January 13, 2019
My brothers and sisters,
Even in death, Fr. Dan wanted to speak to us. He gave me this letter about six weeks ago. He asked that I share it with you after his death. Fittingly, these words belong in “The Pastor’s Corner”. We miss him and I miss a man who had an incredible impact on my priestly life and ministry. During the upcoming funeral rites for Fr. Dan, we will celebrate the gift of God’s mercy and the salvation won for us by Jesus the Christ who is Lord. It’s because of Him that we celebrate Fr. Dan.
My dear brothers and sisters,
I have often repeated to you some advice of the faith life: “Keep your bags packed!” I have had mine packed and I have now completed my journey with a grateful heart. I want to thank you for the many expressions of sympathy, concern and above all prayers during these last months. Fr. Paul has been especially helpful.
The prayer that has sustained me most of my life is this:
Father, I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures –
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.
+Blessed Charles de Foucauld
I have prayed it unceasingly that I might really embrace all the phrases and not just recite words. By the grace of God, I have been able to do that for the past few months.
My body will be placed in a crypt at St. Augustine Cemetery that I may rest here among the people whom I have served and loved as family for 22 years. By God’s grace and mercy, I look forward to greeting you with great joy when your journeys are completed.
In the meantime, please remember to “Keep your bags packed.”
January 6, 2019
My brothers and sisters,
As we are emerging from the busyness of the Advent and Christmas Seasons, this provides me the opportunity to express gratitude to so many in our parish family who share their time and talent to ensure that the Church was beautiful, and liturgies were ready to begin on time. Then, there are all those ministers who shared their voice and talent both in the proclamation of the Word and in the beauty of music. Perhaps the most relentless task is to clean the church after a particular Mass. If you see the condition of the Church after a Mass – WOW! There are a number of individuals who kindly and quietly clean. It’s in the quietness of what they do where no public attention is drawn that I see the Savior. For this, I am filled with gratitude.
We celebrate The Epiphany of the Lord this weekend. This Christmas celebration is particularly meaningful to me. The Magi are drawn to the light. And the light has a luring and mystical quality. As many of you know, my father is an artist, and one of his great works was painting the Magi as they are found in Chartres Cathedral outside of Paris. My dad captured the brilliant color of that stained glass window. That painting was in a prominent place in my childhood home. Fast forward… When I was assigned to be part of the team to build the Cathedral of Christ the Light, the bishop at the time told me that Chartres was one of his favorite cathedrals. He said much more. In a discussion over dinner, he mentioned to me that he thought the feast day for our Cathedral should be the Epiphany. I just smiled and nodded. Finally, I told him that I wholeheartedly agree. And so, the Cathedral of the Diocese of Oakland – the Cathedral of Christ the Light – has as its feast day, the Epiphany.
It’s so important for us to understand that light normally interacts with darkness creating shadows. Is that not the truth of our lives and why we need to follow the light? Left to our own devices we would be walking in the dark and banging into things (sin). To follow the light puts us on the pathway of salvation. Therefore, like the Magi, our response to the gift of Jesus is to bring who we are to Jesus and give the essence of who we are back to him in service. That service is not done in isolation. In fact, the service is done in the context of community. The three went together from different cultures with different gifts. They approached the Christ child together. We approach our savior together, as a community. We do not act in isolation, but we act in concert. We serve together.
May the Epiphany of the Lord draw you toward the light – the star – and may we journey together as one.
December 30, 2018
My brothers and sisters,
We celebrate the wholeness and holiness of the family. Jesus, Mary and Joseph provide for us Catholics and all Christians the opportunity to dwell together as God intended us to be. As humans we are creatures of the senses. We need something we can grasp. I want to clutch that which is tangible and physical.
This makes me ponder. So let’s think… The God we call sacred who is everywhere is also nowhere. We cannot grab God. God, of course, already knows this and that is why we have been given God’s presence physically in sacraments. Understood in this sense then, family life is a sacramental life. We can grasp God in family.
Inside of God there is a kind of family life going on - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus has assured us that when we give and receive from each other within a family, when we break open our lives, we open up our hearts – the joys, frustrations and even the egos and agendas. When we share these with each other, we are letting the life of God flow through us and we are giving skin to the inner life of God. In that sense, family life is a sacrament and, for many of us, the most important sacrament of all because it is the one that in fact touches our lives and transforms us most deeply.
But all of this should not to be unduly romanticized. By now, you know me well enough that I do not do hallmark cards for faith statements. To say that family life is a sacrament is not to say that it will not be fraught with pettiness, anger, jealousies, selfishness, and even at times real sin. Our families are never entirely the Holy Family. Yet, we are to grow and strive to be that tangible presence of God toward each other and as a family unit toward others.
For many of us, coming home from the hospital to join a family will be our first baptism, our family dwelling will be our primary church, our family table our primary place of Eucharist, our living room our first sanctuary, and our reconciliation with each other after the pettiness and hurts of family life our ongoing sacrament of reconciliation. It is there that the flow of the life that originates within God, and finds its perfection there, will flow through us.
As we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, may you celebrate the joy and happiness, the struggle and strain of your own families.
December 23, 2018
My brothers and sisters,
It’s been a magnificent Advent Season filled with thoughtful examination of how we live our lives. We have been to confession and turned from our sin to renew who we are in Christ. We have had moments when we see glimpses of the Light of Christmas catch our eye and our hearts. The celebrations of Our Lady are most significant during the Advent Season. The Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Virgin Mother was celebrated on December 8th and the great celebration of the Virgin who appeared on Tepeyac Hill, Our Lady of Guadalupe, was celebrated on December 12th. The festival bubbled over with “Flor y Canto”. Then the parish’s annual concert on Friday, December 14th filled the Stoneridge Drive corridor with song. The families and friends who filled St. Elizabeth Seton had another night to express their anticipation of WHO is to come….
Having done the work of Advent and prepared a highway for the Lord from our paths, that can have a pot hole or two or three or “x + 1,” we have arrived at the celebration of WHO. That who is Jesus Christ and we celebrate His birth (nativity) and we celebrate that He who is our salvation is coming again when He brings everyone and everything back to the Father. As we gather this week for Christmas, let’s be mindful of the time we have. Many of you are coming back home to your childhood home. Others are visiting extended family and friends. Let’s be equally mindful of those who find these next days particularly painful due to the loss of a loved one or other memories. Be aware of the one who might be alone and not just physically alone. Bring them to church with you or sit down next to them if you see them. There is always room for another seat at the table. That’s what makes a community. A community is aware of the moment and this time.
It is the mystery of who makes a community gather and grow that causes me to pause and be grateful. It is Jesus who calls us to be a community of faith and invites us to act as He would. For me to celebrate the gift of family and friends, or to struggle with the weight I feel during this season, I must begin and end my gratitude with Jesus. The joy I have or the healing I seek makes no sense without the WHO that was announced by John, born of the Virgin on a day that changed human history into
salvation history. Jesus Christ is born and His birth is the foundation of our lives!
From all of us who staff the Catholic Community of Pleasanton, I want to wish you health, happiness and prosperity as God wonderfully designs this in our lives.
MERRY CHRISTMAS, MERRY CHRISTMAS, MERRY CHRISTMAS!
December 16, 2018
My brothers and sisters,
If you looked at the St. Augustine parking lot last weekend, it appeared to be covered in a blanket of oversized trash bags filled to the brim with something. If you had cracked open any bag in the parking lot, you would have seen an array of gifts for families who are experiencing a time of difficulty or darkness in their lives. There, it is
always good to remember that “there but for the grace of God go I.” That said, these gifts are more than just items or things. Instead, the gift for the Catholic Christian believer carries a far more significant value. Perhaps we need to look into the gift and see the gift as Christ himself coming to the family that we support as a parish. As disciples of the Lord Jesus, we are giving others the gift of Christ. These gifts are what we call sacramentals in the life of the church. They analogously convey Christ.
There were 468 families served….2351 individuals. These families received a total of 838 bags of gifts plus more than 100 bikes and other special wish list items. We must thank Roxanne Rasmussen and her leadership team for pushing the plow through the field and doing the work of the Lord. To the 121 volunteers who helped collect gifts at the garage and the numerous families who adopted our sisters and brothers, I want to thank you for the model of Christian faith in action you provide. You are really just tremendous.
And after a great deal of work, many of us had the opportunity to enjoy “We Wait for the Star.” Last Friday evening’s family friendly Christmas Concert lifted the roof off St. Elizabeth Seton. We owe a great deal of gratitude to Ira Stein, our music director. Along with the Adult, Teen and Children’s Choirs, we sang ourselves hoarse. We also want to thank the instrumentalists and others who shared their talents with us. This is a foretaste of the caliber of music to come in our Christmas celebration.
Finally, Thursday December 20th at 7:30 PM, we will have our last celebration of communal reconciliation at St. Augustine Church. There can be no greater way to prepare for the gift of Christmas than to acknowledge Jesus as our savior. That means, in a nutshell, that without that little and innocent baby in a manger, we would be strangled by darkness and sin. He is our light! Come and turn away from darkness and experience His light.
See you then.
December 9, 2018
My brothers and sisters,
We are journeying through the Season of Advent with the richness of the sacred scripture as our companion. Fr. Kwame provided a general brushstroke of the Word proclaimed at Advent Masses in the column last week. I would like to encourage you to bookmark the daily readings at http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/ or by clicking on the Daily Readings button on the homepage of our website. This is a great way to read the Scripture in advance of coming to Mass on the weekend and for many of you, throughout the week, too. Preparation is always key to real engagement and participation in an event. When that event is the Eucharistic Liturgy – Mass – prep time is crucial. Check out the readings to be proclaimed in advance.
I want to thank you for the tremendous response to those needing assistance from the fires in northern California. As a parish, the Catholic Community of Pleasanton raised over $30,000 to support those in need. That is a sign of not what but “Who” this community represents. This outpouring is not merely a sign of good will or pity. It is good for us to remember that we are Christ. We represent Him. We represent Him in our actions as a community of faith. This is also evident in the great outpouring of adoption of our brothers and sisters through the Giving Tree. There is still an opportunity to support the Detention Ministry Toy Drive. Go to our community’s website – www.catholicsofpleasanton.org – for more information. As we look at all of this activity, we need to remember that Jesus is the “why” we do what we do. This is all about the model he left us. This is His call to live out our humanity by exhibiting the divine qualities that are within each and every one of us. When we worship and when we give, we do as Jesus did. He worshiped the Father. We do the same. He gave to those in need because they are our brothers and sisters. He saw the divine in them. We do the same because we see the same.
Finally, I hope to see you at a few events this week. The Catholic Community of Pleasanton will celebrate the Festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of America – South, Central and North America. It is under Her care that we stand as a diverse community of faith. Join us on Wednesday, December 12th at St. Elizabeth Seton starting with mariachi at 5:30 PM. The Bilingual Mass will begin at 6:00 PM followed by a reception at St. John Paul II Activity Center. Later that week, the Catholic Community of Pleasanton will celebrate Advent and Christmas with our concert “We Wait for the Star”. Come and enjoy the God-given talent from our music ministry featuring adult, teen and children’s choirs. Word is that there might be a solo or two. You never know… The concert is Friday evening, December 14th starting at 7:30 PM at St. Elizabeth Seton Church.
All of this mentioned are signs of how we watch and wait for Him as a community of faith. This is what Advent is all about. We do this as a community of faith…
Let us rejoice for He dwelled among us, lives among us and will return to draw us into the Glory of God.
December 2, 2018
Advent: Guess Who’s Coming for Christmas?
Brothers and sisters,
When you visit the home of expectant parents, and you see the expected baby’s room painted blue, you know the baby would be a boy; pink for a baby girl. Advent is a four-week period of (joyful) expectation and preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ. Therefore, in Advent we are like expectant parents. The question is: how do you adequately prepare for Jesus Christ as a new addition or guest into your life and family? Certainly, not by painting your home blue or pink; not by worrying about the Christmas tree and lights; and not by snatching that discount or deal for a new TV or car! The preparations must match the expected guest.
Today’s gospel reading advises us to read the signs of the times in order to make the right kind of preparations. When we misread or fail to guess the kind of guest we are expecting, we make the wrong preparations. The Prophet Jeremiah hints that the one who is coming “shall do what is right and just in the land”. The guest who’s coming is on a mission of JUSTICE and fairness in our homes, our country, and in our interpersonal relationships. The one we are expecting will change our nation, culture, and way of thinking. Our expected guest is on a mission to change our name, and this is how we would be called: “The LORD our justice.” What kind of preparation then must we be making in Advent time? How should we spend this Advent?
The Church proposes that, in Advent, we focus on two instances when Jesus comes into our lives. One instance is when Jesus was born into our lives – Christmas. That is when we first received Jesus Christ into our lives by being born-again in baptism. That’s the time we became Christians and accepted the lifestyle of Jesus Christ. We are called to reassess and make adjustments to our lifestyle so that our lives can match the “justice and fairness” life of Jesus. The other instance is when Jesus, per his own promise, will come again to take us to himself – our death. Yes, that sounds frightening, but our faith tells us it shouldn’t be! We are invited in Advent time to think about how we prepare to joyfully meet Jesus Christ when he comes again for us. We know who he is; we know what he is coming again to do in our nation, in the world, and in our lives. So, we know how we must prepare to meet him – by already smoothing our relationships with one another, sharing our land, wealth, our time, talents and treasure – so that his mission of justice would be accomplished in the world.
Every Advent is an opportunity to reflect on how we prepare for the two instances when Jesus Christ comes into our lives. We have four weeks to reflect our preparations. We begin by spending the first two weeks of Advent, starting today, to reflect on the second coming of Jesus Christ. That is, we think about how to prepare to meet Jesus Christ at our death. Then, starting with Third Sunday of Advent, we change our focus to reflect on the first coming of Jesus Christ – when he was born at Christmas – into our lives. That is also when we accepted Jesus to be born into our lives in baptism.
Advent time is a time of reflection on our Christian living with one another and in our world. It is a time to make real, practical, concrete and time-testing change to our lifestyle and to our world…. a just and happy world. Let us not misunderstand whom we are expecting at Christmas; let us guess correctly, so we can prepare adequately for our guest.
Have a blessed and productive Advent!
November 25, 2018
My Brothers and Sisters,
Advent, the very thoughtful journey of the Church to Christmas, begins next weekend. Before the middle of the fourth century, there were no liturgical seasons, such as Advent or Lent, or any idea of a "liturgical year", something many Christians take for granted today. Easter was the central focus of the Christian year, along with the Sunday gatherings, considered "little Easters." Advent is first noted around the year 350, about the same time Christmas is first mentioned as being celebrated.
As in the other yearly liturgical cycles, the readings of this Advent season reflect a movement through four weeks from God coming into the world surprisingly and shockingly to the more intimate and beautiful stories, including Mary as a central figure, in the fourth Sunday that prepare us for God's incarnation in the most unexpected and unpredictable manner - as an infant in an occupied country to a poor and unwed teenager.
All three of the readings this Sunday are messages of encouragement and future hope. Jeremiah prophesies to Israel and Judah that God's appointed one will bring in a reign of justice, righteousness and safety. Paul, writing to the very young Christian community in Thessalonica, prays they might be strengthened in their faith and abounding in love as they patiently wait for the coming of the Lord. While Jesus' words of warning in the Gospel might seem stern, they are not nearly as harsh as the same message from Mark (read last Advent).
What we need to do at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton is allow our worship to stimulate our preparations for Christmas. That’s more than a change in colors (purple) and the lighting of an Advent wreath. To watch and to wait for the coming of the Lord this Advent is the Lord’s invitation to realize that if the miraculous is to take place, such as the birth of our savior, I need to slow down to absorb reality around me. This means to take time to pray. One manner of prayer is to use a daily meditation to start the day. The “Little Book” series that we provide each Advent is a way for individuals and Small Communities – committees, neighborhoods, intergenerational faith families and others – to pray the season and hear the invitation to slow down.
