|October 27, 2014 • VOL. 52, NO. 18 • Oakland, CA|
St. Peter Martyr Parish celebrates 100th year
My relationship with this parish is long and enduring. I began my life here. I expect to end my days here.
The Catholic populace, always ready to face any need, oversaw the construction of three worship spaces, the first two at West Second and Cutter streets in 1884 and 1910, and the third, still standing, at West Eighth and Black Diamond streets in 1931.
Father Louis Naselli led the effort in construction of the church, considered one of the most beautiful in East Contra Costa County then and now. He returned 15 years later for another term as pastor and built the parish school and convent.
St. Peter Martyr of Verona Parish, as an integral part of New York Landing, Black Diamond and Pittsburg, has always shown resilience, courage and stamina in the challenge presented by peoples of diverse ethnic, cultural and linguistic traits and included them within its fold. The Sicilian-Italians made up the vast majority of parishioners. Today the overwhelming population is Hispanic. Both have filled the Masses with about 3,200 worshipers every weekend.
With its large Italian-Sicilian membership, the parish became, at least until the middle of the 20th century, intimately identified with the city of Pittsburg, sharing the same geographical area and to a great extent the same populace and served as the heartbeat of the community. The two coalesced to bring about a group of people with the important priorities of work, family and faith.
The parish, while attending to the spiritual needs of its Catholic members, has never lost sight of the material needs of all citizens, with food pantries, educational and civic involvement, attention to human and civil rights at the local, county, state and national levels and maintained its own parochial school system for over 60 years.
The parish has accompanied its parishioners at all stages of their lives, with Baptisms, First Communions, Confirmations, weekend Masses, weddings and funerals, literally from the womb to the tomb, and assisted men and women of Pittsburg to recognize and live their Christian Catholic values.
St. Peter Martyr of Verona parish has survived many challenges to its own life, at first thriving, then almost dying and now flourishing again, as well as being divided up into three parishes and changing over from the Dominican Friars to priests of the Oakland diocese and the destruction and reconstruction of entire neighboring areas of old Pittsburg. To its credit, it has engendered the parishes of Our Lady Queen of the World in Bay Point and The Church of the Good Shepherd on the south side of Pittsburg.
For all these reasons and more, St. Peter Martyr of Verona Parish is now gratefully remembering its past, joyfully celebrating its present and excitedly preparing for the future.
(Father Chavez heads the Centennial Committee at St. Peter Martyr of Verona Parish.)
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