Community, was able to take part in the groundbreaking and opening ceremony of our great Cathedral of Christ the Light.
A proud original Spartan
Father LaSalle Sean Hallissey
While I do not remember the planning meetings between the Christian Brothers and the new diocese, I vividly recall Brother Norman, our first principal, coming to my eighth-grade class at Queen of All Saints in Concord recruiting students for this new school. I remember one of my classmates asking Brother Norman what our mascot would be and what the school colors were. I remember going over before school started to help clean desks and move into four classrooms at Most Precious Blood.
I remember going to MPB for the admission/placement test and hearing how the results were delayed in being returned to Brother Norman because someone at SFO saw that they were addressed to "Most Precious Blood" in Concord and promptly stored them in a freezer. (That story even made it to Reader's Digest!)
Well, when we arrived at Most Precious Blood Sept. 7, 1965, we were Spartans and our colors were green and white.
I remember hiking from MPB in spring 1966 to our new campus. I remember helping move into our new campus before our sophomore year. I remember the dedication ceremony in the spring of 1967. To celebrate our new campus, etc., Bishop Begin gave us one extra holiday. When Archbishop Vagnozzi, the Apostolic Delegate, spoke, he said something to the effect of, "I am not going to be outdone by the local bishop.
I give you two extra holidays!" I am sure that Brother Norman, who must have had to be concerned about instruction days and such requirements, did not like having to give us three holidays right toward the end of the year, but we got them and enjoyed them! Oh yes, from the first year, I remember hearing that Brother Jerome, a very tall brother, one day answered the door bell dressed in his black robe and white rabat (the habit of the Brothers) and very much surprised two Jehovah's Witnesses who promptly turned around and fled from the Brothers' temporary house on Ryan Road. I guess they realized that they would not be able to convert Brother Jerome!
When Brother Norman died nine years ago, it was my high honor and great privilege to officiate at his Burial Rite at the Brothers' Cemetery at Mont La Salle in Napa. I was humbled when I was asked to exercise my priestly ministry for my principal.
Father LaSalle Sean Hallissey,
OP (De La Salle Class of '69)
Portrait of the artist
In 1962 I was, at 32, living in North Beach in San Francisco, working for Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of San Francisco, editing its annual appeal newspaper. It was the year, if I recall correctly, that California became the country's most populous state. I am today a conceptual imagist, making art on computers, after having lived variously as a painter, craftsman, reporter, critic. Attached are self-portraits as I appeared then and as I am today. At left is my painting of myself at 32; at right is a digital image of me at 82.
Alfredo de la Rosa,
Talents at work
In 1962 I was in the marching band with my clarinet, the oboe player in the orchestra, and "hula hands" in the talent show. It was my senior year at James Logan High School, Go COLTS, Class of 1962.
As Catholics, we walked to the "old" St. Anne's Church in Union City (Alvarado) from our house on Watkins Street for Mass. Our black-and-white TV sent us images of the world, and we filled up the family car with gas that cost 25 cents a gallon.
I am married to Jerry Lowden, we have two children (Richard and Karen) and four grandchildren. We are members of St. Columba Church and I am a docent for the Cathedral of Christ the Light. Congratulations to the Oakland Diocese — 50 years! God is Good, all the time.
'Catholic in my heart'
I have very vivid memories of the church in 1962, as that was the year I became Catholic in my heart. In that year I was newly married and stationed in Hawaii with my new husband, who was not Catholic. Up to that point I was a cradle Catholic who willingly followed the program. I went to church on Sundays and holy days, followed the laws of the church, and paid homage to Mary and the rosary with regularity. It was a comfortable but rote involvement, and I didn't know what I was missing.
In 1962 I went to church by myself, joined the choir, and immersed myself in Vatican II. The choir became my community, and Vatican II engulfed me in its humanity and love. I was hooked. I made my own personal confirmation. I was a Catholic!
Rev. William Marshall, Msgr. John Connolly, pastor, and Rev. Brian Joyce concelebrate the
50th jubilee Mass of Msgr. Connolly's being a priest at St. Jarlath Church in 1988.
Catholic VOICE FILE photo
'Fell in love with the faith'
My favorite memory of 1962 (and probably all time) was in February at St. Jarlath Church in Oakland, where I was baptized and confirmed and received communion for the first time. I was a 23-year-old convert experiencing independence from my parents for the first time.
I was exposed to Catholicism for the first time attending Mass at St. Margaret Mary Church in Oakland with a friend and his mom, and fell in love with the faith very quickly. The Mass was said in Latin and the church was beautiful.
I attended Mass at St. Francis de Sales Cathedral and St. Anthony, too. By the time I lived in St. Jarlath parish I knew I wanted to learn more about Catholicism, so I called the parish and talked to Father (he was monsignor when he died) Zitko, and he was wonderful. He blessed me with private catechism lessons, and my faith grew strong. I was also blessed with wonderful godparents.
