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Catholic Voice
June 9, 2014   •   VOL. 52, NO. 11   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
3 ordained to the priesthood
Latino religious groups are
'modern apostles,' bishop says
Corpus Christi, for 100 years,
welcoming community of faith
On June 13, 1986, above, Father William Dunn, right, is installed as pastor, by Father Michael Norkett, then pastor of St. Joseph in Fremont. Assisting in the ceremony were Tim Messner, holding book, and Robert LaFontaine. At left, the present church was dedicated in April 1957.
Voice file photos

When he arrived at Corpus Christi Parish in Fremont two years ago to serve as the parochial administrator, Rev. Sergio Lopez found himself in new territory. The priest, who was already a tribunal lawyer and a vocations director for the Diocese of Oakland, had never before served as the spiritual leader of a parish.

Father Lopez, however, didn't feel like a newbie for long. Embraced by a friendly and "very welcoming" community of faith, the new administrator quickly assimilated into the tight-knit parish. "Ever since I came here I have felt like part of the family," he said.

Following in that spirit, Father Lopez said that he works with lay members to try and make sure that parish celebrations are open and welcoming to all ethnic and cultural groups in the parish. "We want to be like a bridge," he said.

The Fremont community, which is currently celebrating its 100th anniversary as a parish, has about 1,000 registered families. But like in many parishes, an unknown number of members are not registered, Father Lopez noted. The multicultural congregation is made up of many Portuguese-, Italian- and Spanish-speaking members as well as people from Indian and Filipino backgrounds.

Corpus Christi is 100

June 22
10 a.m. Procession
11 a.m. Mass
Festival to 5:30 p.m.

Corpus Christi Catholic Church, 37891 Second St., Niles, Fremont

For more information:
email: ccniles1@att.net
A major event on the centennial year calendar is a festival which will be held on June 22, the Feast of Corpus Christi. The celebration will start at 10 a.m. with an Eucharistic Procession in downtown Niles. Mass will follow at 11 a.m. with the diocese's bishop, the Most Rev. Michael C. Barber, SJ, presiding. The festival will be held from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. on the church grounds. The celebration will include food, entertainment, a vintage flea market, exhibits, artisans, games for children and a raffle for a 2014 Toyota Camry.

The spiritual highlight of the centennial will be a pilgrimage to Rome and the Holy Land from Oct. 13 to 26. For more information on these and other monthly events through the year, visit the church website at http://CorpusChristiFremont.org.


Nestled in the historic Niles district of Fremont, Corpus Christi began as a small church community that actually got its start in 1892 as a mission church, built on land donated by the Southern Pacific Railroad and served by priests from Mission San Jose. Services were held in the wooden gothic-style church.

Shortly before his death in 1914, San Francisco Archbishop Patrick Riordan declared Corpus Christi a territorial parish and named Father John Leal as its first pastor. Father Leal, who served from 1914 to 1919, oversaw the construction of the rectory and acquired land for future parish use.

During the early years the community played an important part in the growth of faith and service at Corpus Christi Church, said Linda Garcia, a longtime parishioner. There were many volunteers that helped in the church through acts of service such as music and organ players and those who took up the ministry of cleaning the church.

"There was an Altar Society made up by Minnie Rego and Minnie Mesquite, who always picked flowers from their garden to dress the church altar. Minnie Rego would always say 'This is my church and my responsibility to make it pretty and take care of it,'" Garcia said. "Niles people were very good at spreading God's good news in the community where they lived."

Fashion shows, once a major parish fundraiser, were put on by Enis Havey and Susie DiGiulio of the Young Ladies Institute (YLI) and "the very prominent St. Teresa's Guild," said Garcia, who helped gather information that will be included in a written history of the parish. She added that the annual fashion shows were not only fundraising events but a good way to keep the youth and community involved.

Several women in the parish took charge of the religious education of the children. Some of these women parishioners like Flora Silva, Virginia DiGiulio, Norma Burns, Ester Jaramillo and Sister Vivian not only made sure that the children learned their catechism, they held classes in their homes.

During the week the children were allowed to leave school long enough to attend catechism classes and then return to school. Classes were also held on Saturdays, Garcia said. "Esther Jaramillo would collect all of the children from Vallejo Street and march them over to Corpus Christi for confession and would return on Sunday to take them to Mass," Garcia said.

Over the years the parish's religious education program has been under the direction of the Dominican Sisters, the Sisters of the Holy Family and lay ministers. The current director of religious education is Lucy Soltau.

To accommodate the growing faith community of Niles, Father Richard Brendan O'Connell, who was pastor from 1951 to 1964, saw the need to build a new church and set into motion a fundraising campaign. Longtime parishioners took pride in taking an active role in the building of the new church. The present church was dedicated in April 1957. Bishop Floyd L. Begin, who was named bishop of the Diocese of Oakland in 1962, dedicated the new parish hall and classrooms in 1969. Years later Bishop John S. Cummins, who was bishop from 1977 to 2003, dedicated the new marble altar. At the time the large Crucifix which was donated to Corpus Christi by Egizia Digiulio Ragghianti was moved from the back wall and placed over the new altar.

CYO came to Corpus Christi in 1969. Children from third grade to eighth played basketball in the new parish center gymnasium, Garcia said. Other active ministries now in the parish include small faith communities in homes, Bible Studies, pastoral school for adults, Nocturnal and First Friday Adorations, two youth groups and the Legion of Mary. The parish's music ministry comprises English-speaking and Spanish-speaking choirs, a children's choir and cantors. During the Lenten and Christmas seasons the Spanish Community puts on a live Passion play and Pastorela play and Posadas. The catechism classes also put on a special play at the Christmas Children's Mass.

Corpus Christi Catholic Church is at 37891 Second St., Niles, Fremont. From Niles Boulevard. heading south, turn right on J Street and left onto Second Street. The church is on the right.

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