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Catholic Voice
June 24, 2013   •   VOL. 51, NO. 12   •   Oakland, CA
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Court sends Proposition 8
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$20,000 donation uplifts Hope
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Spirited Confirmation for young people
in SPRED ministry

The Most Rev. John S. Cummins, the bishop emeritus of Oakland, confirms Denise Olvera Torres, one of the 15 young people in the SPRED ministry who received the sacrament on June 2.

Newly confirmed Abraham Mendoza receives Communion.
All: josÉ luis aguirre/The Catholic Voice

In the Confirmation season, the 15 candidates to be presented to Bishop Emeritus John S. Cummins on June 2 gathered with beaming family, sponsors, friends and catechists at St. Leander Church in San Leandro.

Like confirmandi everywhere, they wore nametags with the name of their chosen saint — Francisco being a popular choice this year — in large type.

It was a day many of these families might have thought they would never see.

But through the ministry of SPRED — Special Religious Education — in the Diocese of Oakland, these young people, ages 15 to mid-20s, with special needs received the sacrament of Confirmation. Rev. Paul Vassar, pastor of St. Leander Church, concelebrated the Mass.

Those to be confirmed processed into the church with their sponsors. Some walked, some used wheelchairs.

For Sister Aurora Perez, who for 37 years has coordinated the SPRED ministry, it was the last confirmation before her retirement. The Sister of the Holy Family said, "Bishop John, Father Paul, we present to you these baptized young men and young women who have been prepared and are now ready to receive the sacrament of confirmation."

Those who were able stood as she called their names.

At more than 20 centers in parishes throughout the diocese, and grouped by ages — 6 to 10, 11-16, 17 to 21 and 22-plus — SPRED helps people with autism, intellectual disabilities, severe cerebral palsy and severe epilepsy receive faith formation and participate in the life of the Church.

At SPRED, each participant — called "a friend" — is paired with a volunteer catechist. Each session ends with a message, delivered to each person in the room, that begins, "Jesus says to you today …"


Know someone who'd like to be a friend? Or a catechist?

Dial 510-635-7252 or email info@spredoakdiocese.org
Many of those catechists were in the church for the liturgy, which was bright with music, and with readings illuminated with sweeping, sacred hand gestures performed by friends and catechists.

The short homily was delivered three times, with Father Vassar addressing a third of the congregation each time: "Jesus says to you today, I give you myself in Holy Communion. Remember, you are the body of Christ. I give to you the gift of the Holy Spirit. Remember, I will always be with you. You are in me, and I am in you. Remember, I love you."

With smiling families and extended families watching, sometimes tearfully, from the pews, the 15 young people, accompanied, by their sponsors, walked or rode to the altar to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation from the bishop.

A smiling Jacqueline Rocha, wearing a full-length white gown, also received her first Holy Communion — through her feeding tube.

At the end of Mass, Bishop Cummins congratulated the newly confirmed and their families. "The Holy Spirit is one of the very happy parts of our faith, the gentle side of God," he said.

"This is one of splendid ministries of the Diocese of Oakland, said Bishop Cummins, but it would not be possible, he told the families, "without the hope you have for your children."

"This is a very special day," he said, "and I want to offer blessings to you parents and families."

The families gathered around the bishop and Father Vassar for a photo session to commemorate the day.

"She's my angel," Ana Maria Hernandez said of her 16-year-old daughter, who received both her First Holy Communion and Confirmation. Receiving the sacraments gives her mother "a peace of mind."

"I love for her to have the sacraments," she said.

Hernandez, who also has three sons, serves as a catechist at St. Elizabeth Parish in Oakland. "I feel God has called me to serve in this way," she said. "I'm glad to do this for these special kids."

Of her daughter's special day, she said, "She's been so happy and well-behaved. She's calm at church, smiling always. She really enjoys being in church."

Esteban and Christina Lopez, members of St. Clement Parish in Hayward, experienced the joy of seeing daughters Laura, 21, and Stephanie, 16, confirmed. "I had a big knot in my throat," as she watched her daughters walk to the altar with their sponsors, Christina Lopez said. "The Mass was beautiful."

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