It is my hope that in the midst of everything going on in our world, our country, our state and the Tri-Valley– we choose not to run but to stop and see the signs that invite us to be prepared to receive the Lord.
May this Advent be one that ushers peace into our lives. That can truly happen if we just take the time to journey with the sacred stories of our ancestors proclaimed at Mass and receive the Body and Blood of Christ, the heart of who we are. This is all about getting ready for Him. Let Advent begin….
November 18, 2018
My Brothers and Sisters,
This Thursday is Thanksgiving Day. The day is purely American. Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday, but it has spiritual meaning. I want to encourage you to join other members of our community for Mass. We will gather on Thanksgiving morning – Thursday, November 22, at St. Augustine at 10:00 AM – to celebrate Mass. Bring some bread and a beverage of choice to be blessed. There will be a wonderful medley of “Fall” fruit not only to create environment but also to take home.
While not the first settlers to celebrate Thanksgiving, Pilgrims settled in Plymouth, MA from England in 1620. They were religious dissidents who fled oppression in England. There first landing was in the Netherlands, but they left that country to establish a colony in North America.
It is good for us to remember that their voyage across the Atlantic Ocean was turbulent. Their first months in America were very rough, too. About 100 pilgrims landed just as autumn was turning to winter. Autumn is the season when crops are gathered. When the first European settlers in American gathered their crops, they celebrated and gave thanks for the food. During the cold months that followed, about half of them died from these horrible conditions.
The pilgrims did not celebrate Thanksgiving again until two years later. That celebration marked the end of a period of dry weather that had almost destroyed their crops. In fact, the Pilgrims held their second Thanksgiving in July. As the American colonies grew, many towns and settlements held Thanksgiving – or harvest – celebrations. Yet it was not until about 250 years later that a national day for Thanksgiving was declared. While we are some distance from those days, the events that forged Thanksgiving are not too far from today.
Like the pilgrims, there are some in our community going through very turbulent times – hardships in personal lives, family dynamics including, for some, the death of a loved one. To broaden our community to include all who are welcomed, there are many going through very rough times. We need to look at the present and gaze at the devastation from the fires in northern and southern California. One more mass shooting takes place, this time in Thousand Oaks.
In the midst of their difficult times and ours, it is good to remember to be grateful. The pilgrim attitude is important. As Catholic Christian women and men we need to remember that on our pilgrimage, we too need to be grateful at all times. Gratitude takes on many forms, especially service. Members of the Catholic Community of Pleasanton, and so many others across America, provide that service. Some provided service on Sunday morning packing food baskets for our annual Thanksgiving drive. And thanks to the Knights of Columbus for delivering these baskets. Still others will spend part of the day helping to prepare and serve the meals for those who are on the margins and peripheries.
We celebrate and give thanks for the relationships that are family and how it is that where ever we find ourselves, we are called to make a home with those around us. Let’s take a moment to stop and look into the eyes of those around you. Say thank you! In Thanksgiving, be of service and share a meal with those you love.
Join us on Thursday for Mass at 10:00 AM at St. Augustine Church. Let the gratitude begin by giving greater glory to God. Share a meal and be of service.
November 11, 2018
My Brothers and Sisters,
As Church, we mark this weekend as the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time. However, the writing of this pastor’s corner for this bulletin was completed on Monday, November 5th, the day before the elections. Obviously, I didn’t know the election results, but it is my hope that all of us at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton took the time to prayerfully and thoughtfully vote, if eligible, utilizing principles from Catholic Social Teaching. Those principles necessarily pinch all of us – each and every Catholic Christian, man and woman. Is it easier not to look at Catholic Social teaching? It sure is! All the more reason to ponder this important information. As we hopefully prayed to be opened up, even uncomfortably, to determine how to vote, I pray that interest in these midterm elections will carry over into our day to day lives—that we grow charitably and justly in our everyday lives. To complain about outcomes is easy; to champion a direction and build the common good requires patience, time and energy. No one will ever be entirely satisfied with the outcome of an election. Nevertheless, we pray for the health and well-being of our cities, our state, our nation and how as a nation we relate with the global community, our neighbors.
Tomorrow (Monday), we celebrate Veterans Day. These men and women have poured out their lives for our country with the highest form of service. We thank those who wore the uniform of our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard. We honor them for their service and for the great example they set afterwards as well. The men and women who I know that have served remain models of generosity, thoughtfulness and prudence. The veterans I encounter are soft spoken and humble; always there to be of assistance and service.
I’m also mindful of our veterans who live with great hardship from their sacrifice. There are men and women who struggle with mental illness and various forms of post-traumatic stress disorder. I believe that we owe them something. That something is providing them with care that should be their right during and after their service. They were willing to sacrifice their lives for freedom. Perhaps we should be free enough to consider how best to provide them with the services they so deserve. Is this a large question? Absolutely, but it is not one to be ignored.
In gratitude for our veterans, we will gather for Mass on Veterans Day – 10:00 AM on Monday, November 12th at St. Augustine Cemetery. It seems only fitting to thank the author of human freedom – the Lord – for those who provide freedom in service to our country and to build up the common good throughout the world. Join us on Monday…
We pray God’s blessing on our veterans.
November 4, 2018
My brothers and sisters,
Each November, I touch upon the significance of the remembrance of the dead. For some, calling to mind deceased family and friends can be very painful, especially if the grief is relatively recent, the pain is deep or when we find relationships still torn. Death can be very raw. What is raw needs to be healed. To do so, we are invited to embrace a broader and truly Catholic sense of remembrance.
When we gather in Church to pray as a community on Sunday, remembrance is not just about looking back to the past but also looking ahead to the future in trust and hope. Just as our loved one shared in Christ’s death in baptism, we believe that he or she will share in Christ’s resurrection and enjoy eternal life in God’s presence. This is shared not to sedate the pain of death. This is our faith in full view.
The feast of All Saints that we celebrated this past Thursday ushers in November and serves to remind us that, although we are a Church of sinners, we are also a Church of saints that can rejoice. In the past, saints were often portrayed as exceptional human beings with whom “ordinary” people found it difficult to relate. Among the handful of saints named in the last years are found ordinary people who demonstrated exceptional goodness and holiness in a wide variety of circumstances. Let’s take Oscar Romero of El Salvador. It’s not just how he died (martyrdom) that we venerate, but how he lived, day in and day out, with his community of faith taking hard positions for the material poor. Or, take Pope Paul VI who is the driver behind the Second Vatican Council in the middle of the last century. He knew that the Church needed to attend to the signs of the times and speak the evangelizing Word to the whole world that he was called to pastor. The council was controversial, and Paul VI faced the difficulty to usher a springtime for the church. We remember them, too.
The tradition of recalling and interceding for the dead is a long-established practice in the Church. In earlier centuries, large tablets or “diptychs” were inscribed with the names of the dead who were to be remembered at the Mass, and the deacon would
read out the names during the liturgy. There is something poignant about writing down the names of our deceased loved ones and asking the Catholic Community of Pleasanton to remember them in prayer. This is what we do during November. We do this as a community.
For those of you who have experienced the death of one you love, especially this past year, consider joining us on Monday, November 5th at 7:30 PM for the Catholic Community of Pleasanton’s Mass of Remembrance. Mass will be celebrated at St. Elizabeth Seton. Please join us.
It will do us well to remember that during the month of November and every time we gather to celebrate Eucharist (Mass), we pray for the dead – from the most heinous sinner to the most glorious saint. Why? Because at the celebration of the Eucharist, they are with us. We need to give special focus to the belief that we remain in communion with those who have gone before us “marked with the sign of
Join us each Sunday and as often as possible to celebrate Mass with this is mind. Heaven and earth gathers around our savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. See you at Mass as we remember (this).
October 28, 2018
My brothers and sisters,
Fr. Kwame and I are away at a priest conference this week. In the absence, to hear from another voice is a good thing. Fr. Ron Rolheiser on understanding the mass, the Eucharist. Enjoy….
When I was a graduate student in Belgium, I was privileged one day to sit in on a conference given by Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Brussels. He was commenting on the Eucharist and our lack of understanding of it full richness when he highlighted this contrast: If you stood outside of a Roman Catholic church today as people were coming out of the church and asked them: “Was that a good Eucharist?”, most everyone would answer on the basis of the homily and the music. If the homily was interesting and the music lively, most people would answer that it had been a good Eucharist. Now, he continued, if you had stood outside a Roman Catholic church sixty or seventy years ago and asked: “Was that a good mass today?” nobody would have even understood the question. They would have answered something to the effect of: “Aren’t they all the same!”
Today our understanding of the Eucharist, in Roman Catholic circles and indeed in most Protestant and Anglican circles, is very much concentrated on three things: the liturgy of the Word, the music, and communion. Moreover, in Roman Catholic churches, we speak of the real presence only in reference to the last element, the presence of Christ in the bread and wine.
While none of this is wrong, the liturgy of the word, the music, and communion are important, something is missing in this understanding. It misses the fact that the real presence is not just in the bread and wine, it is also in the liturgy of the Word and in the salvific event that is recalled in the Eucharistic prayer, namely, the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Most churchgoers already recognize that when the scriptures are celebrated in a liturgical service God’s presence is made special, more physically tangible, than God’s normal presence everywhere or God’s presence inside our private prayer. The Word of God, when celebrated in a church is, like Christ’s presence in the consecrated bread and wine, also the real presence.
But there’s a further element that’s less understood: The Eucharist doesn’t just make a person present; it also makes an event present. We participate in the Eucharist not just to receive Christ in communion, but also to participate in the major salvific event of his life, his death and resurrection.
What’s at issue here?
At the Last Supper, Jesus invited his followers to continue to meet and celebrate the Eucharist “in memory of me”. But his use of the word “memory” and our use of that word are very different. For us “memory” is a weaker word. It simply means calling something to mind, remembering an event like the birth of your child, your wedding day, or the game when your favorite sports team finally won the championship. That’s a simple remembering, a passing recollection. It can stir deep feelings but it does nothing more. Whereas in the Hebrew concept out of which Jesus was speaking, memory, making ritual remembrance of something, implied much more than simply recalling something. To remember something was not simply to nostalgically recall it. Rather it meant to recall and ritually re-enact it so as to make it present again in a real way.
For example, that’s how the Passover Supper is understood within Judaism. The Passover meal recalls the Exodus from Egypt and the miraculous passing through the Red Sea into freedom. The idea is that one generation, led by Moses, did this historically, but that by re-enacting that event ritually, in the Passover Meal, the event is made present again, in a real way, for those at table to experience.
The Eucharist is the same, except that the saving event we re-enact so as to remake it present through ritual is the death and resurrection of Jesus, the new Exodus. Our Christian belief here is exactly the same as that of our Jewish brothers and sisters, namely, that we are not just remembering an event, we are actually making it present to participate in. The Eucharist, parallel to a Jewish Passover meal, remakes present the central saving event in Christian history, namely, Jesus’ Passover from death to life in the Paschal mystery. And just as the consecrated bread and wine give us the real presence of Christ, the Eucharist also gives us the real presence of the central saving event in our history, Jesus’ passage from death to life.
Thus at a Eucharist, there are, in effect, three real presences: Christ is really present in the Word, namely, the scriptures, the preaching, and the music. Christ is really present in the consecrated bread and wine; they are his body and blood. And Christ is really present in a saving event: Jesus’ sacrificial passing from death to life.
And so we go to Eucharist not just to be brought into community by Jesus’ word and to receive Jesus in communion, we go there too to enter into the saving event of his death and resurrection. The real presence is in both a person and in an event.
October 21, 2018
My brothers and sisters, As we journey through fall heading towards Advent, we approach the month of November when the Church enters into a time of remembrance for our beloved dead. In the Christian calendar, this tradition is upheld with the celebration of All Saints’ Day, which is observed on November 1st (A Holy Day Of Obligation) and November 2nd, All Souls’ Day. During the month of November, we will enshrine our Books of the Dead and remember the names inscribed throughout the entire month. We will also have a Mass of Remembrance on November 5th at St. Elizabeth Seton.
In Faith Formation, we are taking this opportunity to learn about a rich Mexican celebration, Dias de los Muertos. This is a wonderful, colorful, and warm Mexican remembrance steeped deeply in the Catholic faith and rich cultural traditions.
In Elementary Faith Formation, children are decorating frames and putting pictures of their loved ones who have passed away on them. They have decorated banners to commemorate them. The 4th & 5th graders are making tissue paper marigold flowers out of fall colors. All of the above will be put together to form two banners to decorate the churches for Dias de los Muertos. These will be hung in our churches at the end of the month. In the Middle School program (AMP), students will be creating an ofrenda (altar) in St. Augustine Hall and decorating several bulletin boards as a commemoration.
The Elementary and AMP programs are hosting the movie, “Coco”, an animated film about a young boy during Dia de los Muertos, which will include a brief introduction about the holiday. Join us for movie night on Friday, October 26th.
To be universal as a church is to respect diverse expressions and traditions that make up the one faith. We embrace these culturally different approaches to celebrating the core tenants of our Catholic faith. As we prepare to celebrate these days, let us celebrate our kids as they teach us the importance of remembering our loved ones, our ancestors in the faith.
October 7, 2018
“Bone of my bones… flesh of my flesh”: The Equality of our Humanity
All “humans” are created equal and are endowed with inalienable rights… of life, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness! Although we hear this assertion in the founding documents of our country, it is first and foremost a Christian, biblical, and a faith truth. To make our society, nation and world peaceful, free, just, and good, we must constantly keep this principle. If we forget that all humans are equal in dignity and rights, we bring into our nation and churches, abuses of all kinds, violence, neglect, environmental degradation, etc. Hence, a glance at our current social, political, and cultural life shows that we need to get back to this basic, raw, and foundational principle of humanity. Our scriptures tell us exactly that!
What are our Scripture passages telling us, this weekend? There are no limits to the messages we may glean from our texts; they include marriage and divorce, faithfulness, gender, etc. I remember in 2006 inviting a priest-friend to preach to my “all-African American” Catholic Church in New Orleans, on this “rib story” in the first reading. He began his homily by saying: “You know… Adam couldn’t have been a black man; because black men couldn’t easily give up their ribs.” He was joking, of course! And, yes, it didn’t go well with the men of the Parish that day and I received phone calls and emails during that week. Still, many others think the “rib story” explains the physical difference between male and female, and the roles that cultures assign to the sexes.
I do not ignore some of these messages, but I do think that there is an overarching message or a purpose of these stories. That message or purpose is the equality of our humanity, and hence the need for us to recognize, respect, and do all in our power to promote that equality in dignity above everything. Remember the words of the first human, Adam, in the presence of the second human, Eve: “This at last is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh”! Compare that statement to the earlier experience when Adam saw the animals God made from the ground: Adam did not find “a suitable mate” among them. The animals are far beneath the dignity and substance of the human Adam. So, the human Adam would only name the animals and domesticate them…caring and controlling them. However, “Bone from my bone” is a recognition of equality of dignity because the second human was created with material, not from the ground or any foreign source like the animals but, from the same human Adam. Therefore, Adam and Eve are equal in dignity and substance guaranteed or endowed, not by another human being but, by their common creator – in God’s image that is, “not” God, but “like” God.
