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Catholic Voice
June 27, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 12   •   Oakland, CA
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Exploring life-affirming options
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140 years of memories,
at Oakland's Sacred Heart


Evelyn Bonito, left, is editing a book for the Jubilee of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in San Leandro. She and fellow parishioner Cora Tabernero show a parish scrapbook that provides newspaper clippings and snapshots from the parish's early days.

Rev. Jan Rudzewicz stands next to a statue of Our Lady, formerly at old St. Mary's Church in Oakland.

Rev. James Keane distributes Communion at the dedication Mass of Our Lady of Good Counsel in March 1970.
File photo
50 years of devotion celebrated at Our Lady of Good Counsel

Our Lady of Good
Counsel Church

2500 Bermuda Ave.,
San Leandro

Jubilee Mass
July 10, 10 a.m. Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, celebrant

Aug. 10

Call the parish office for tickets: 510-614-2765

When: Oct. 29

Star of the Sea Mission, founded in 1965, had been outgrown rapidly by residents of the new housing developments near the San Leandro Marina.

On July 1, 1966, Bishop Floyd L. Begin, the first bishop of Oakland, created the parish of Our Lady of Good Counsel. Rev. James Keane, who had been teaching at Bishop O'Dowd High School, became its first pastor.

"The first time we saw the property — in the middle of winter — it was completely underwater," Father Keane told The Catholic Voice in 1970.

The newborn parish's early home was the banquet hall of the Blue Dolphin restaurant on the marina.

Once the needed improvements were made to the marshland, a light blue and white pre-fabricated building by the Rheem-Dudley Co. was placed on the land.

The church was dedicated on March 14, 1970, by Bishop Begin, who also confirmed 40 parishioners.

The church itself, as did others of its generation, did double-duty; the sanctuary could be closed off and the church turned into a fellowship hall.

It would do so until the completion of a sparkling parish hall four decades later.

Its 350 families come not just from the Marina neighborhood, but, from farther afield, attracted to the extraordinary devotional life of the parish.

On July 10, the little parish with a big heart will celebrate its 50th year. Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, the fifth bishop of Oakland, will celebrate the Mass.

"Parish jubilee is a great opportunity to look at the past, evaluate it and make plans for the future, what direction we want to go to make our parish community more vibrant and serving our parishioners and others, to transform those who are bystanders into full participants with the sense of ownership of everything we believe and do," said Rev. Jan Rudzewicz, parochial administrator who has served there since 2011.

Bystanders were in short supply one Friday morning, where, after the morning Mass, parishioners shared stories of parish life.

The parish's early years are recalled by the memories of longtime parishioners as well as from a scrapbook, lovingly kept by Elizabeth Wiebersch, longtime parish secretary, combining newspaper clippings, fading color photos and mementos such as a program from a women's guild luncheon.

Evelyn Bonito, who has been a parishioner for 10 years, is preparing a book for the jubilee. She is collecting stories from parishioners, "It's a nice way to get to know people," said Bonito, who also has a "big birthday" coming up.

"It's not a small community," she said, "and it's not a really big community."

The parish is praying a jubilee prayer, composed by the planning committee, each Sunday.

"We are a very diverse parish," said Father Rudzewicz. While the first parishioners were mainly of Portuguese and Italian descent, today's parish includes vibrant Filipino, Vietnamese and, as of a year ago, Polish communities.

"The bishop asked me if we could accommodate a Polish Mass, said Father Rudzewicz, a native of Gajrowskie, Poland, who came to the United States three years after his ordination. That Mass is celebrated at 12:30 p.m. Sundays.

The parish benefits from a corps of dedicated volunteers, including the musicians, CCD coordinator and teachers and parish gift shop workers.

While the church may appear modest, even industrial, from the outside, its entrance has been enhanced by the placement of a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary that had been at St. Mary Church in Oakland. The statue is surrounded by roses, which are making a comeback from the drought.

Pews from the closed parish are also in the sanctuary. With the opening of the parish hall, it can now serve solely as a church.

The parish hall — which is available for rental, a source of income for the parish — will be the site of a dinner dance in August. A concert in October will feature music from the decades, performed by parishioners who have appeared on television competition shows "X Factor" and "America's Got Talent."

"Shining stars," Father Rudzewicz said, "from our tiny place."

The quiet beauty of the parish's grotto and the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel provide space for quiet prayer.

The parish's hallmark just might be its attention to devotions, particularly those of the Filipino Catholics.

The annual Simbang Gabi celebration is held in the evenings, beginning Dec. 16, allowing those who work to be able to be present. It ends at 6 a.m. Dec. 24.

The Feast of the Black Nazarene is celebrated Jan. 1-9; also there is devotion to Our Lady of Fatima.

One of the most colorful may be Our Lady of Peñafrancia. On the third Sunday of September, the statue is carried in procession from the church to the Marina, then set afloat.

The parish looks forward to the next chapter in its history.

Among the opportunities they look forward to are renovation of the church building, including raising the church ceiling, installing the crucifix on the main wall of the sanctuary, building a shrine for the Blessed Mother and Divine Mercy, building a crying room with walk-in confessional, installing new lights and electronic screens, and a new sound system with devices for those who have difficulty hearing.

Also on the list: Start a program for children's adoration; develop youth and music ministries; develop a stewardship program; modernize the parish database; and develop a recycling program to support charities.

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