Father David O'Rourke listens during Bishop Barber's remarks.
MICHELE JURICH/THE CATHOLIC VOICE
Renovation pays tribute to history at Our Lady of Mercy
The recent renovation of picturesque Our Lady of Mercy Church in Point Richmond is a tribute to "a century of ordinary people who worked very hard," said Rev. David O'Rourke, OP, who has served as parochial administrator since 2004.
To honor the memory of those who built the parish from the ground up, parishioners have completed — and, they note proudly, paid for — $250,000 in renovations to see the beautiful, brown-shingled church well into its next century.
The parish Father O'Rourke called the "tiniest and one of the poorest" is brimming with generosity.
"This is a black iron town," Father O'Rourke said. It's a town of hard-working immigrants, Catholic people dedicated to their faith. It went from 3,000 to 90,000 overnight; at World War II's end it went back to 3,000, he said.
"They built this country," he said. "They fought in World War I and World War II, in Korea."
A flagpole dedicated to the 100 years of people who built this country is part of the renovation.
"We put on a new roof, we reshingled the church and rectory, put in a new heating and a new sound system," Father O'Rourke said. The hall was refurbished. An overgrown lot was refreshed with 100 roses.
"We took a beaten-up lot and made it welcoming," he said.
The interior of the church was painted white, and stained glass windows were repaired.
"It sparkles," he said of the church, which was dedicated on Aug. 23, 1903.
The renovation — and spirit of Our Lady of Mercy — was celebrated Oct. 16, when Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, made his first visit to the Point Richmond parish.
It marked another milestone for the bishop, who has served the Oakland diocese for 3½ years.
"It's the last of the 85 parishes of our diocese that I've been able to visit," he said. "It's a spectacular church. Thank you for not ruining it, Father," he said to Father O'Rourke.
Parishioners broke into applause.
At the end of Mass, the bishop thanked Father O'Rourke, who was ordained in 1962, for his continuing service to the church.
Many priests, he noted, can't wait for retirement, the bishop said. "Instead, you're here. I thank you."
Again, parishioners applauded.
Father O'Rourke said he took a vow to "spend the rest of your life being useful for the church."
After Mass, parishioners gathered in the refurbished parish hall for fellowship.
Danny and Teri Meister, who live in Southern California, were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary with a visit to the church in which they were married. "I love this church," she said, noting the parish hall, where their wedding reception had been held, "looks so different."
"Brenda and I are the matriarchs," said Dee Rosier, as she and Brenda McKinley, parishioners for more than 50 years, offered refreshments to parishioners and visitors alike.
"We care about our church," Rosier said.
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