If this is the way we (humans) were created to function, then we must always return to that original, raw humanity to find solutions to the problems we face today. In the Gospel, Jesus uses marriage to drive that point home. He teaches us to find our “suitable” companion by discovering that human dignity in persons. The only way that human relationships like marriages can last is when they are built on the dignity of equality and rights of humans. Wife and husband fail when they fail to see that dignity; socially, politically, economically and religiously powerful persons abuse other persons when they fail to see the divinely-endowed human dignity, equality, and rights of their victims.
This weekend, let us remember all victims of abuse of every kind. Essentially, they have been robbed of their human dignity, equality, and rights which God gave them. Let us return to that original, Christian, human, and American truth that all humans are created equal with endowed, inalienable rights of life, freedom, and happiness. Pray to God with the song that says: “Take me back, [dear God], to the place where I first received you,” and where I first believed that humans, in spite of cultures and ideologies and politics, even religions, have a basic worth that is worthy of our recognition and protection.
September 30, 2018
Laudato Si and Appalachia: My Experience of Death and New Life
Last month, I joined eleven others on a Maryknoll immersion trip to Appalachia. We traveled hundreds of miles through the rolling hills and mountains of Eastern Kentucky. I had never seen so many trees and so many different shades of green. A deep awareness of the beauty of nature shaped my thoughts for the week. Yes, I was struck by the awesomeness of God’s creation!
Our tasks were to observe, to reflect theologically as a community on what we saw, and to return home and share with others. We experienced the coal country of Appalachia through the lens of Pope Francis’ encyclical letter, Laudato Si, On Care for our Common Home. One of the encyclical’s main themes is our interconnectedness, “that genuine care for our lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others (70).” I danced with thoughts about the beauty of nature and my relationship to it.
We visited some deep wounds – old coal strip-mining and mountain top removal sites. In these places, trees are removed, land is stripped bare and the topsoil pushed away. Dynamite explodes and after the coal is hauled off, mountain tops will have lost at least 300 feet in height and look like flat barren deserts. We also saw “orange water” in a creek on its way to larger streams and rivers. Orange water is contaminated by heavy metals as a direct result of the coal mining process. In some places like Deane, KY, it’s in the water supply.
We learned that people who live in the coal regions of Appalachia have the highest rates of cancer in the entire United States. There is a direct link between coal extraction and cancer-causing deaths.
The destruction to the environment is unbelievable. Yet, environmental harm isn’t restricted to Appalachia. I think of Laudato Si and connect some dots: Of course, we pollute and abuse the environment – just look at how we treat each other! Pope Francis is correct: we can’t solve the environmental issues without first healing our own relationships.
We do need healing: Racism is alive. Sex sells. In public discourse, rarely do we listen to understand. Violence inflicts terror in the lives of the marginalized. Corporate greed wins. Comfort and convenience, consumerism and instant gratification all amplify our self-centeredness and restrict our ability to be good stewards and to care for God’s creation. There is a parallel between the way we treat each other and the way we treat nature.
I am struck by a recent weekday Mass reading from Jeremiah. To a devastated and exiled people, Jeremiah speaks the words of the Lord: “With age-old love I have loved you; so, I have kept my mercy toward you. Again I will restore you… Again you shall plant vineyards and those who plant shall enjoy the fruits (31: 4-5).” I think of our Christian identity, one where we are very much aware of moments of death and new life. Because of God’s love and mercy, death doesn’t have the final say. We always have hope. The path that we walk with Jesus is the path that leads through our brokenness to new life.
I see God at work in the midst of devastation. I see hope in Appalachia. We planted new chestnut trees on an old mountain top removal site. We did so together through a ritual of prayers and blessings. We planted new life on a barren landscape and took a step toward restoration. We also enjoyed the shade from a grove of pine trees planted just 14 years ago. Today these trees reach out to the sky - so much growth in just 14 years! Yes, the pine trees and the new chestnut trees are reminders of healing that an intentional community can participate in with nature.
As our group drove through Eastern Kentucky, we were introduced to people who live with purpose and meaning – folks who choose to stay off the power-grid and not be dependent on coal; a family that operates a commercial kitchen in a small town so that farmers have the means to cook or can their produce and sell it; an urban farmer who established a cooperative to help provide healthy food for the community. We visited a medical clinic for the uninsured. We spent time learning about a non-profit organization that works to restore confidence and dignity to women who have endured abusive relationships and difficult times. We toured a solar farm that uses 32,300 solar panels to generate enough energy for about 1,000 households - renewable energy in baby steps.
There is pain, suffering and tremendous struggle. Yet, the message is clear: It’s about planting one tree at a time. It’s the impact of one family, one farmer, one healed woman, one clinic, one solar panel. It’s each person making a choice to live with purpose and with the awareness of God, actively healing in our world. And this stuff is contagious. Faith spreads. People love and accept others and are liberated from causing harm. As this happens, the environment heals. This is the hope that Pope Francis tapped into when he penned Laudato Si. This is the joy of the Gospel. And this is what I took to share of my experience of Appalachia.
Director of RCIA
September 23, 2018
My brothers and sisters,
Last weekend we celebrated the Rite of Acceptance and the Rite of Welcome for those adults who are preparing for Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. They are formally on the journey to be one with us in an active faith. Also, we celebrated Catechetical Sunday where we cheered some of our teachers of the faith who assist moms and dads in sharing the faith. At the 4:00 PM and 6:30 PM Masses our children’s and youth choirs were full-voiced singing magnificently. And those gathered were engaged in active prayer. As I sat in the presider’s chair throughout the day’s Sunday Masses, I was filled with a spirit of joy. Joy…
What’s joy? First, in our everyday use of the term, joy reflects a positive experience that seems to lift our spirits in a care free sort of way. We feel happy and grateful. Often, we consider joy to be a result of being freed from the ordinariness of life. We might think of ordinary ruts or routines as keeping us from joy – the grind, the traffic, the homework, the rat-race, the work-week – and so we look forward to special times, weekends, nights out, vacation times, social times, celebrations, and parties where we can break the routine, break out, enjoy ourselves, and experience joy.
The spiritual writer CS Lewis describes joy as in search of us. That’s its real quality. You can go to a party and say, “Tonight I’m going to have a good time, even if it kills me!” Indeed, parties and letting off steam have their place. You might even have a blast at a party or find a good distraction and these can be necessary and a good rest from hard work. But this is not joy.
Here is a clue on the nature of joy. You cannot plan for it to happen as if you are planning for a trip or a weekend away. What is joy? Joy is always the by-product of something else. We can never attain joy, or consolation, peace, forgiveness, love, and understanding by actively pursuing them. We attain them by offering them to others and sharing them. Joy will come to us if we set about actively trying to create joy for others. This is the spiritual principle.
My brothers and sisters, at last weekend’s masses, I was engaged in service as priest to animate and hopefully raise the Catholic Community of Pleasanton in prayer. What happened? The gift of joy came back to me seventy times seven. Joy found me!
May we all strive to embody that the spiritual principle that should govern our lives is service. To follow the example of Jesus who at every turn of his journey on earth was of service to those he encountered.
As we move toward the end of September and ministry sign-ups, I invite you to consider how you might put your life in service at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton. Sign-up for a ministry and watch the dividends that you will reap. By joyfully serving our community, Jesus will provide the sizeable reward for you. This is our spiritual principle. Sign-up for ministry!!!
September 16, 2018
My brothers and sisters,
Last weekend (September 8th) was a moment when God just opened a floodgate of grace and blessing. There is nothing else to do but be opened by it. You receive what it is He brings. You let it pour over you with a grateful heart. That’s what I experienced at the celebration of my 25th anniversary of ordination as priest.
There were people there from my childhood and my home Parish of Transfiguration in Castro Valley. As I encountered more and more people and relived moments in ministry, a 25-year tapestry was woven. What a gift to celebrate my anniversary and my father’s 92nd birthday on the same day. To have my parents with me is God’s blessing. It was amazing to have Bishop John Cummins, retired Bishop of Oakland present. He ordained me a priest of Oakland and was here to bless my years forward 25 years later. That’s a tremendous gift from God. Fr. Richard Mangini placed the vestment on me I wore 25 years ago. It is the same vestment I wore last Saturday night as he concelebrated the mass with me. Another God moment. Fr. Dan Danielson, my first pastor as a priest, provided a mentorship that has had a lasting impact. Didn’t he mold us all over his years as pastor of Pleasanton? He was there last weekend in spirit. The meaningfulness of these encounters is beyond measure.
In a most profound way, the Catholic Community of Pleasanton has had a pivotal role in these 25 years. From my arrival on the front door step back in 1994 to a second arrival in 2013 to be your pastor, the influence has been deep and abiding. Thank you for growing with me in my vocation as I pray that you have grown in yours. We are blessed with a tremendously talented staff. I am blessed with pastoral and finance councils. The members do the visioning work that grows a parish to life given the signs of the times. There is a building committee who work on our behalf to get the activity center at St. Elizabeth Seton built. This is very tedious work requiring patience. These people are a snapshot of the great work of our parish. Walking this journey together is what makes a community. Gathering together as One because He is One becomes our very nature.
There are so many from the one Catholic Community of Pleasanton and beyond to thank for the celebration last weekend. The layers of liturgical ministers – greeters, ushers, altar server, readers, ministers of communion and choir – offered us the spirit of welcome and energy that comes from the Spirit. As many people remarked, the Mass was simply beautiful. Beauty is revealed when we exercise God’s gifts given to us in abundance. It’s beautiful when we do this together. The reception was remarkable. There was a team from our community who put a great deal of sweat into this part of the celebration. When I took one look at the amount of food assembled on the island in the hall, I gasped. To one and all who grilled, cooked, baked and assembled the food and drink, a huge thank you! This is stewardship visible in our midst. Time, talent and treasure came together to make this happen.
When I take a moment to stop, I realize how blessed I am and how blessed we are to journey in this life together. We gather to celebrate the joys and sorrows, lights and shadows of life. We do so because Christ calls us to live His way, truth and life together. We are a blessing to each other and we are called to grow forward together. I’m a grateful man, priest and pastor.
September 9, 2018
My brothers and sisters,
So many of you have very kindly wished me congratulations on my 25th Anniversary of Ordination to priesthood. You have also heard my response in these or similar words – “Isn’t this crazy or surreal?” I have also responded with a “Don’t blink” when asked about the passage of time. There are no great takeaways to share, I wish I had some wisdom, but I do not. To be honest, as I write this corner and quickly approach the celebration of 25 years of priestly life and ministry, I’m at a loss for words or maybe I am not listening well to the Lord. I don’t know what to say or even if I did how I would say it. What I do know is to listen and to speak, I need to “Be opened.”
I need to be opened to keep new and fresh the meaning of priesthood which, while particular, must follow the pathway of any and all vocations. If you are baptized a Christian, you have a vocation. Together we have a vocation. We are to be Jesus’ mission. It’s His to lead; it’s His to teach; it’s His to make holy. The mission is to wrap every corner of the world with His mercy and love and to raise it up.
Our responsibility is to realize how to do it! This means that we need to do some work. We do this together as Church. Here in the Tri-Valley, we need to cultivate how the Catholic Community of Pleasanton does this and continues to be and act as His disciple and His ambassador. To embrace this is to embrace Him. To walk away from this is to walk away from Him. It is now and not later, we need to walk with Him. We need to be opened.
As a priest, the essence of His ministry working through me touches the central nervous system of who we are as Church. We are a sacramental people. Jesus communicates the heart of who He is through the most basic elements through which we live – water, wheat/flour, wine, oil. At different times and in different places, these elements come together with language and gesture to form sacred rituals. Through them, Jesus is entirely present. My primary ministry as a priest is to mediate Him through these sacramental encounters that solidify our right relationship with Him. As a priest, with you and for you I baptize and forgive sins; I anoint the sick and the dying and celebrate Eucharist; with you and for you I officiate at marriages. And trust me, while it might look like I do “the work,” He is the One “working” through me. I need to more freshly and deeply know what it is I am doing.
Over the past 25 years, the heart of my journey as a priest has been about these magnificent encounters. I keep learning how to be His disciple and His ambassador. I am His follower and His representative. If I do not listen for His voice, I do not effectively speak in His name. My prayer for all of us is that we understand who we are by learning how to listen to Him and speak who He is in word and action. My prayer is that we do this together in the Church community because we must support and challenge each other in Jesus’ love.
It is my prayer that I listen to the Lord’s word to “Be Opened.” It is my prayer to listen well so to speak His mercy and loving kindness in my words and deeds as His priest. As I look ahead, here is my hope. He is my hope. And… Hope does not disappoint.
September 2, 2018
My brothers and sisters,
Last weekend, almost 350 individuals gathered at St. Augustine Hall to stand together as a community. United, we were committed to “hands-on” packing meals for children and women from around the world who are separately hungry. In two hours’ time, we packaged 25,000 meals! Yes, the number is accurate – 25,000 meals. Those packages were boxed and will be sent on their way to those in real and desperate need. I want to thank all of you for participating, young and old alike. It was a gathering of the generations, families, small Christian communities and individuals. What a tremendous outpouring of solidarity. I would like to thank the members of our Social Justice Committee who led the way for the Parish as we partnered with Kids Against Hunger.
For those of you who would see this as a great opportunity to teach our children and youth the value of service, we will have another opportunity to commit our time and energy to “hands-on” food packing. Maryknoll and the Chua Pho Tu Buddhist Community in Hayward will join us for this gathering. Join us from 10:00 AM till Noon on Saturday, September 29 at St. John Paul II Activity Center on the campus of St. Elizabeth Seton. We will have a meal for all to share that follows the packing.
There is also exciting news in the Faith Formation department. Our children and youth are registered for religious education classes. Phone calls have been received asking if there is still an opportunity to register our children and youth from 1st grade through our Confirmation programs including youth ministry. There is!!! Please stop by the Faith Formation office. Registration is on September 4 from 10:00 AM – Noon and from 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM. We have a great team of leaders who are prayerful, energetic, creative and fun for the kids. Let’s pass on the faith!
Finally, the staff is so very appreciative of your prayers during our days away last week. We spent the time at Villa Maria del Mar, a retreat house in Santa Cruz run by the Sisters of the Holy Names. Some of you saw the video we posted on our homepage and Face Book page. To have that “team time” to pray and be together is invaluable. Given the staff’s schedules and offices at three locations, it is hard for us to spend real quality time together. Sr. Rosemarie Hennessy, OP led the days of prayer for us. She is a tremendous woman filled with the Holy Spirit and more energy than imaginable. We thank her for joining us.
Those days served as a good reminder for the staff and for all of us. We must first nurture our prayer lives. God is in right relationship with us and he desires us to talk with Him from the depths of our hearts. This time in the life of the Church is that time. It is a time to not only pray for ourselves but also for light and wisdom to govern direction for the Church, her leaders and for accountability and honesty.
Let’s pray for one another and stand together as the Catholic Community of Pleasanton as we “Know Christ better, live as He calls us to live, and make Him better known.”
August 26, 2019
My brothers and sisters,
The day is painted in my living memories. In Summer of 2008, I had just finished interviews with CNN and the Los Angeles Times on a small garden situated on a lush lawn with benches that safeguards and cradles a 1,760-pound basalt boulder that has been broken into three pieces. Powerfully, the artist positioned each piece in relation to the others as if there is an energy drawing what has been broken back together. It is a powerful visualization of mending and is called simply, very simply… the “Healing Garden”, a sacred place inspired by and dedicated to the survivors of clergy abuse.
The most powerful part of the experience was to sit in the garden and remember the survivors of clergy sexual abuse who found the courage to step forward and share their darkest hours of life with me. The abuse, the shame and self-blame left me voiceless and silent. The devastating effects of the abuse – the drugging and the drinking to name just two – continued to darken their darkness. I sat in my own tears that blended with theirs.
