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placeholder February 8, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 3   •   Oakland, CA

Most Rev. Steven J. Lopes and his mother, Barbara Lopes-Dias.
COURTESY PHOTO

Fremont-born bishop will make a visit home

The Most Rev. Steven J. Lopes, of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, is the youngest bishop in the United States at age 40. The ordinariate, which was established just five years ago, serves people nurtured in the Anglican tradition who are or will be coming into full communion with the Catholic Church.

 
Mass of Thanksgiving

When: March 6, 10 a.m.

Where: St. Edward Church, 5788 Thornton Ave., Newark

Celebrant: The Most Rev. Steve Lopes, Bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter (and graduate of St. Edward School and Moreau Catholic High School)
 
"An ordinariate is defined by the people," he said, "not the territory."

And, the self-described NorCal guy has no NorCal parishes; there are two in Southern California, with the possibility of a third.

Bishop Lopes expressed great respect for the Anglicans who have "given up everything" to become Catholic. For legal reasons, they give up their churches and lands.

Not all parishes have churches of their own," he said. "They meet at former Catholic Churches, school gyms and one at an elementary school gym."

Such is the power of their faith, he said, which "humbles and inspires" him.

"It takes a great deal of courage and faith," he said. "I'm impressed with how willing they are to share it."

Although he has worked on their behalf in Rome for several years of his ministry, he looks forward to getting to know them better, as he visits the 40 parishes and communities across the United States and Canada.

He was ordained Feb. 2 in Houston, where the ordinariate is headquartered. As he begins his journey as bishop, one of the first stops he will make will be St. Edward Church in Newark, the church of his childhood, to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at 10 a.m. March 6.

"It was a great parish," he said. "It still is."

Steven Joseph Lopes was born in 1975 at Washington Hospital in Fremont, the first bishop born in the mission city, to Barbara Lopes and José de Oliveira Lopes, who were educators.

His first years of school were spent at St. Pius School in Redwood City, where his mother was a teacher.

As they commuted, they watched the building of the new Dumbarton Bridge, his mother recalled. Commuting on a drawbridge had its challenges, she said. "We didn't like to be late."

But as he reached the upper grades in elementary school, he had a request for his parents: a transfer to St. Edward School, at the family's parish.

Among his "great teachers" were the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose. One of the greatest influences on his vocation, he said, was Sister Mary Joseph Lyons, OP, who died last year. He recalls, too, going to the motherhouse in Fremont for guitar lessons.

Also among his teachers at St. Edward was a young music teacher named Jeffrey Keyes, who would later be ordained a priest and become pastor of St. Edward.

Bishop Lopes' vocation was nurtured over the years, particularly when he was in high school the last graduating class of Moreau High School, 1993, before the school added "Catholic" to its name.

As one of four teenage sacristans at St. Edward, he began to discern a call. "I wouldn't say I came to any real decision," he said.

When he was a junior in high school, Bishop Lopes' father died. The young man took on leadership, his mother recalled.

"He decided he was the man of the house," Lopes-Dias said.

But his mother remained faithful to "the promise I made to his father: He would get a good education."

Anything that could get in the way of that met with the response: "I'm fulfilling my promise to your Dad."

Young Steven did not go to the state university in Hayward. Instead, he went to the University of San Francisco.

The calling intensified in his junior and senior years. "Once he was a senior in college," she said, "we were able to talk about it."

Bishop Lopes recalled that the priests at his boyhood parish were Missionaries of the Most Precious Blood; his high school affiliated with the Holy Cross Fathers; and his university was run by the Jesuits.

He felt his call was to the diocesan priesthood. "I needed to talk to a diocesan priest," he said. "I didn't know any diocesan priests."

So he asked his mother. "Hey, Mom, who's teaching in your classroom?"

Barbara Lopes was still teaching at St. Pius School; she would retire after 47 years of teaching. One day a week a priest would teach religion in her classroom. It happened to be then-Rev. Robert McElroy, who after serving as auxiliary bishop of San Francisco, is now bishop of San Diego.

Bishop Lopes entered St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park. After a year, then-Archbishop William Levada transferred him to Rome to study Pontifical North American College.

"We had not sent a seminarian to Rome to the North American College since the late '70s," Bishop Lopes said.

The opportunity has informed his priesthood and broadened his worldview.

At the time there were 175 students now there are 250 from all over the country. "The conversation changes," he said. "Perspective broadens; you go to events in Rome, surrounded by a global audience."

Bishop Lopes was ordained to the priesthood on June 23, 2001, by then-Archbishop Levada.

The next month, the young priest performed his first marriage ceremony, uniting his mother and stepfather.

"The hardest part was he had to call me Barbara instead of Mom," she recalled.

After serving in two parishes, he was named to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office responsible for promoting and preserving Catholic teaching. He became a monsignor in 2010.

Barbara Lopes said, including his time studying, her son has spent 14 years in Rome. He has found time to come home, at Christmas and Easter.

Last year, her son invited her to Houston for a conference at the ordinariate, on whose behalf he has been working at the Vatican.

"I found all these people were wonderful," she said, but she did have a few questions. Did they pray the rosary?

Her son, the monsignor, relayed his mother's questions, unbeknownst to her.

A priest approached her later, reached into his coat pocket, and drew out his beads. "I'll never forget," she said, "he told me 'Mom, I want you to know I say the rosary every day.'"

Bishop Lopez described it as "High English, beautiful poetic form of liturgy similar to ours. It's a beautiful form of liturgy these communities do very well."

Would a Roman Catholic be welcome to visit?

Of course, he said, adding, "Bring an envelope."

 
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