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placeholder October 24, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 18   •   Oakland, CA

Rev. Fernando Cortez and Rev. Antonius Aryanto in the procession at the Sept. 4 Mass.
Chris Silva/THE CATHOLIC VOICE

St. Jerome Parish in El Cerrito celebrates
75th anniversary

In the weeks before members of St. Jerome Parish gathered Sept. 25 to celebrate the first 75 years of the faith community a number of photos of parish life were gathered to commemorate this milestone event.

Several photos, posted on the parish's Facebook page, include black-and-white photos of the exterior and interior of the parish church, where a large group of parishioners had gathered.

A recent photo most likely to be added to the collection was taken last month when Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, joined the parish community for an early celebration of prayer and reflection. Surrounding Bishop Barber are Rev. Alexander Castillo, the bishop's secretary and episcopal master of ceremonies, Rev. Fernando Cortez, St. Jerome pastor, and Rev. Antonius Aryanto, currently in residence at the parish.

Knowing that he would be away and unable to attend the official festivities, Bishop Barber wanted to attend and pay tribute to this parish family and the years of hard work and sacrifice contributed by generations of members before them.

In a photo that appeared in the Jan. 24, 1983 issue of The Catholic Voice, Bishop John Cummins is pictured blessing the patio area at the El Cerrito parish during a rededication service of the recently remodeled parish hall. He was flanked by the Rev. John Kennedy, then St. Jerome pastor, and Rev. Fred Riccio, then associate pastor.

In a photo, posted on the parish's Facebook page last month, Bishop Cummins, now retired, is seen attending the parish's 75th anniversary Mass. He is flanked by a former pastor, Rev. E. Donald Osuna (1990 to 2001) and a former parochial administrator Rev. Paul Minnihan (2001 to 2004).

Whenever he is invited to participate in these parish birthday festivities, the bishop emeritus gets to assume one of his favorite roles — that of the diocese's unofficial storyteller and historian. His recall is filled with memories of people and times that more often than not are filled with personal remembrances. His Sept. 25 visit to St. Jerome was no different.

The El Cerrito parish was established in 1941, a year that was also a memorable one for Bishop Cummins. "It was my first year in the junior seminary," said the diocese's second bishop.

He offered a deep appreciation for the late Msgr. James J. Rohan, the founding pastor of St. Jerome Parish, who played a major role in the development of the Diocese of Oakland, which was established in 1962. He served as an important adviser to the Most. Rev. Floyd Begin, the diocese's first bishop, Bishop Cummins said.

Msgr. Rohan, who served as pastor at St. Jerome for more than 30 years, oversaw the growth of the faith community that had just weathered the Great Depression and as the country was thrust into the Second World War in December 1941.

The first Mass in the new parish took place on July 20, 1941, in the home of Miss M. Curtin at 7211 Fairmont Ave., with eight or nine parishioners in attendance. By late summer or early fall, attendance outgrew the Curtin house and Mass was moved across the street to the auditorium of Harding School.

Once the archdiocese authorized plans for the construction of a parish church, ground was broken in early November. The land for the church cost $6,150 and the church itself cost $72,560, according to a commemorative history of the parish written by Louis Vincent in 1992.

Msgr. Rohan also oversaw the construction of the parish elementary school and other buildings and numerous programs that became part of the foundation of present-day parish life.

In addition to the pastoral leadership of Msgr. Rohan, St. Jerome Parish was also blessed with many lay leaders whose talents were put to good use, Bishop Cummins said. The parish benefitted greatly from the parishioners who formed and served on parish and finance councils over the years, he noted.

The parish "paid all its bills to the diocese and they paid on time," the bishop said.

In a message on St. Jerome's Facebook page Father Cortez expressed his gratitude to Bishop Cummins, his pastoral predecessors, and to countless parishioners whose hard work and dedication made the celebration of this parish milestone possible.

 
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