These memories have bubbled up over the past long days as the revelation of countless cases of clergy sex abuse have been brought before us from Pennsylvania. In my memories, I see their faces and I can hear their voices. It’s important for me to sit with this horror - those faces and voices who are in my living memories. Today, I bring that with me to this deepest dark darkness.
To those women and men who shared that deepest darkness with me; for those of you in The Catholic Community of Pleasanton who were victimized in your lifetime and are survivors of clergy sexual abuse, I want to apologize for the abhorrent and gross violation of your dignity and worth, your very person. You are the victims of those who claimed to protect and champion who you are in God. Even just saying aloud, “I’m sorry” - seems hollow in the face of these faces and voices. My entirely inadequate apology is also an invitation to any of you who would like to sit down with me to share your experience. Your face and your voice are as significant as those beautiful people who once sat with me in the healing garden around that broken boulder.
Today, I want the children and youth at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton to sit safely and be cradled by a community that gathers to share faith and foster their holistic development. We want our children to grow and mature. To that end, we have extensive safe environment training for the priests and deacons. The entire staff have similar training as well. Our vast network of volunteers who work with children are screened, too. Background checks and screenings are done to flag any behavior or history that preclude any adult from working with our children. Please keep in mind that The Oakland Diocese has policies and procedures for reporting and responding to abuse that are employed in Pleasanton.
This week, I am going back to the garden to sit with the dark reality that faces our Church. If you want to sit with me, to share with me and pray with me, please contact me. My prayer is for the survivors, those innocent victims. My prayer is for those who are helping them to mend and heal. My prayer is for church leaders guilty of these heinous sins to repent and ask for some undeserved measure of forgiveness for this horror. My prayer is for God’s love and mercy because nothing else will suffice to bring back together what has been broken.
May He cradle us together,
Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis To The People of God
Statement From Bishop Barber
August 19, 2018
My brothers and sisters, The year 2018 has been filled with some memorable celebrations for a number of priests I know. They have celebrated their 25th Anniversaries of Ordination. As I encounter them on or around their anniversaries, they just shake their heads in disbelief, marvel at the road travelled thus far and place their trust and hope in God as His providence is what matters for living well.
This year is my 25th Anniversary as well. Many of you noted the blurb in the Catholic Voice, the newspaper of The Diocese of Oakland. Thank you for those well wishes. My 1993 ordination classmates for the Diocese are Fr. John Prochaska and Fr. Duong Phan. John is doing missionary work in South America and Duong is Director of the Apostleship of the Sea. He provides ministry to all those who come through the Port of Oakland and elsewhere. They were ordained in May of 1993. Because my studies did not end until July of that year, I was ordained on September 11, 1993 at Our Lady of Lourdes in Oakland where I had spent time as a seminarian over a number of summers.
As many of you know, my FIRST assignment as a priest was to 3999 Bernal Avenue – St. Augustine Parish in Pleasanton. Fr. Dan Danielson would be my pastor. Those initial years as a priest are a treasure trove for me. Learning to be a priest – meeting people where they find themselves in life, listening to the real stories of joys and pains, and inviting them to live more deeply in Jesus was the great gift and lesson. Of course, these experiences were most pronounced in the celebration of the Sacraments.
Where the Lord has led me (Grace) and where I have not allowed myself to be led (sin) is the truth of my life and any Christian’s life. As I look back on 25 years as a priest, what I realize is that in all things, Grace overcomes all other things. Even through the Sins of living, when I can place my hope in He who does not disappoint, the grace that has abounded from those dark moments is tremendous. So for me, to be back in Pleasanton as your Pastor for the past 5 years and to celebrate 25 years in the place where I cut my teeth as an Associate Pastor is abundant Grace – a gift and a privilege.
On Saturday evening, September 8th at the 5:00 PM Mass, I will celebrate my 25th Anniversary of Ordination as a priest with all of you, this parish community that has touched my heart and soul from the earliest days to the present. Also, on that day, family and friends from near and far will join us and experience the welcome and hospitality that you generously provide. There is an invitation to this celebration for you on the back of the bulletin.
It’s been filled with grace these 25 years and I look forward to the years to come as they unfold.
See you on September 8th….
August 12, 2018
It is that time of year again when we, as parents, are helping our children become successful, productive, self- confident adults by preparing them for school and fall sports/activities. We insure that our kids are physically prepared by getting sufficient sleep, eating healthy and exercising. We prepare our children mentally by sending them to school, tutoring and extracurricular clubs. With such a full schedule, sometimes we forget to prioritize the spiritual needs of our children. It is a sad reality of Faith Formation that we see a significant drop-off in registration once children have received their First Eucharist. We understand families are so busy these days. Perhaps the thinking is to "take some time off” from Faith Formation classes to make room for other family commitments, since no sacrament is involved.
Unfortunately, when teens come back to Faith Formation in their freshman year of high school to start the two-year process for getting Confirmed, they absolutely don't want to be here. Why should they? Many of them haven't been in Faith Formation since they made their First Eucharist, usually in second grade. They have no community or sense of connection with other teens in the context of Faith Formation. Why would they want to come? Faith Formation is no longer a normal, expected part of their lives, but rather something their parents are forcing them to do. Not only does Faith Formation build community but it teaches children the importance of prayer, charity and social justice, the acceptance of others, being humble, listening to others, and making wise and moral decisions.
However, faith is not something we can learn in a class that meets three hours a month; it is something we live and grow into with our families. Nothing we do at Faith Formation would make any sense to your children if the faith is not a part of your home life. The Faith Formation department exists to help YOU raise YOUR children in the faith and support you as the primary catechists of your children.
We encourage you to use the materials children bring home from class as a starting point for conversations about the faith. Practicing the faith at home includes praying together, reading the Bible together, talking about faith, and, most importantly, attending Sunday Mass.
Nurturing our children’s spiritual needs though Faith Formation classes and attending Mass is an essential component of providing what is best for them to achieve happy, fulfilling and meaningful lives. As an adult, think about the many times your faith has helped you in your life so far. Now consider how our children will fare growing up and facing the challenges ahead of them without being solidly grounded in a relationship with God?
So, we are asking all parents to register your children for classes this year. Every year that they continue, you are planting seeds of faith that will hold them in good stead through the ups and downs of their lives.
Faith Formation registration for 2018/2019 is Tuesday, August 14, 3:00-7:00 p.m. at St. Augustine Hall. We look forward to a fun and fabulous faith-filled year with our children. We are still looking for catechist volunteers for all grade levels so please consider your time and talents for this special and impactful ministry.
Lien-Thi de la Pena
Coordinator of Youth Ministry & Confirmation
Coordinator of Middle School & Intergenerational Ministries
Coordinator of Elementary Faith Formation & Children’s Sacraments
Faith Formation Office Manager
August 5, 2018
My brothers and sisters, This past Thursday afternoon, 13 seminarians (men in their studies to be priests) spent the day at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton. It was a great opportunity for everyone involved. The men in black were clearly happy to be at our Parish and they got a very broad brushstroke of how the Catholic Community of Pleasanton runs. We started at St. Augustine.
When they arrived, I met with them and the vocation Director for the Diocese of Oakland, Fr. Wayne Campbell. Joining us was Paula Parisi, chair of the Pastoral Council and Bob Robichaud, Chair of the Finance Council. In a nut shell, the Pastoral Council oversees the Parish plan and the Finance Council has oversight of the operating budget to fund what is in the plan. These two parish councils are my chief bodies of consultation for determining direction for the Parish. I treat their advice as “hard consultation” which means if there is unanimity in the group, I will take their advice as is. The only caveat is when they are asking to do something that clashes with Canon Law (the Law of the Church). At that point, I cannot override Church Law.
After meeting with me and the council heads, we left for St. Elizabeth Seton. After a tour of the campus, we met with the faith formation staff and the Director of RCIA, Matt Gray. We engaged in an exchange of information – what is required to run such a large program and what is needed to support these programs. The seminarians listened attentively.
After a good hour with the faith formation staff, we headed back to St. Augustine to meet with the administration and office staff. That conversation was punctuated by how in a parish our size, everything needs to be scheduled and organized. No one on the parish staff can just plan to do something without it being in the calendar. The importance of welcome was underlined as well. Much of the office staff serve as the first encounter that people have when coming to St. Augustine and St. Elizabeth Seton for an appointment. Welcome and interest in the visitors is so important.
Finally, we gathered in St. Augustine Church to celebrate Mass. It was nice to ground our time together in prayer and the Eucharist. Afterward, the Knights of Columbus hosted a BBQ for the seminarians and the staff. It was a great time to relax with the seminarians and allow them to see the parish. What was great fun to consider with them, “perhaps one of you will be assigned to Pleasanton once you are ordained. God alone knows.”
Sharing a meal ended a wonderful day with the future priests of the Diocese of Oakland, Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Let us pray for them – to discern well as they listen and respond to God’s call in their lives. And may all of us in our own vocations do the very same…
August is here…
July 29, 2018
My brothers and sisters, This weekend, we launch our global initiative, Kids Against Hunger. Some perspective…
In a distant corner of the world, the sand and dust swirl across a parched landscape. As the air clears, it reveals the faint image of a woman, crouched close to the ground and holding up the hand of a child, barely six years old. A man dressed in flowing white robes stands before her. You would be forgiven for thinking that he is the child’s father. But the barren landscape on which these three individuals find themselves is no ordinary place and the scene does not depict a family.
It is a set of tragic circumstances that has put this mother and child on a collision course with the stranger dressed in white and a world of untold horror. The place is sub-Saharan Africa, on the most notorious trade route on the continent. Here, the precious cargo is a child. She is just one of 200,000 children who are traded and sold into slavery each year in West Africa alone.
On this occasion the little girl is being sold for $5 because her mother is desperate beyond belief. She has three other children and this money will keep them alive for another week. As a parent, how does one decide which child to sacrifice?
It is a choice no parent in this country is ever likely to face. Why then should we care about one mother’s circumstances that appear so extreme and removed from our own experience? If we accept the Church’s teachings that we are “One Human Family” whatever our national, racial, economic or ideological differences, then we must accept that we are indeed our brothers’ and sisters’ advocate, wherever they may be.
Kids Against Hunger allows us to help feed children in over 70 countries. As the story you have just read indicates, it’s the basic nutrition the child needs on the one hand; it’s providing real hope for the beginnings of a future on the other hand. More information on our activities can be found on the back of the bulletin. If you have any question, please contact the parish office.
I hope to see you on August 25th to pack meals to feed others and feed our community at the same time.
July 22, 2018
My brothers and sisters,
Let’s look ahead to next weekend when the Gospel narrates how Jesus performs the miracle of feeding thousands of people with just a few fish and loaves of bread. Jesus recognizes that you must feed both the spirit and the body, satisfying the most basic of human needs. He does this by calling on the most ordinary of people, like you and me, to give what they have. First a small boy offers up his meal of fish and bread. Then the disciples use their gifts to distribute the food so that everyone in the crowd is fed. If we follow their example and give a little of what we have with an open heart and mind, we can also accomplish the enormous task of feeding many in our world today.
We have an opportunity to do some “hands on” giving and support Kids Against Hunger. This is a global solidarity initiative sponsored by the Catholic Community of Pleasanton’s Social Justice Committee. Let us give a little of our time, just two hours, to help pack meals for children who are desperately in need of food. The Vacation Bible School students, teens and their families have done their part to raise the funds necessary to buy food for hungry children. During VBS, they learned how Jesus rescues and they accepted the challenge to become rescuers themselves. Now we need the whole CCOP family to come together and volunteer just two hours to pack these meals.
For those of you who always step forward to help, we have no doubt that you will do so now. If you have never volunteered before, do not procrastinate. This is your moment to take decisive action to save a child’s life. We are offering you a unique opportunity to do something tangible to rescue a child from hunger and, by so doing, to discover Christ within yourself as you choose to serve God by serving others.
There will be more information to be shared next weekend at all the masses. For now, please go to the parish website and click on the link on the homepage to sign up for the August 25th Kids Against Hunger event.
With just 100 volunteers we could pack 15,000 meals!
We know what’s right and we know what needs to be done. When each person gives just a little of themselves, much can be achieved. More information next weekend at all the masses.
Fr. Paul - Pastor
Theresa Tavares - Chair, Social Justice Committee
July 15, 2018
My brothers and sisters, There are times when I get so caught into my life routines that I find it hard to really step back and ask the question, “What is really needed?” Or, I’m not even aware that I should slow down, even stop, and take an inventory of life. So many conversations I’ve had around summertime focus on “changing” the routine but families are still caught in the busyness of the routine. Let’s be honest, this type of accelerated living that is routine spins our lives into superficial living. I never really stop in any one place to enjoy or appreciate. I’m always thinking about what is next instead of being present in the now. Back to the question, “What is really needed?” In this weekend’s Gospel, what is proclaimed is a resounding call to explore the question and then to act. Pondering can be a great hobby. Then, there is the work… drats! We need to make commitments to simplify, to streamline and to keep it simple.
In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus instructs (this is not a suggestion) his most intimate friends – the twelve – to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick — no food, no sack, no money in their belts… just the clothes on their back. No suitcases required. To paraphrase Jesus, no second tunic is needed. It’s worth noting that Jesus does understand the need to wear sandals. Why sandals? You need to make the journey day by day and to sojourn requires feet that are ready to walk, run, hike, stumble and get up. You need feet that can do the work to handle the terrain of life.
Yet, I can get distracted by everything that seemingly makes the journey easier. It’s usually about excesses...to use Jesus’ instruction. I try to disguise the journey by eating/ drinking too much. I disguise the short -term aches and pains by filing my sack with what I do not really need – all those toys that we have and enjoy. They can easily distract us, too. Also, Jesus’ instruction includes no money in the belt. That admonition is rough because how else does one survive in the consumeristic world in which we live? Again, we need to keep it simple. When these “things” get in the way of building and fostering real and healthy relationships, the journey that we should be taking with Jesus stalls. Distracted by things, we are under the impression that we are on the way when, in fact, we might be running away.
Jesus’ instruction is to foster the relationships you have in your life right now. Jesus says wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave. We need to learn from the people in the places where we stay and those we encounter. It’s about spending real time with children, parents, grandparents, family, friends and neighbors…real time. Imagine if we put down our things and really got to know one another. That’s the call to real community.
My brothers and sisters, Jesus is calling all of us at The Catholic Community of Pleasanton to deeper community and real awareness of who we are. Watch out! Those routines – even the summer routines – can disguise who we are.
Can we just spend time together and now?
July 8, 2018
Brothers and sisters,
Each year at about this time, I make mention of facility maintenance. We have two campuses – St. Augustine and St. Elizabeth Seton – that require an incredible amount of attention and care. Keeping everything running smoothly is a tremendous "band of brothers". I’d like to thank Bronco Hinek, Manuel Morales, Hector Morineau and Steve Melander for the tremendous job they do. They work dutifully, operate within budgets and plan well in order to forecast cost impacts. They are part of the “behind the scenes” ministers in the parish.
Over the summer, when the Catholic Community of Pleasanton programming slows down (just a tad) and foot traffic is not so busy, we take full advantage. This is especially the case in the Department of Faith Formation. Over the next month or so, the walls in the offices will be getting a fresh coat of paint. They are in need of some tender loving care. This is in an effort to keep our facilities maintained and clean.
You might also note that landscape projects will be continuing around the perimeter of St. Augustine. Kyle Kenny, Ethan Nguyen, John Lester and Danny Bochner are choosing to make our landscaping needs part of their Eagle Scout projects. It’s great to see these young men giving back to their faith community. We are blessed as they learn and exercise tools in leadership. The young church is really a gift to us all.
