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'Joy has found
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Challenging first
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placeholder June 10, 2013   •   VOL. 51, NO. 11   •   Oakland, CA
Challenging first decade confronted The Catholic Voice

Frank Maurovich

1963 — what an exciting year to start a diocesan newspaper. Fifty years ago, The Catholic Voice published its first issue between the first and second sessions of Vatican Council II. In Rome, Bishop Floyd L. Begin, founding bishop of the Oakland Diocese, and 2,400 of his fellow bishops accepted the challenge from Blessed Pope John XXIII to lead the Church on a path of reform and renewal.

The challenge for The Voice was clear — to report fairly and accurately what was happening at the Council, even though we had no experience with such meetings. "When it comes to councils," the pope said, "we are all novices." Pope John said this 21st council would be different from all previous. Instead of solely discussing church matters, this council would send its message, in his words, "to a world that which exalts itself with its conquests in the technical and scientific fields … to which there is not a corresponding advance in the moral field."


50 years ago

June 7, 1963
• While the Pope lay in state, a steadily-flowing river of humanity passed by the red-draped catafalque. Some prayed, some cried, some simply started as they passed the body under the soaring dome of Michelangelo. In his dying moments, Pope John XXIII, through his secretary of state, Amleto Cardinal Cicognani, sent a special apostolic blessing to Bishop Floyd L. Begin and to the Diocese of Oakland.

This was in response to a telegram sent to the Holy Father by Bishop Begin assuring him that the people of the Oakland Diocese were remembering him in their Masses and prayers.

June 14, 1963
• At commencement ceremonies last Saturday at Oakland's College of the Holy Names Bishop Floyd L. Begin handed bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees to 127 graduates — the largest class in the history of the school.

25 years ago

June 6, 1988
• During an emotion-filled visit to a north Oakland drop-in center, Mother Teresa, the diminutive Nobel Peace Prize winner, told patients with AIDS and their caregivers to use the disease to bring humanity together rather than to pull people apart. "Do not let it (AIDS) make you bitter. Overcome the bitterness; use the disease to overcome it," said the founder of the Missionary Brothers and Sisters of Charity, to some 60 people with AIDS in a private meeting at The Center, a spiritual resource center for AIDS/ARC patients and those who care for them.

• Pope John Paul II has asked U.S. bishops to promote greater use of individual confession and to avoid the misuse of general absolution. In many parts of the world the Sacrament of Penance is in a kind of crisis because of "unwarranted interpretations" of what constitutes the conditions for general absolutions, the pope said.

After the council's first session and just two months before his death (June 1963), Pope John made his own contribution by publishing "Pacem in Terris" (Peace on Earth), his personal spiritual testament addressed not just to Catholics but to all people of good will. The papal letter was extraordinarily well received the world over. Secretary-General of the United Nations U Thant invited the pope to address the General Assembly. In failing health, the Holy Father sent Cardinal Leon Suenens of Belgium, who relayed the pope's message to the world's political leaders: "No person of good will can accept that two out of three human beings should suffer hunger. Civilization is not worthy of its name if it remains indifferent to this social sin."

The Voice had to acquaint its readers with what appeared to be a new vocabulary. Catholics knew of personal sin, but teaching that governments or corporations could be guilty of offending God through "social or collective sin" seemed new, though the term had long been part of the church's social gospel. Similarly, the council defined the church as "People of God," signifying that all from pope to the last lay person have been called not only to holiness but also to mission — to spread the Gospel by the example of their lives. But "People of God" was not a new term; the council, in its usual practice, went "back to the sources," using the term that first appeared in Exodus 6:7 and repeated in First Corinthians 6:16.

The Voice reported how the diocese anticipated or moved easily into the directions endorsed by the Council in liturgy, social justice and ecumenism. St. Francis de Sales Cathedral was one of the first parishes in the country to effectively unite homily, music and worship in the new English Mass.

St. Elizabeth parish, under its pastor Franciscan Father Oliver Lynch, promoted community organization in East Oakland, so that minorities could develop a voice to demand social justice.

Even before the first session of the Council, Bishop Begin invited 150 Protestant ministers and their wives to dinner at the Claremont Hotel and explained his purpose in simple terms: "I love all of you very much." In a historic endeavor for a united Christian approach to higher theological education, Bishop Begin led the way for the Catholic Church's participation in the Graduate Theological Union.

In 1968, Cardinal Suenens, one of Vatican II's more dynamic leaders, came to Berkeley as principal speaker for a gathering of some 1,000 Protestant ministers. "I was deeply moved by the final ovation," the cardinal said, "because I could feel how powerful was their desire for unity."

As if the church scene was not enough, the Voice reported how the 1960s in the United States erupted as the most turbulent decade of the 20th century. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, and Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were slain in 1968. Riots broke out in Chicago when police removed protestors at the Democratic National Convention.

The Bay Area was an epicenter of much of the turbulence. The Hippie movement, challenging traditional morality, was centered in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district; the Black Panthers, the more violent arm of the Civil Rights Movement, were founded in Oakland, and the Free Speech Movement was alive in Berkeley. Without condoning violence as a means to an end, The Voice listened and reported the opinions of the angry young adults in these movements on the issues they were trying to address. Turbulence also shook the church when Paul VI, Pope John's successor, published "Humanae Vitae" ("Of Human Life"), maintaining the church's traditional ban on all forms of artificial birth control.

The Voice tried to be a mirror in those times, reflecting accurately what was happening in church and society. Excitement — and turbulence — followed into the next decade, and responsibility for reporting the news and guiding the diocese passed on to other capable hands. In 1972, Frank Maurovich passed the Voice's editorial baton to Father Richard Mangini, and Bishop John S. Cummins succeeded Bishop Begin in 1977. Both had the advantage of being native sons, Father Mangini from Concord and Bishop Cummins from Berkeley. Bishop Cummins came with the added experience of serving Bishop Begin from the beginning as the first chancellor of the diocese and accompanying him to Rome in 1963 for the second session of Vatican Council II. The People of God were in good hands.

(Frank Maurovich was the first editor of The Catholic Voice, from May 1963 until November 1972. He was later editor of Maryknoll magazine and is now affiliated with The Anthonian, the quarterly magazine of The St. Anthony's Guild.)

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