|May 19, 2014 • VOL. 52, NO. 10 • Oakland, CA|
'A people who' celebrate their golden jubilee
"Not a place where, but a people who!" is the motto of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Livermore.
Betty Herrick was among the first parishioners. Her mother and grandmother had been born in Livermore; Herrick herself was practically a native. She had gone to school and received the sacraments at St. Michael Parish.
When Livermore was divided into two parishes, she found herself and her family on the St. Charles side of the line. "I was not a happy camper," she said.
"It was really hard to leave there in the beginning," she said of St. Michael's, "but I love St. Charles." She continues to serve the parish as a lector an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.
Her daughter Sherry was baptized in January 1965 on the stage of the multipurpose room of Granada High School. She would later graduate from Granada.
By the time of her First Communion, the parish had moved onto the present site. Her brothers were altar servers.
But before they got to the church, the Vine Theater was a memorable venue.
"You've never been to church 'til you've been to the theater with the lights on and seen all that gum," Betty Herrick said.
Fellow parishioner Betty Klino agrees. It was weird, she said, of her teenage years attending Mass at the theater where she would "genuflect by the chair where you had gone to the movies the night before."
Herrick's family hosted the first daily Mass in the parish, with a handful of neighbors coming to Mass, followed by cooking breakfast for the pastor, Father John Dollard.
In building a timeline for the parish celebration, Klino collected photos from her fellow parishioners, including those showing the field that became the parish. She recalled the dilapidated house where chickens were raised and eggs sold "on the outskirts of town."
The first Mass was celebrated Sept. 15, 1968, in what was supposed to become the school gym.
The school was never built; the gym, renovated, remains the church.
"The people who" moved forward.
Father Dollard attracted the attention of Time magazine in 1970 when he instituted a tithe: $8 a month. Time reported that some parishioners balked; not at the amount so much as the idea of it.
"He had rough edges," Klino recalled of Father Dollard. "But in those rough edges he attracted the people who would otherwise not be coming to church."
According to the parish history, in July 1980, St. Charles was approved for the first female pastoral associate in the Oakland Diocese, Sister Marie Weidner, OP.
One of her successors in that role was Sister Rebecca Shinas, OP. "Sister Rebecca was a big part of our parish," Betty Herrick said, remembering Sister's guitar and music.
Sister Rebecca, who now serves at St. Simon Church in Los Altos, recalls the can-do spirit of the parish.
The Dominican Sister of Mission San Jose, who served as pastoral associates from 1993 to 2003, recalled a faith formation program that included both adults and children.
"That's the latest," she said. "We were doing those 20 years ago,"
She recalled St. Charles as a "parish of the people," one with vibrant social outreach. "It's a whole and holy place to worship, raise a family, nurture faith and to make lifelong connections," she said.
The can-do spirit lasted beyond good times. She said parishioners were not afraid to look at difficult times, with the attitude of "let's address how can we continue to make this a place of God."
There's camaraderie in the parish. "Everybody kind of knows each other," said Betty Klino. They are unafraid, too, to cross the aisle at the sign of peace.
"One of the beautiful things is that so many people are involved in running the parish," said Betty Herrick.
As the parish celebrates 50, there are some holdovers. One is a form of tithing. Parishioners receive one envelope in the mail each month. The parish sets aside 5 percent of the collection each week for helping others: 3.5 percent to social concerns and 1.5 percent to a fund for those who come to the pastor for help.
And for those who miss the smell of popcorn, parishioners will return to the Vine Theater on Aug. 24 — a family movie in the late afternoon, followed by a film of 1964, possibly "Goldfinger." Some parishioners recall walking past cardboard cutouts of Bond girls on their way to Mass in the '60s.
Father Mark Wiesner arrived at St. Charles in 2012.
"They're incredibly generous when it comes to outreach," Father Wiesner said of the St. Charles parishioners. In addition to the 5 percent of the collection that goes to outreach, a State of the Parish report in February documented $67,000 in other outreach to meet local needs at shelters and food banks.
There are 950 families; 100 registered in the last year.
As they embark on the next 50 years, Father Wiesner said, "It's going to be astounding to see what God does here."
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