We are in the process of raising money to replace the shed behind St. Augustine Hall. The present shed is in great disrepair and must be over 25 years old. With a weakened foundation and walls and roof that leak, it is a potential hazard. If you would like more information about assisting with this project, please contact me at the rectory or by email.
One of the greatest difficulties we encounter and struggle to correct are the different irrigation and lighting systems at both campuses. Of no great surprise, as the parish has grown over the years, lighting and irrigation systems have been built one upon another and it is not always apples to apples. When things go haywire, it is because the systems are not in sync. These systems, too, will eventually need updating.
Again, I want to commend the “band of brothers” I mentioned above for their great work. It’s easy to take their work for granted, but just imagine a Mass this summer without lights…without air conditioning...without clean restrooms…I could go on and on. So, if you see them around the campuses, take a minute to say thank you.
It’s July at CCOP and there’s still much going on even if it sounds like it’s only a soft roar.
July 1, 2018
Brothers and sisters,
One of the realities faced in churches today is that 15% of the members are doing 85% of the work and CCOP is no exception. Many of us just want to sit in the bleachers while the few get on the field and use their gifts. Our brothers and sisters make it happen and they are as busy if not busier than the rest of us.
One example of great service can be seen in the adult base that makes 265 of our young members enjoy a full week at Vacation Bible School (VBS). Our kids enjoy a week filled with learning about Jesus wrapped in great fun. A safe environment is made possible because of these adults who care and want to be of service. On your behalf, I want to thank them. But, I want to thank them for their sense of service. That’s far more than volunteering for VBS. They get it! This summer I would invite many of you to consider how it is you give your time back to the parish and provide service to our faith community. More to come on this as the summer progresses.
For now, here is a list of people who made the time and shared their talents for the sake of your children. We thank them.
In addition, I want to thank all of the youth who were older brothers and sisters for our younger church. Our children look to them to model the values and virtues of living out our faith. We thank them.
Finally, social justice is always an important part of VBS. Besides having fun all week, the children learn how they can help our less fortunate brothers and sisters. This year, money was raised for the global charity “Kids Against Hunger.” I wrote about this two weeks ago and more will be coming toward the end of July. Thank you to all those who supported this initiative during VBS. Thank you also to those who donated funds at 6:30pm Mass last weekend. To date, we have raised well over $5000 to support them and curb hunger around the globe.
To one and all, thank you for your service. And remember, there is no room for barking from the bleachers. As Catholic Christians, we need to step out on the service field and activate our faith community. Someone remarked that everything seemingly gets done. Well, think how much more we could do with your involvement.
June 24, 2018
My brothers and sisters,
Given the divisiveness happening as we trod forward in the struggle for just and charitable immigration law, I wanted to quote the President of the United States Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo. The Cardinal is Archbishop of Galveston-Houston. His voice is offered on behalf of the bishops of the United States making clear the value of “asylum.” In addition, DiNardo speaks to the unethical treatment of children by separating them from parents. This action of the government threatens the integrity of family life, which is a fundamental building block of society.
Here is the statement from the President of the Bishops’ Conference:
"At its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life. The Attorney General's recent decision elicits deep concern because it potentially strips asylum from many women who lack adequate protection. These vulnerable women will now face return to the extreme dangers of domestic violence in their home country. This decision negates decades of precedents that have provided protection to women fleeing domestic violence. Unless overturned, the decision will erode the capacity of asylum to save lives, particularly in cases that involve asylum seekers who are persecuted by private actors. We urge courts and policy makers to respect and enhance, not erode, the potential of our asylum system to preserve and protect the right to life.
Additionally, I join Bishop Joe Vásquez, Chairman of USCCB's Committee on Migration, in condemning the continued use of family separation at the U.S./Mexico border as an implementation of the Administration's zero tolerance policy. Our government has the discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma. Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together. While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral."
On this matter, I would like to add my voice. I am not interested in the discussion around the “partisanship” of this horrific situation. In fact, tearing down those who agree or disagree on policies is not helpful. Too much time is lost on slanderous comments about people (or a corporate person) and in judgment of them. Such behavior does not raise to a higher order what should be a candid and kind discussion. The Christian approach – the Catholic approach – is one grounded in charity. That means that what should be addressed is the issue, the policy or the principle. Energy spent on demonizing persons misses the real issue. We need to safeguard the rights of the individual and we need to guarantee and safeguard the family. That’s the matter at hand. Perhaps this is an apt opportunity to ask if we practice such behavior among ourselves.
Let us pray for one another, our country and for the world to grow together justly and charitably.
June 17, 2018
My brothers and sisters,
Take the time next week to peek your head into the Hall at St. Augustine. It has been transformed into an uncharted island where kids can venture. On this island, our kids survive and thrive. They are anchored in the truth that Jesus will carry them through life’s storms. This is Shipwrecked, Rescued by Jesus. Vacation Bible School begins at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton.
For the next five days starting on Monday morning, our kids will encounter Jesus on this mysterious island. Day one, we focus on “When you are lonely, Jesus rescues”. On day two, the kids will realize that “When you worry, Jesus rescues”. As they keep roaming through this island they will find that “When you struggle, Jesus rescues”. That’s day three. When they get to day four, the kids will see that “When you do wrong, Jesus rescues”. When Friday arrives, the island goers will celebrate that “When you are powerless, Jesus rescues”.
There are 255 campers on the island from grades K-5. Accompanying them are 110 volunteers (85 6th through 12th grade teens and 25 adults). These volunteers are the presence of Jesus for our kids over these five days. What I find most edifying is the intergenerational snapshot of the parish at VBS. To the campers, have fun with Jesus. To the volunteers, thank you for being his presence.
Vacation Bible School at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton is always focused on meeting Jesus to share Jesus and serve others. Justice and charity are essential to what we are about. This year, Vacation Bible School is partnering with our social outreach committee to support “Kids Against Hunger”. This non-profit humanitarian organization’s mission is the eradication of world hunger. One practical action is the packaging of highly nutritious and vitamin fortified soy-rice casseroles. This is done by a village of volunteers at different locations in the United States and Canada. These meals go to starving children and their families in 70 countries throughout the world. There will be more information given to the parish at large on “Kids against Hunger” at the end of July.
For now, let’s pray for our kids, the youth and adult volunteers and everyone involved in Shipwrecked, Rescued by Jesus. We are excited to begin Vacation Bible School 2018.
The summer days have begun.
June 10, 2018
My brothers and sisters,
I am asked questions repeatedly – and I mean repeatedly – about going to Confession. I would say that most questions center on sin itself—from the amount of sins confessed to the size, shape, variety and inevitably, what is the WORST sin that was ever confessed to me as a priest. In most cases, I will start with some very broad generalities. However, instead of answering the questions, I respond by discussing what are good habits and why we fixate on bad habits. Then, I begin to discuss how we can turn away from those bad habits. I know it’s difficult, but we can.
From the skeptic, I hear “What’s the point?”, ”Nothing changes“ or “Same ole’, same ole’”. Indirectly the skeptic has set-up a situation to fail in curbing the bad habit. He or she hopes that the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation wields magic. The wand is waved and the problem, the habit or the difficulty is “poof” gone. Of course, we know it does not work this way. Many of us lie, gossip, swear, speak ill of others, deflect blame. We do it over and over again. If I believe in His Mercy that I cannot earn, then I have all the more reason to do the work and bring an end to the bad habit. Perhaps the “magic” of the Sacrament is to trust the One who is Mercy and because of His unconditional Mercy, feel called to find a way out of some bad habitual behavior. Here is some “public penance” that I would share as I strive to live well and let go of some of these behaviors.
First, don’t go after the bad habit head on and get fixated. Such an unhealthy focus on the sin creates greater anxiety and fear. For some, pushed to the extreme, a paralysis can happen. We can get stunted by what is not good. We can be frozen by the reality of the sin and the seemingly perpetual engagement of the bad habit. For example, I can get fixated on the fact that, “I always lie”. Oftentimes, this worsens the situation entirely. Instead, let’s approach this differently. I am a firm believer in focusing upon what is good and right. When I live out good virtue, such as prudence and temperance and realize I am making some good choices, then I can exercise a good choice again and again to pattern good habits or behavior. This will have a wonderfully blossoming effect. The good can freeze the bad. When there are areas in my life where I do find the freedom to tell the truth, it helps me see the craziness of living in a lie in other areas. So, instead of fixating on what’s wrong; be about what is good and possible. God makes it possible to do the work of living out what is good and right. Make it happen!
Second, ask the “why” question. Why am I drawn into behaviors like lying, cheating, gossiping and slander? Why am I filled with vengeance, anger, anxiety, bitterness or laziness? What might surprise us all is that the root of the bad behavior or habit is love. We are formed to be loved and to act lovingly and to serve in the same way. My brothers and sisters, I can forget that I am motivated by God’s grace to love. I realize that in my humanness, I don’t love in my life the way God has ordered me to love. Yet, even my undisciplined and selfish ways are – believe it or not – expressions of love that are misfiring. What we must do is look up and not down because of sin. We realize this higher calling to love when we are willing to admit we do not always love well. When I choose to learn from others who love well but also struggle I am inspired to keep striving. We need to order our lives in Jesus’ life of meaningful or real love. Or “love with teeth”.
These two approaches to addressing bad habits are “penance” that is not easy. It requires work. Why not? Why would I not want to be so free that shackles of sin fall away and a new order is revealed?
My brothers and sisters, I invite you to join us Saturday afternoons this summer from 3:00 PM – 4:30 PM at St. Augustine Church. You can call and make an appointment with me, or Frs. Kwame and Fili. We are here to accompany you in the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation: to experience the good work of freedom. Let’s be about all that is good…
June 3, 2018
My brothers and sisters,
This weekend, we celebrate the feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. In years past and for some today, this feast is known as Corpus Christi. We celebrate the fullness of the anointed one, the Christ. He is the One who said “take” and “eat”, “take” and “drink”. When he exhorted his followers to “take”, there was no condition. There was the invitation to them and to us to know what we are doing. When we “take” Him we are invited to “be” Him. This is foundational to what we do at Mass each weekend at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton and in Catholic parishes throughout the world. Why do we do what we do? It’s because of Him who followed the will of the Father. We are united in living out His life by the Holy Spirit.
Sunday Mass is bedrock for us as a community. In the midst of schedules that are so complicated and so very busy with obligations, pressures to do everything and choices we must make, it is more imperative than ever to ground ourselves in this sure foundation. Going to Mass is not like going to any other event you have calendared. When you go to Mass, you are going in order to be who you are – by receiving Him, you are His presence and you are His ambassador. To that, many of us can say, “I get it”. I must remind myself again and again that “I don’t get it”. Because of this, ongoing and regular formation in our awareness of the Mass is crucial regardless of how “Informed” we think we are. We gather because of Him and for Him not expecting Him to give us anything more than what he has done. After all, he gave us His life. For what more can we ask?
It is important to make our celebrations a reflection of who we are. For example, this past year, we explored the opportunity to simplify the 8:00 AM Mass by increasing reverential silence and singing what is essential according to the norms of the Mass instructions issued by the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council. In this way, while “simplified” we were keeping it very much a “Vatican II” celebration. I heard many very positive comments about the shift and I heard some negative comments, too. One day, I was invited to coffee with a parishioner. She shared with me her preference for what we presently do at 8:00 AM Mass What she also shared was her awareness that the community has tried and faithfully so. In that, they have struggled and many silently. I would wholeheartedly agree and for that I say thank you.
Back when we made the shift, we promised to revisit and assess the 8:00 AM Mass. It has been almost one year’s worth of experience. Today’s feast seemed the appropriate time to draw some conclusions. After reflecting upon the comments and from discussion with Deacon Gary and Ira, we will bring back a more full-bodied singing to the 8:00 AM Mass. Of course, we must take into account the need for seasonal focus that can “simplify” our worship (Advent, Lent) or “enhance” our celebrations appropriately (Christmas, Easter). To those who preferred the “simplified” experience, please continue to come and be one with us. We come to celebrate because of Him.
As we celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, we need to remember that our response to so great a love, so unconditional a love, must be to love with greater desire to be one in His love. Nowhere else is that done as completely than when we celebrate the Eucharist.
This is why Mass is bedrock.
We gather together…
May 27, 2018
My brothers and sisters,
We celebrated Pentecost last weekend officially bringing the Easter Season to a great
crescendo. These next two Sundays, we celebrate the Trinity (the nature of God) and then the Body and Blood of Christ. As for this Sunday, to begin a reflection on God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit is no small task. Still, we must make the best attempt possible, which in my own attempts does not come close to reflecting His glory. I need to remind myself again and again that God is a flow of living relationships, a trinity, a family.
“God is love”, scripture says, “and whoever abides in love abides in God and God abides in him or her”. Too often, we miss the meaning of love because we tend to romanticize it. We can consider romantic love, as falling-in-love, even a giddy love. I hear “God is love” oftentimes as a passage at weddings. This was underscored at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Princess Meghan a couple of weeks ago. On that particular occasion, Bishop Michael Curry expanded our sensibility on love. He touched upon the essence of love. His words can remind us that in “raising the bar” on love that the celebration of a couple at their wedding is REALLY a celebration of God who invited the couple to reflect his very nature. If this is the case, we might say that God is family, community, parish, friendship, hospitality and whoever abides in these abides in God and God abides in him or her”.
A great number of theological authors have reflected upon God as a flow of relationships among persons. If this is true, and scripture says so, then the realities of interacting with each other in community is born of God. How do we interact with each other at the dinner-table, or in everyday conversations? How comfortably or calmly do we interact in silence or an argument? What about the giving and receiving of hospitality? We might say that the questions are drawing out certain answers – how we should behave. For me, I think the questions invite us to imitate God, which is in our nature.
My brothers and sisters, the Trinity is NOT a huge tangle of theological principles that in and of themselves complicate the nature of God. Instead, the Trinity is about love and about right relationships. When we celebrate Him, we celebrate who we are
called to be.
God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, we glorify you as love itself.
May 20, 2018
My brothers and sisters,
Alleluia, it’s Pentecost. We celebrate the person of the Holy Spirit. Every generation needs to experience Pentecost for itself. It needs God’s Spirit and it needs it in its own particular way to relate in new ways. Every generation will bring new life and new energy to their activities as this is designed by God and given by God’s Spirit.
Sacred Scripture reminds us over and over that the Holy Spirit is not some generic cosmic force. The Spirit is not a “one-size-fits-all” entity. Instead, the Holy Spirit is a person. Each of us is in relationship with this person even if we do not realize this “person -to-person” truth. Concretely that means as many inhabitants of the earth, so the Holy Spirit has as many “particular manifestations” in relationship. What is the purpose of these particular relationships? As we understand who we are in relationship to the Holy Spirit, gifts given are revealed in order to edify others and the community around us. The Spirit relates to each of us and relates to all of us. Ministry in the Church is about women and men exercising particular gifts given to them in relationship with the Holy Spirit for the well-being of the many.
For seven years, we have celebrated how the Holy Spirit edified Nicole Browne, Coordinator of Confirmation and Youth Ministry. Through prayer and discernment, Nicole exercised her particular gifts for the edification of the Catholic Community of Pleasanton. In her relationship with the Holy Spirit, she will embark on new forms of ministry and service. For now, she is going to settle happily into the pew on Sunday. We will celebrate and thank Nicole on Sunday, June 24th at the 6:30 PM Mass at St. Elizabeth Seton. A reception will follow.