Learning what a diocese is
Do I recall 1962? Absolutely! It was one of the most frightening, exciting, disappointing and electric times of my life. Along with all the "big" news events, I remember hearing the news that Oakland was going to become a diocese and we were going to have our own "pope" of Oakland! At 23, I had no idea really what a diocese was. Well, that was 50 years ago and I certainly know what a diocese is now having worked for the Diocese of Oakland for 34 years. Bishop Floyd Begin named as Oakland's first bishop, legendary liturgies at the Cathedral of St. Francis post Vatican II, sitting with my children at the Cathedral of St. Francis de Sales for Bishop Begin's funeral Mass, my children in awe of the beautiful stained glass windows as we all were. The joy-filled installation of Bishop John Cummins, new parishes forming, the 25th jubilee celebration of the diocese, and sadly, St. Francis de Sales Cathedral suffering a fatal blow via the Loma Prieta earthquake. Upon Bishop Cummins' retirement, the installation of Bishop Allen H. Vigneron as Oakland's third Bishop. The completion and dedication of Christ the Light Cathedral and complex and upon Bishop Vigneron being named Archbishop of Detroit, welcoming our present Bishop Salvatore Cordileone. The contributions of wonderful clergy, religious men and women and amazing co-workers have made my memories of the diocese so treasured. Many have gone home to God, but are still with us in the fabric that makes up the Diocese of Oakland. Happy Anniversary People of the Diocese of Oakland!
Bishop Floyd Begin blesses the remodeled St. Francis de Sales Cathedral in 1967.
Catholic VOICE FILE photo
'Through those doors'
I am living at present at a nursing home in Sacramento and am 91 years of age.
My late wife Marian was a cousin of Bishop John Cummins and very proud of that, as we all were.
At the farewell liturgy at St. Francis de Sales in Oakland, we were moved by Bishop John's elegant words on the history of the old church and its great pastors, and the inspiring closing words of Father Keeley. At the close of the service, Bishop John, walking alone, closed the great doors of the cathedral for the last time.
In the closing of those doors, many thoughts sprang to my mind, as well as to the minds of the many in attendance that day. We were reminded of the many events in our lives, down through the years, that occurred at this church.
I remembered my years as an altar boy, and my teenage years of opening the church each morning for early Mass and ringing of the Angelus bell, and on some mornings suffering the stares of those on the steps when I would oversleep.
I remembered the many visits through those doors after school each day, the Forty Hours, the Holy Weeks, May Processions, First Communion, Confirmation, finally Graduation, my wife Marian and I on our Wedding Day, and bringing our two sons for their baptisms, like hundreds of other families had done.
In saying farewell to this grand old church, we must not forget the devoted and dedicated Sisters of the Holy Names and the many great priests who passed our way and helped mold and enrich lives.
Though today nothing remains, our minds and our hearts will always be with the beautiful old church in the "Heart of the City" as Monsignor Gleason so aptly stated in all of his written pronouncements.
Thank you, St. Francis, for those hundred years plus of Love, Joy, Faith and Community — a golden chain of progress and service from McSweeney to Keeley.
John J. Reardon,
Sacramento (formerly Martinez)
'A new spirit released'
Rev. Richard Mangini
In 1962, I was completing my fourth year of college at St. Patrick's College on the grounds of St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park. In those days, the fourth year of college was called "Second Philosophy."
I remember the January 1962 morning when the announcement of the creation of the Diocese of Oakland and the appointment of its first bishop, Floyd L. Begin. It was midmorning. The bell outside the chapel began to ring, unusual — calling the entire seminary, faculty and students, to the chapel. There the rector (I don't remember which one) announced that the very large Archdiocese of San Francisco was being subdivided into four, creating the additional dioceses of Oakland, Stockton and Santa Rosa.
What diocese would we be in after ordination, answered very simply — from whatever parish we came, most Precious Blood in Concord (now St. Francis of Assisi).
OK, Diocese of Oakland.
There was a new spirit released, an opportunity to be part of something new. The old Archdiocese of San Francisco had so many time-bound customs, attitudes and traditional ways of doing things. We from Oakland felt a breath of fresh air and looked forward to a new way of being church.
Rumor had it that Bishop Begin was supposed to have been the new Archbishop of San Francisco. He had connections in Rome. However, rumor had it that Cardinal McIntyre intervened by having Archbishop McGucken, a former auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, appointed. Bishop Begin then came to Oakland.
Late in the summer of 1962, Bishop Begin asked me to consider attending my four theology years at the North American College, which I was open to doing. However, all the admissions spots had been taken by late August.
I remained at St. Patrick Seminary and completed my studies there in 1967.
Rev. Richard Mangini,