We also look forward to the future of High School Youth Ministry and Confirmation and its new coordinator, Lien-Thi de la Pena, as she shifts over from Middle School Youth Ministry. Kim Schnall begins as the Coordinator of Middle School Youth Ministry and Intergenerational Family Ministry on August 1st. Here is a bit about them…
Lien-Thi and Ed, her husband of 18 years, and four children – Emily, Joshua, Teresa and Megan, moved to Pleasanton 8 years ago and she immediately became involved volunteering at the schools her children attended and here at the CCOP. You’ll often see the de la Pena children around the church hall either in their Confirmation classes, Middle School AMP classes, or with the High School Youth Group Leadership program. This past year, you’ve probably seen Lien-Thi around as our Middle School and IFC Coordinator and she is looking forward to working with the high school program here at CCOP.
Originally from Chicago, Kim Schnall moved to Pleasanton last year by way of Las Vegas, NV with her husband and two boys, 1st and 6th grade. She graduated from Lehigh University with a major in Psychology and minor in Education. She has taught Faith Formation in different parishes and this past year taught 1st grade class and AMP class (Middle School) here at CCOP. She is also a member of the Pastoral Council and is excited for the opportunity to lead the AMP program here at CCOP, looking forward to a great year in faith formation filled with fun and learning.
As we celebrate Pentecost, we are grateful for those who have shared their gifts with us and we look forward to the future as Lien-Thi and Kim begin to exercise their particular gifts in new and fresh ways. May we all listen attentively to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
May 13, 2018
Next weekend is the annual Catholic Charities of the East Bay (CCEB) second collection. It’s fitting that we consider our relationship with them during the Season of Easter. The Church’s activity must be life-giving. The Catholic Community of Pleasanton’s activity must underscore that we are a people of hope giving visibility to joy. CCEB is one of our partners in this mission. They partner with the other 83 parishes of the Diocese of Oakland (CCOP is one of the 84) to serve the needs of those who are on the margins in our communities. We can be proud of the work we do with Catholic Charities. Together, we give welcome to refugees. We provide hope for children victims of sex trafficking. We support our inner-city teens to stay in school, and we work for systemic change to improve educational outcomes. This, combined with the leadership we provide in keeping immigrant families together and protecting their rights, makes our work on the margins effective and relevant.
As a bold and innovative nonprofit, CCEB is addressing long term needs of the community. As such, CCEB is working on an important housing initiative to help keep people in their homes. Each year, more than 8,000 people reach out to Catholic Charities asking for help with their rent or utilities. CCEB is often able to help but largely in a one-time capacity. Knowing that one-time assistance is not always enough, the Catholic Charities’ housing initiative will accompany others by stabilizing families and senior citizens in their homes, and provide the services they need to improve their lives. These are initiatives that the Catholic Community of Pleasanton can support in a host of expressions.
Oftentimes, the number of pressing needs can bring on feelings of paralysis. It can be overwhelming. That sensation is, believe it or not, part of Easter. The same sensation felt by the first disciples when Jesus in risen form ascended to Heaven seemingly leaving the disciples behind. “What do we do now? It’s just too much.” They gathered as we do today. They asked for God’s Spirit. This Spirit, the Holy Spirit, touched their lives and the Spirit will touch ours. The Spirit gave them power, wisdom and courage to do what others saw as impossible. They went out and shared the Good News, healed and forgave people. The passion and love with which they did their work has attracted billions of followers, and changed our world for the good. However, the work is not done.
We can be agents of the Good News meeting the challenges of today. Not only can we support Catholic Charities of the East Bay, we can engage in a whole host of opportunities for the pursuit of justice and charity in the Tri Valley. Please consider deeper involvement in the Tri-Valley and consider supporting CCEB and the great partnership CCOP has with them. As a parish, we support CCEB in our charitable giving and the pursuit of justice.
Thank you for supporting our partnership with CCEB and the great work that Catholic Charities has done and continues to do.
May 6, 2018
“God Shows No Partiality” (Acts 10:34)
My fellow Christians,
As the adage “Rome was not built in a day” goes, so goes our faith! Our belief and knowledge of God – the church as we know it today – did not form instantly but gradually. Today we hear the early Christians led by Peter, learned something new and great about God. For the first time they found out that their God is an inclusive God, “shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34) and accepts people beyond all boundaries. This new knowledge inspires our Christian faith too; it is a faith that sees and acknowledges God in all cultures that are different from ours.
Peter was invited to the home of Cornelius, who was neither Jewish nor Christian. Yet, before Peter could get through formalities and baptize him, God gave the spirit to Cornelius and his household. Yes, God showed up in the non-believers ahead of Peter’s ministry; and all that was left for Peter was to acknowledge and confirm the presence of God among the “foreigners”. It was a new knowledge about God that Peter learned that day. Indeed, Jesus had already taught them to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). This love is of the highest quality; it is an unconditional and impartial love – a love that does not discriminate against cultures, peoples, and languages that are different. Peter learned that God is already the God of all humanity. The Church came to this knowledge with time, learning and accepting other ways that God is present among diverse cultures and generations.
Recently, members of Small Christian Communities (SCC) from CCOP have visited and worshipped at Saint Columba Catholic Church in Oakland. The latest visit was done by the “Men Under God” (MUG) on the Fourth Sunday of Easter. In February of this year, our “Padre Pio Prayer Group” also visited Saint Columba to celebrate Mass in commemoration of Black History Month. However, CCOP individuals, couples, and families have also visited and experienced Mass both at Saint Columba and other parishes with black spirituality. I must say that I neither initiated nor inspired these visits, hence I am due no credit here. Rather, the SCC members and our parishioners themselves have been discussing practical ways to break down cultural and racial barriers in our faith. Their goal for these visits has been to broaden their knowledge, awareness, and experience of God’s presence in other cultural contexts. In this way we continue to build up our faith on the foundation of Peter and the early Christians. By experiencing God in diverse cultures, we come to respect, cherish, and love people from those cultures; thus, we live up to our faith that says we believe in the Church as “catholic” – universal and diverse.
Finally, cultures come not only in racial terms but, also, in generations, gender, abilities, and other human expressions of life. In spite of all these expressions, God has revealed to us His presence in all. Are you stuck in a faith that is one, exclusive, old, small, limited, partial, conditional, tribal, partisan, nationalistic and legalistic? Or, would you strive to imitate your inclusive God, impartial, liberating, embracing all, unconditional, global, unlimited and ever new? As we near the close of the Easter season, let us not miss this important knowledge about the God of savior Jesus Christ: “God shows no partiality”, and hence we – the church – must strive to practice our faith in God impartially. May God grant us the courage to be inclusive in the practice of our faith!
April 29, 2018
Nurturing Tender Branches
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
We have celebrated joyfully over the past four weeks of the Easter Season, knowing that the risen Christ, our Redeemer, still lives among us today. On this Fifth Sunday of Easter, we hear from the gospel of John. Jesus tells the disciples: "I am the true vine … you are the branches… By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” We are all called to be disciples of Christ and to bear fruit.
The fruit Jesus speaks of comes in many forms:
The more of this good fruit we produce, the more glory we give to God, and the more we bring his Kingdom into the world for the benefit of all.
One of the many ways we do this at CCOP is to evangelize through the Infant Baptism Ministry. Team Couples meet in a small group setting with parents who are preparing to celebrate the sacrament of Baptism with their children. They rejoice with them at the gift of new life that comes from their sharing in God’s creative love. A couple shares with the new parents about the joys and challenges of raising their children in the faith, and about their experience of Church community. A priest or deacon speaks about the theology of Baptism. The couple facilitates a Rite of Welcome at a Sunday Mass, where together we welcome and pray for the parents and children; and anoint the children with the Oil of Catechumens. The team shares the parents’ joy in celebrating the Sacrament of Baptism of their children.
This is one ministry among the many that speaks of what we are about at CCOP: being welcoming, nurturing, encouraging each other in faith. It is a rewarding ministry that husband and wife enjoy together, while meeting parents of young children. The Confirmation teens provide childcare during the sessions. So, it is as community that we welcome these precious little ones into the Church and we pray for their parents and godparents, that they may nurture these tender branches on Christ, the true vine.
Last weekend, Father Paul and I had the pleasure of meeting with the Baptism Ministry Team to celebrate the couples who have served so well in this ministry and to welcome new couples to the ministry. We thank God and them for their dedication and willingness to serve. We are grateful for the enthusiasm they have for sharing their faith.
We are seeking more couples to assist in this baptism ministry a few times a year. If you may be interested in this couples ministry, please contact me at my parish phone number (925) 474-2778 or by email to email@example.com.
I will be happy to explain more and meet with you, so that you may then prayerfully discern where God is calling you.
May we all remain in Christ, our true vine and bear much fruit. HAPPY EASTER!
Deacon Joe Gourley
April 22, 2018
My brothers and sisters,
This past Tuesday night, I was invited by the Pleasanton Unified School District (PUSD) to attend their board of trustees meeting. PUSD wanted to recognize the Catholic Community of Pleasanton for our willingness to host classes for adult learners of English. Hundreds of students have found a home in our meeting rooms and as was stated to me, “The positive contribution of the Catholic Community of Pleasanton to our community is without question.” I want to thank Superintendent David Haglund for his kindness.
When approached by the school district regarding this situation, we did not hesitate. People benefited and to witness the joy of these adult learners is the gift given back to the Catholic Community of Pleasanton.
For me, the basis of such a positive relationship with PUSD and the broader community goes to the fundamentals of our Catholic faith. Our facilities and our programs are meant to be of service. The full growth and well-being of the human person – body, mind and spirit – is to be promoted and safeguarded. Nature must be nurtured. Like Jesus, we care equally for those who believe as we do and for those who may believe differently. We share the gift of our humanity. Thus, when opportunities arise to work with the Pleasanton Unified School District or the City of Pleasanton, we ARE partners. People of good will should partner when possible to harness and strengthen resolve.
All our facilities are meant to be of service. The weekend of April 14/15, we revealed a new giving opportunity for our Arise and Build Campaign. Parishioners George and Clare Schmitt graciously pledged $500,000 to the building campaign inviting all of us to match their gift dollar for dollar. If we match them, this adds another million dollars to our totals raising us to 7.5 million dollars for the campaign. We thank the Schmitt family for their wonderful generosity.
As I mentioned in my preaching that weekend, this is not just about bricks and mortar; dollars and cents. This is about principles — the principles of our faith. The foundation of our facilities is our faith. The construction will be made of living stones because the mission of Jesus will take new form in the completed St. John Paul II Activity Center. This facility will enhance ministry and service not only for our parish here at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton, but also to the broader community.
Please prayerfully consider a new matching pledge. The pledge cards are available in both churches. For your convenience, you can go to our website and click the pledge button. There, fill out the form online and submit it. Thank you for your witness to being good and faithful stewards. I’m very grateful for how we build foundations of faith, place living stones upon these foundations and being of service to our neighbor.
More signs of new life… HAPPY EASTER
April 15, 2018
My brothers and sisters,
We have joyously entered the Season of Easter. All around us, we are celebrating the gift of life-giving sacraments that come from God. We celebrated the Sacraments of Initiation – Baptism, Confirmation and First Eucharist – on Holy Saturday Night. There are many other festivities of faith happening during the Easter Season as well. We are celebrating First Eucharist for our children during the fifty days of Easter with Youth Confirmation following on May 26th. We are excited that Bishop Michael Barber will be joining us that day.
These celebrations are great occasions for our parish to see the “young” church and to provide a witness to our children and teens of a living, vibrant and active faith. As a community, we should worship with vigor and gusto, but we are just a compliment to the vigor and gusto that must begin first at home with the faith of the family. Moms and dads, together, are the first teachers of the faith. It is critical to remember that handing on the faith takes root in family life. Realizing that family life looks a bit different from one family to another – there is no “One Way” – our faith formation coordinators and members of the pastoral team are here to assist you in finding that pathway that works best for your family. Just remember, the whole family needs to be actively involved in some manner. We celebrate our kids and teens. We glorify God for the gift that they are. It is good for us to remember that again and again.
This month as most months, there are moms and dads who are meeting with team leaders to prepare for their infant’s Baptism. A few nights ago, I was with a number of young families preparing to be the first teachers for their newly baptized children – Infant Baptism Formation. I was tremendously impressed by these parents. They see the world and what is happening in it. They value the goodness of the world, but also see where they will need to make some hard calls in this world if they wish to instill in their children the values and virtues that come from a living faith. They want their babies immersed and washed in the living giving waters of Baptism; making it their responsibility to raise their children as disciples of Jesus. The great message to parents is -- You are not alone! When you commit to this responsibility, there is a community here to support and assist you. If you are considering the baptism of your newborn or recently born baby, call the office for more information.
The Easter Season is also filled with the celebration of Matrimony. We have a number of weddings happening in the parish. There are some weddings of couples who grew up in our parish, others who are parishioners today and still others who are celebrating matrimony coming to us from another parish. There is a great deal of preparation that goes into the celebration of Matrimony. I am not so concerned about receptions and guests. I’m more interested in the spiritual health of the couple. Are they asking the right questions? Are they relying on God as they plan their lives together? Do they have a pattern of worship and prayer in their life as a couple? Do they communicate well? Do they really know each other? Do they have quality time together as a couple free of all the lures that, say, social media present? So many questions and real issues are faced by couples today. We are fortunate to have a number of married couples living out their faith who come together to share their experiences with those who will be married soon. These experiences along with other tools to help the couple are available for our marriage preparation. If you, or those you know, are considering the celebration of Matrimony, then have them give us a call.
My friends, it’s Easter. Let’s celebrate! Baptism, First Eucharist, Confirmation, Matrimony--all of this is tremendous! Perhaps it is most important to remember that the celebration of Eucharist (Mass) is always available to keep this mood alive. It is not only what you receive at Eucharist, but also what you bring. Let us renew our commitment to our faith this Easter and celebrate the many signs of Christ alive in our community’s life.
April 8, 2018
My brothers and sisters,
Easter was tremendous.
It is impossible for me to go through a litany of thanks for everyone. There are so many wonderful people in this community sharing God-given talent freely and joyfully. Like my “thank you” remarks on Holy Saturday night, I would like to bring notice to those who go unnoticed – especially during the busyness of Holy Week. They are on the “periphery” of ministry. By thanking them, I want to thank all of you. Here are some we need to thank…
Imagine what it is like to clean the Church after any Mass? After the weekend Masses? During and after Holy Week? During and after the Easter Masses? In short, the churches are a mess! There are volunteers who pick up everything left behind and prepare the churches for those who are to come. The clean church is an essential part of a welcoming environment. To keep clean our Houses of Worship is no small task. More remarkable, what they do is done patiently and quietly and we need to thank them for this immense service.
Ever thought about doing not only your own laundry but also church laundry? Think about how many linens we go through on any given Sunday with eight Masses. That’s a great deal of linen that needs to be washed, whitened, ironed and folded. Now, multiply the laundering during Holy Week – linens, towels from foot washing and robes. There is no recognition and no visibility for doing this humble ministry. Yet, it is essential and most of us take it for granted. We want to thank them for this quiet service. Like all things done to give glory to Him in secret, there is a very loving and deserved reward.
To create a space for good worship requires an environment that reflects the season. It helps to have a keen eye and a thoughtful vision to change the church environment in multiple spaces for four consecutive days. That vision is brought to life by those who engage in this ministry and this is no easy ministry. The members of this ministry do not go unnoticed like the ministries I mentioned above; in this case, what is given as a gift is noticed by everyone. What is more, “everyone” is prone to comment. Maybe a word of gratitude to those who do this “heavy lift” is of the first order. Thank you for an incredible service rendered.
I also want to use this occasion to invite so many not engaged in ministry to consider sharing your gifts with the Catholic Community of Pleasanton. Metaphorically and literally speaking we need to clean the church, to clean linens and to create a suitable environment where we worship the Lord. We need to add to the members of our active symphony. We need to take good care of what God has given us. Take hold of this invitation to engage in ministry. CHECK THE WEBSITE for more information…
Finally, as we give thanks for those who exercise ministry and service, we are grateful for the gift of Nicole Browne as Coordinator of Youth Ministry and Confirmation. After a LONG stretch of seven years in this ministry, she is choosing to step back to the role of active parishioner allowing someone with other gifts to take up the position of coordinator. More to come on the posting of the position and determining a date to celebrate Nicole’s leadership as coordinator all these years.
We are an Easter people. Death has no hold. We live. And we are grateful for the multitude who respond to God’s call to minister and give life. We are the beneficiaries of the “Yes” to God. Get ready for the weddings, first communions and all sorts of celebrations under the sun.
It’s Easter… Alleluia.
April 1, 2018
My Brothers and my sisters,
HAPPY EASTER!!! ALLELUIA!!! HE IS RISEN, INDEED!!!
Okay, you must expect that I would say that! What does Easter really “do” for us? For the Christian, it’s the most sacred of days. Here’s the thing: the resurrection of Jesus is God’s definitive pronouncement, God’s divine assurance that life is infinitely stronger than death. Life, not death, will always get the last word. It comes right down to learning to live life, each day and for all our days. Easter puts that into focus as we follow the mystery of Jesus’ life, suffering, death and resurrection. If we look at how He embraces life and how life comes to Him, we unlock good living. In churchy terms we refer to who Jesus is and how He lived as the Paschal Mystery.
Jesus is the key to good living. When we go to Mass, then we are nourished by His life. We celebrate the Sacred Story of Jesus, which is, in part, the story of his ancestors and the descendants. As his descendants, we gather to be nourished by Him. To receive the fullness of Jesus – Christ’s Body and Blood – is THE gift. For the Easter people, this is why we go to Mass.
Mass is the furthest thing from boring if we get what’s going on!!! For us, Mass is the bedrock of life. This has implications for everything under the sun – everything! If we are of life, our personal lives, spiritual lives, and our lives as citizens of this world are affected. We need to examine our principles, our priorities, even our politics.
If life has the last word, then love must overcome hatred, forgiveness must overcome bitterness, and generosity must overcome greed. And in the world out there – the very troubled world out there – if life is to overcome death, the hungry must be clothed, housed and fed, the unborn must be protected, refugees must be harbored and immigrants welcomed, swords must be turned into plowshares, and God’s magnificent creation must be treated with the greatest awe and wonder. Each of these is a ‘life issue’, and since the resurrection of Jesus is about life – life overcoming death in all its ugly forms - each of them is also an Easter issue.
This is the Church and the Catholic Community of Pleasanton. We welcome those who want to be about living life to join us. Invite 2.0 is the key we want to hand you to open the door to living well. Join us to learn more about the meaning and experiences of faith and belief, religion and action. These gatherings are intended for those who have no real religious background or are seeking for some purposefulness. Join us on Wednesday April 11th from 7:30 – 9:00 PM at St. Elizabeth Seton Chapel. For more information, please go to www.invite2.org.
Let’s build up a real culture of life. This is what Easter does for us.
Fr. Paul Minnihan
March 25, 2018
My brothers and sisters,
We may not realize this, but we have just walked into a week of light and shadows. Holy Week is a week of contrasts.
Palm Sunday begins in triumph. This jubilant reception proves very short lived as it turns into conflict, rejection and suffering. You saw how quickly the joyous procession with the waving of palms in a triumphant welcome is in stark contrast to the trial, the condemnation and the cross.
Holy Thursday will bring its share of contrasts. The warmth and intimacy of a Supper shared by friends, punctuated by wondrous outpourings of humility and love in the washing of the feet will quickly turn into gut-wrenching agony in the loneliness of a garden where betrayal by a trusted friend will eclipse all feelings of warmth and intimacy, leaving them a distant memory.
And Good Friday? Even this most desolate of days will have its contrasts. The mindless cruelty of the Passion will be redeemed by selfless, self-emptying love that endures -- no, embraces -- the cross. The hands nailed to the cross will become the hands that bless.
And Easter? From the Great Vigil of Easter on Saturday night into Easter Sunday, we have a day without conflict or contrast. Easter will be joy – our lives are nourished by the waters of life and we are bathed in the warmth of His light. This experience is pure and joyful. It is a foretaste of what Jesus promised us – one with the Father, wrapped in the Holy Spirit; with Him forever.
Dear friends, this is what awaits us this week, the holiest of the Church’s year. The events of this week, the rituals and our worship is the homily. Words really are not so important. I invite you to participate in these celebrations. Easter needs to be celebrated in relationship to Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Come and experience how we celebrate who He is and who we are.
Brothers and sisters, remembering, retracing and reliving His journey can transform us. Make us new. Give us healing. Give us hope. Give us life.
March 18th, 2018
My brothers and sisters,
Compared to the other gospels, the Gospel According to John is VERY select in the choice of miracle stories. There are seven of these stories and “The Raising of Lazarus” is the sixth of seven. Like the other miracle stories in this Gospel, the invitation is to see the deeper value in the miracle of Lazarus. However, there is something MORE going on here than the raising of a dead man back to human life. That’s miraculous, of course, but there is something else going on. Among the many layers of this miracle story, I’d like us to consider Jesus’ temperament. Our Lord and Savior is having “a moment”.
Twice (John 11:33,38), we hear that Jesus is “perturbed”. As in many translations, the English term is a bit softer than the original Greek. In the original language, “perturbed” is better understood as “he became angry within himself”. What that means is that He is feeling more than disappointment, hurt, or upset. This is deep-seeded. He is perturbed by Martha and by extension some of the Jews, especially the
Martha is a believer, but she struggles with belief. I don’t believe that alone would cause Jesus to be perturbed. The areas where Martha struggles, however, is fundamental. The struggle is because of what Jesus did NOT do in her eyes. Her brother is dead, and all of this could have been prevented if Jesus would have dropped what he was doing and acted immediately. Where is the miracle worker when you need him? Martha professes belief in a “half -baked” manner at the same time. “Yes Lord,” she responds, “I’ve come to believe…” And there is so much doubt. Martha is anxious about many things. Before, when Jesus was over at her home for dinner, Martha was filled with anxiety that revealed itself in busyness. Now
she is equally busy second guessing how Jesus goes about his business.
What I have come to realize my brothers and sisters, is that just maybe Jesus is perturbed with me and that my unbelief pains him deeply. He wants for you and me what is right and true and life-giving. Rather than seeing what I believe is “life-giving” in what seems to be a hopeless situation, Jesus invites me to hope – to place my trust in the One who can do for me what I cannot do myself. Catholic Community of Pleasanton, he saves us. We need to trust that. Like Martha and Mary, we must remember that and live by that. Where we find ourselves is where we are invited to live and have life. When we try to run away from or control where we are, Jesus’ mission might well be impacted, and He becomes perturbed. In doing this, we die literally and figuratively. We simply die. He is inviting us to live in Him.
As we prepare to enter Holy Week next Sunday, let’s remember that Jesus is inviting us to trust in God as He did when He walked among us. That’s fundamental and what Martha was busy avoiding. He invited her and he invites us to a relationship of trust. That brings Jesus ultimate joy and so this will bring us ultimate joy. Lazarus was brought back to life; perhaps the miracle is that Martha grew to trust more deeply in Him, but she had to die to her safe skepticism to allow Jesus to accompany her. She accepted new life for herself. Any experience of death is an invitation to be opened-up to fuller and richer life. We need to trust that, too.
March 11th, 2018
Brothers and sisters,
This weekend we are accompanying Jesus in conversation with his disciples, the locals, the Pharisees and the man born blind. Here is the landscape for one of the great healing stories in John’s Gospel. The Man Born Blind is a powerful story and a long one. It still leaves a great deal unsaid. For instance, it doesn’t say a thing about what it was like for this man when he first opened his eyes. It must have been dazzling but confusing because he would have had absolutely no point of reference. He didn’t know light or color. Imagine, he had no idea what people looked like, or trees, or water, or flowers, or the sky. And then in a flash, he was surrounded by an infinity of newness.
We hear nothing of this because it’s not the concern of the gospel writer or the point of the great story. Remember, the Gospel according to John is a gospel of signs and symbols. That should tip us off to the fact that while we are hearing about a physical miracle, there is far more than that. In John’s Gospel, miracles are always signs that point beyond themselves, so we should dig a bit and get beyond the appearance of things because in John’s Gospel there is always more than meets the eye.
And what is that “more” in this story? It’s a kind of seeing that is deeper by far than physical sight. This story is not so much about the glorious things we see with these eyes as it is about the far more glorious things that we see with the eyes of faith. It’s about a man getting his eyes opened. The important eyes that get opened here are the eyes of faith. That’s why the Church gives us this story every year during Lent. Lent is the Church’s prime opportunity for growing in faith. Lent is meant to be eye-opening time for the Church, especially for those who are preparing for baptism at Easter.
For the next two weekends, we continue celebrating the Scrutinies with those who prepare for Baptism at Easter. While they have been slowly and deliberately preparing themselves, perhaps they teach us to be as deliberate and thoughtful with our own faith. We know that the blind man came to faith only in stages. Only gradually did he come to recognize who Jesus was and only gradually did he come to put his faith in Jesus. This is clear from the way the story unfolded. When the pesky neighbors first questioned him about how he got his sight, he told them it was from “the man called Jesus”. There’s a certain distance in that language – even detachment. Then, as the Pharisees grilled him, he referred to Jesus as “a prophet”, and then “a man from God”. There are stirrings of faith there. Later, when Jesus found him and engaged him in conversation, he called Jesus “the Son of Man” and finally, in an act of profound faith he called Jesus “Lord,” and he worshipped him. Coming to faith takes time and for those of us doing the work of Lent – especially those who we pray over during their last days of preparation for Easter Sacraments – it is important to remember the journey.
Faith is not a neatly packaged set of beliefs, a portable catechism we carry around with carefully crafted answers to every possible question. No, faith is a pair of eyes - a way of looking at life, a way of knowing, a way of living. And faith is never stagnant: it’s a growing thing. My friends, the blind man’s path to faith should give hope to all of us who are on a similar path -- all of us who believe, but not always very well, all of us who have our blind spots.
Let’s follow the man born blind. We need the One who gives us our true sight.
March 4th, 2018
Brothers and sisters,
Before looking further into the Season of Lent, we should look gratefully at this past week. On your behalf, I want to thank Fr. Chris Robinson, CM for the gift of the parish mission – “Faith, Not Fury”. We are thankful for his prayerfulness and thoughtfulness. As he jokingly said, “I’m just happy to be in California”. We were more than happy to open our doors, welcome him and receive the gifts that God invited him to share with us. He gave us what He had given him. With gratitude, we send him back to Chicago and DePaul University.
Now, we continue the desert journey of Lent. We have been praying, fasting and giving. Put in other words, Lent is a time for pruning to allow the space for new growth, and to yield to the cycle of life, death and resurrection in the unfolding evolution of God’s creation. This happens most notably when our Lenten experience is focused on others, rather than on us. The power of Lent is that it causes us to turn away from ourselves toward one another. We need witnesses to this standard of Christian living not only during the Season of Lent, but also throughout the year.
As we enter March, I am pleased to announce that the Catholic Community of Pleasanton will house an office for the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers at the St. Elizabeth Seton Campus. This decision was made in conjunction with Deacon Matt Dulka, the Associate Director of United States Church Engagement for Maryknoll. Deacon Matt and Kris East will be welcome members to the breadth of ministry leaders in Pleasanton.
This cooperation will prove to be an asset for the Catholic Community of Pleasanton. Their day to day presence will be a living witness to outreach activities grounded in Catholic Social Teaching. They will be a great resource for “Living” right and well at our parish and for the Social Justice committee, in particular. Already, we are considering some great opportunities for the parish to engage in “hands-on” local and global solidarity. Many of you have heard me say that as Catholic Christians we must share ourselves as Christ shared himself. Christ gave us His life so we might live; we need to give ours, too, so that others can live. Maryknoll will assist us to look at creative ways to do this as the 21st century unfolds and as demographics in Pleasanton and the surrounding valley shift.
Finally, these next weeks are the final days of preparation for members of our community who will be baptized, confirmed and receive First Eucharist (Communion) at Easter. They have been on a beautiful journey and they come to this time when they ask for all that hinders them from receiving Christ to be stripped away. Now is the time for them to have any and all darkness in their lives removed as they joyously await the Light of Christ. Those to be baptized will be going through “scrutinies”. These men and women will look deep within, scrutinizing their intentions before us. They are not walking blindly into the Easter Sacraments. This is a level of commitment that we should all mirror.
Together, let us keep walking through these days of praying, fasting and giving. We go forward journeying toward Easter.
February 25th, 2018
We need REALLY to pray for everyone affected by this tragedy. Let us pray that actions be taken to safeguard the sanctity of all life. This same prayer needs to be our conversation with God when we live with the rough patches and great difficulties of our daily lives. We need to turn to God and not walk away in anger.
Faith, Not Fury: Religious Belief in a Time of Tension, Division and Confusion is the title of our Parish Mission that begins Monday. Sessions are held in the morning at 9:30 AM at St. Augustine Church and in the evening at 7:30 PM at St. Elizabeth Seton Church. The mission continues Tuesday and Wednesday keeping the same schedule.
Here are the touchstones of the Parish Mission. Jesus invites us to be real and to be filled with faith. In the midst of what seems to be recurring cycles of tension, anger, sadness and uncertainties in our everyday lives, we will examine the importance of our beliefs as a way forward. We will spend time learning how to identify our current “faith locations”. After identifying “where we are”, a variety of options will emerge for addressing our fears, furies, joys and consolations. This will be achieved through scriptural, spiritual and other sources for strengthening personal and communal faith.
Fr. Chris Robinson, CM is our mission leader. Chris was ordained in 1989 and he has broad background in religious education and Catholic Theology. He teaches at DePaul University in Chicago and serves as Catholic Campus Minister at DePaul and as pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Chicago. We welcome Chris to Pleasanton and we look forward to his reflections and the time he will spend with our community.
See you at the mission…
February 18th, 2018
My brothers and sisters,
As Lent begins, I’m reminded of something Pope Francis said:
“Lent is a new beginning, a path leading to the certain goal of Easter, Christ’s victory over death. This season urgently calls us to conversion. Christians are asked to return to God “with all their hearts,” to refuse to settle for mediocrity and to grow in friendship with the Lord. Jesus is the faithful friend who never abandons us.”
I believe we all yearn for a deeper relationship with the Lord and we are given a wonder opportunity to do just that through prayer, fasting and charity -- the three pillars of the Season of Lent.
Put a Prayer in front of me and I can “recite” it or I can go to church and pray with others. BUT--can I make prayer an important part of my relationship with the Lord? DO I know how to talk with the Lord? DO I know how to just be still and listen to Him? A young man came to see me the other day and asked me how to pray. That’s a great question! I asked him to write a letter to the Lord. In the letter, list what you hope for others and not for yourself. Write about those you love and write kindly about those who do not “love” you. Ask for God’s insight to guide your love to be as authentic as His love for you. That is not an easy task for anyone. When done, that letter will reveal some action that you might need to be about. This is prayer in action. It’s not something read; this is something you can do – love.
Fasting is one of the most ancient practices linked to Lent. In fact, fasting predates Lent as we know it. Fasting is more than a deliberate attempt to gain self-control. It is often an aid to prayer, as the pangs of hunger remind us of our hunger for God who is our true Food and Drink. Fasting should be linked to our concern for those who are forced to fast by their poverty, those who suffer from the injustices of our economic and political structures, those who are in need for any reason. Fasting is linked to living out our Baptismal promises. By our Baptism, we are charged with the responsibility of showing Christ's love to the world, especially to those in need. Fasting can help us realize the suffering that so many people in our world experience every day and it should lead us to greater efforts to alleviate that suffering. Fasting puts us in touch with our hunger for God and in justice, frees resources to share with others. This sharing shows to the world the same charity and justice God has first shown us.
It should be obvious at this point that justice and Charity (almsgiving) are linked to our Baptismal commitment in the same way. It is a sign of our care for those in need and an expression of our gratitude for all that God has given to us. Works of charity and the promotion of justice are essential elements of our way of life we began when we were baptized.
As our Pope Francis says so beautifully, “Lent is the favorable season for renewing our encounter with Christ, living in his word, in the sacraments and in our neighbor. The Lord, who overcame the deceptions of the Tempter during the forty days in the desert, shows us the path we must take. May the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of conversion, so that we can rediscover the gift of God’s word, be purified of the sin that blinds us, and serve Christ present in our brothers and sisters in need.”
It’s about prayer…It’s about fasting…. It’s about charity. Let’s Lent.
February 11th, 2018
My brothers and sisters,
This Wednesday, we begin the Season of Lent. Holy Day of Obligation or not (it’s not), the Catholic Community of Pleasanton’s churches will be packed. This is a good thing. Perhaps the heart and spirit understands better than the head because more people go to church on Ash Wednesday than on any other day of the year, including Christmas. There’s something about those ashes and their imaginative meaning.
My brothers and sisters, ashes are gritty, primal, emblematic and speak the language of the soul. Something inside each of us knows exactly why we take the ashes. We know who and whose we are. If we are able to accept that, then we know we are dust. Ashes are dust and dust is soil, humus; humanity and humility come from that root. Ashes have always been a major symbol within many religions. To put on ashes, to sit in ashes, is to say publicly and to ourselves that we are reflecting on the caliber of life. There is some important work going on silently inside of you and me. We need to pause and take note. This is no longer “Ordinary Time”. For many of us, this is not comfortable – to deal with the quiet of this time, to face the “real” reality of sin and death. This is not a time and season for celebration. Yet, we want to go to church to be uplifted and to find happiness. We are a Church of resurrection and love, after all. If you want NOT to walk this truth, you are free to bypass reality.
It is by dealing with the truth of the dust that we find real and true happiness. There, life emerges. That being said, some of us will wipe those ashes off as soon as we leave church; others will wear those ashes like a badge of honor, never wanting to leave the dust. Between those two extremities are as many experiences of ashes as those who receive the dust. We are all dealing with dust differently depending upon where we find ourselves. Each and every one of us at The Catholic Community of Pleasanton is finding his or her way. We are getting “real” with the dust.
Such is the case in my own life. I have encountered the ashes at different “times and seasons” in my own life. When I was at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland – I was focused more on solidarity with those who visited us seeking health care and legal assistance. It was a very eye-opening reality, day in and day out. The levels of accompaniment that were required seemed overwhelming at times. In the end, the ashes were a mark of solidarity with the lived reality of these men, women and children.
Last Ash Wednesday, I was not with you in Pleasanton. I was given the “time and season” to sit in the dust of my own life that had been burned and reduced to ashes. The dust was a gift. It was as if truth was emerging from the burning timbers of my own doing—certain dreams, a sense of power over my life and a sense of my own goodness and adequacy. That was where God asked me to sit in the dust. This year, God is taking me to the dust that will be signed on my forehead. He’s going to want me to let the dust stay with me; he wants me to be with the dust. There I will sit in the dust differently than before. What does that means this year? I cannot tell you. Like past years, this is to be revealed. I just need to trust the dust.
This Ash Wednesday, weather you worship at St. Augustine or St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, take time to let God direct you to sit in the dust of the ashes. Don’t be too quick to wash away who you are. Realize that everyone around you is experiencing what you are, and differently. We are all on the same journey and each of us is living it differently. We need to respect that and support each other through these 40 days of dust.
When we do this well and take our time, out of the dust will come the celebration and resurrection.
Let’s be Lent…
February 4th, 2018
Brothers and sisters,
Over the past months, those of us who have the privilege to preach at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton have made mention of the importance of how we use language. This is especially the case in social media – in the brevity of a tweet, a Facebook post or even in a quick text. Unfortunately, this has translated into common day patterns of speech and misunderstandings and upset are often the result.
It would be very easy to point to the sociopolitical conversation today and name that as the problem – Pleasanton, Sacramento, Washington, United Nations… It’s easy to point the finger. In many cases, the more I point the finger, the angrier I become. In my own life, when I push issues away, they keep coming back. However, the return might be an invitation to look at ourselves. When I do, I begin to calm down. Anxiety and fear decrease and accountability for my own life increases. And so it is with how we speak and the language we use with one another.
We need to be careful about our use of language. Can we speak generously and clearly? Kindly and honestly? How do we use language around our families, especially our kids? How do we speak about those with whom we have disagreements? Can we only speak with those who agree with our assessments of anything or anyone?
On World Communication Day for the Catholic Church, Pope Francis penned a letter inviting us to consider how we communicate. We need to get away from “Breaking News” in order to look at issues clearly and thoughtfully. While his letter is addressed to journalists, I found it helpful as we all look at how to better communicate deliberately, thoughtfully and charitably.
Here is Pope Francis’ adaptation of the Prayer of St. Francis…
Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Help us to recognize the evil latent in a communication that does not build communion.
Help us to remove the venom from our judgements.
Help us to speak about others as our brothers and sisters.
You are faithful and trustworthy; may our words be seeds of goodness for the world:
where there is shouting, let us practice listening;
where there is confusion, let us inspire harmony;
where there is ambiguity, let us bring clarity;
where there is exclusion, let us offer solidarity;
where there is sensationalism, let us use sobriety;
where there is superficiality, let us raise real questions;
where there is prejudice, let us awaken trust;
where there is hostility, let us bring respect;
where there is falsehood, let us bring truth.
Maybe this is a good way to start the day with morning prayer…
January 28th, 2018
Although I don’t make resolutions with the beginning of each new year, I always ask God to help me be grateful for the blessings in my life and to live joyfully. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But as many of us have been experiencing firsthand, it isn’t. It seems that everywhere we turn there is something that causes us to pause in our search for joy. The Catholic Community of Pleasanton is no exception. Recently, we have celebrated some monumental and powerful funerals; so many in such a short period of time. So much sadness as we struggle to commend them to God. Many of you have approached me wanting that joy in your hearts; asking how to be joyful during times such as these. We have even been talking about this very thing at the January Adult Education series. Perhaps it’s good to post what Pope Francis penned a few years ago on what we can do to bring some “Ordinary” joy into our lives.
1. Live and Let Live
All of us will live longer and more happily if we stop trying to arrange other peoples’ lives. Jesus challenged us not to judge but to live with the tension and let God and history make the judgments. So live we need to live by own convictions and let others do the same.
2. Be Giving Of Yourself To Others
Happiness lies in giving ourselves away. We need to be open and generous because if we withdraw into ourselves we run the risk of becoming self-centered and no happiness will be found there since “stagnant water becomes putrid.”
3. Proceed Calmly
Move with kindness, humility, and calm. These are the antithesis of anxiety and distress. Calm never causes high blood pressure. We need to make conscious efforts to never let the moment cause panic and excessive hurry. Rather be late than stressed.
4. A Healthy Sense Of Leisure
Never lose the pleasures of art, literature, and playing with children. Remember that Jesus scandalized others with his capacity to enjoy life in all its sensuousness. We don’t live by work alone, no matter how important and meaningful it might be.
5. Sundays Should Be Holidays
Workers should have Sundays off because Sunday is for family. Accomplishment, productivity, and speed may not become our most valued commodities, or we will begin to take everything for granted, our lives, our health, our families, our friends, those around us, and all the good things in life. That is why God gave us a commandment to keep the Sabbath holy. This is not a lifestyle suggestion, but a commandment as binding as not killing. Moreover, if we are employers, the commandment demands too that we give our employees proper Sabbath-time.
6. Find Innovative Ways To Create Dignified Jobs For Young People
If you want to bless a young person, don’t just tell that person that he or she is wonderful. Don’t just admire youthful beauty and energy. Give a young person your
job! Or, at least, work actively to help him or her find meaningful work. This will both bless that young person and bring a special happiness to your own life.
7. Respect And Take Care Of Nature
The air we breathe out is the air we will re-inhale. This is true spiritually, psychologically, and ecologically. We can’t be whole and happy when Mother Earth is
being stripped of her wholeness. Christ came to save the world, not just the people in the world. Our salvation, like our happiness, is tied to the way we treat the earth. It is immoral to slap another person in the face and so it is immoral too to throw our garbage into the face of Mother Earth.
8. Stop Being Negative
Needing to talk badly about others indicates low self-esteem. Negative thoughts feed unhappiness and a bad self-image. Positive thoughts feed happiness and healthy self-esteem.
9. Don’t Proselyte, Respect Others’ Beliefs
What we cherish and put our faith into grows “by attraction, not by proselytizing”. Beauty is the one thing that no one can argue with. Cherish your values, but always act towards others with graciousness, charity, and respect.
10. Work For Peace
Peace is more than the absence of war and working for peace means more than not causing disharmony. Peace, like war, must be waged actively by working for justice, equality, and an ever-wider inclusivity in terms of what makes up our family. Waging peace is the perennial struggle to stretch hearts, our own and others, to accept that in God’s house there are many rooms and that all faiths, not least our own, are meant to be a house of prayer for all peoples.
Let’s all of us take some advice from Pope Francis and do what we can to live joyfully.
January 21st, 2018
My brothers and sisters,
Last week, I made mention of getting back to the “Ordinary” things of life. Today, I’d like to consider another obvious yet not so obvious aspect of what should be ordinary. Wouldn’t it be amazing if generosity was something ordinary? It is, after all, part of our nature as we come from God. When I look at my lifetime, I have seen this generosity in action. From my youngest days to today, what always amazes me is the joy that I can see in the generous giver.
I witness that generosity at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton. In so many ways, I am amazed at the quiet giving that is characteristic of so many of you. What also gives me grateful pause is the motivation. It’s not just the “giving, even when that “giving” can provide you or me with benefit. There are fundamental reasons behind the generosity that reflect Christian stewardship. I want to commend you for that kind of thoughtfulness and free giving.
In my life, there are times when I am not as thoughtful and when I need to ask myself if I need to assess my giving. Oftentimes, what stalls my generosity is fear. Will I have enough or what do I give up in order to give? Because of this, whether I am poor or not, I tend to work out of a sense of scarcity, fearing always that I don’t have enough, that there isn’t enough, that I can’t afford to be too generous and that I need to be careful in what I give away.
God invites us to consider reality as He made it. God is prodigal, abundant, generous and wasteful beyond our small fears and imaginations. I have never met a truly generous man or woman who didn’t say that they received more in return than they gave out. And I have never met a truly bighearted person who lived out of a sense of
scarcity. To be generous and big-hearted, we have to trust first in God’s abundance and generosity. From there, we act accordingly…
You may have noticed over the last months that the landscape at St. Augustine Church received an overhaul. There are new indigenous plantings, additional benches to create an atmosphere of welcome, drip irrigation to water appropriately and prudently. There is some statuary to come as well as we work with artists. All that was done is because of a family’s generosity. Parishioners approached me wanting to give back to the parish for all that they receive from the parish. This is a visible sign of how so many in our community exercise stewardship and generous giving. There are countless others.
You will be hearing about other families as we go forward who give quietly and with a large heart. My brothers and sisters, it’s not the amount of the gift; it’s the attitude that motivates the giver to give the gift. As we are in these “Ordinary” weeks, consider your own patterns of giving and generosity. It’s in our nature to be rather ordinary. It is in our nature to be generous and giving.
God blesses the cheerful giver…
January 14th, 2018
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In the blink of an eye, the Christmas Season arrived, we celebrated New Years and the Christmas Season departed. Now, we have just less than a month in the Season of Ordinary Time. Blink again and we will be in the Season of Lent. It seems quite maddening and while this is an early beginning for Lent, it is not as early as it could be.
Of course, the beginning of the Season of Lent revolves around how we determine Easter. For those of you interested, Easter falls on the first Sunday following the first ecclesiastical full moon after the day of the vernal equinox, which is fixed as March 21st (it’s a bit more complicated, but for the sake of brevity, this is what’s important).
Back to this quick sojourn we will take in the Season of Ordinary Time. It seems easy to miss both the season and its intent. The term “Ordinary Time” sounds bland to us, even as we long for precisely what it is meant to bring.
We have precious little “ordinary time” in our lives. As our lives grow more pressured, more tired, and more restless, perhaps more than anything else we long for “ordinary time.” Like you, I would like some quiet, routine, solitude and space away from the hectic pace of life. For many of us the very expression “ordinary time” draws forth a sigh along with the question: “What’s that? When did I last have ‘ordinary time’ in my life?” For many of us, “ordinary time” means mostly hurry and pressure, “the rat race” and “the treadmill.”
Many things in our lives conspire against “ordinary time”; not just the busyness that robs us of leisure, but also the heartaches, obsessions, loss of health or other interruptions to the ordinary that make a mockery of normal routine and rhythm, robbing us of even the sense of “ordinary time.” So…..how to make some “ordinary” in the midst of crazy? For me, it’s early morning time before everyone else is awake. That is when I ground myself in my ordinariness. That’s when I pray, get grounded and focus on the day. Does that require discipline? Yes! I’m up between 4:45 AM and 5:00 AM. I need to be to remain ordinary. Maybe that’s not the time of day for you, but perhaps you need to make that space in your day before you too utter the, “What’s that?” regarding ordinary time.
So, in this next month, I want to issue the invitation to make some Ordinary Time and include the stabilizing and regular practice of mass attendance in this Season of Ordinary Time. We need the ordinary stuff and that’s what this Season of Ordinary Time is all about.
Make the Ordinary happen…
January 7th, 2018
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
One of the greatest misconceptions of my life was assuming that once I had my degree in-hand that was it – no more classes! That was a very short-lived assumption as I quickly learned that in this fast-changing world of ours, learning can never stop. In fact, my employers required that I regularly participate in continuing education courses in order to keep current on the latest findings and to maintain a competitive edge in my field. This is the reality for most of us. Education is a lifelong process!
But we can’t look at continuing education as something that only affects our secular lives. We need to apply it also to our spiritual lives. For many of us and for various reasons, our “formal” Catholic education ended when we were in our teens and won’t grow or mature unless we take it upon ourselves to do something about it.
We at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton are blessed with many opportunities throughout the year to grow and mature in our spirituality, whether it be through Bible Study, Parish Missions, discussion groups or our annual January Adult Education Series. We are not lacking for opportunities!
This year’s January Adult Education series is entitled: Breaking the Barrier, Building the Bridge: Being a Christian in the Tri-Valley. Our facilitators are Deacon Matt Dulka and Carolyn Trumble of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers – both are dynamic speakers and motivators!
In the season of resolutions, let’s begin this year being resolved to grow and mature our Christian spirituality – Join us.
Our four-week Adult Education series begins January 11th at 7:30 PM at St. Elizabeth Seton Church.
Please see the back of the bulletin or the website for more details.
Looking forward to seeing you there.
December 31st, 2017
My brothers and sisters,
We continue to rejoice and give Glory to God in the highest heaven; we pray and build peace on earth. That resounding Christmas message must continue to echo and reverberate. We give thanks for everything given to us by Him, especially the gift of His son – Jesus our Savior. We take up Jesus’ mission to bring peace into our everyday living, keeping this at the forefront of our minds as we enter 2018. Happy New Year!
Throughout the month of December – actually, even before the last month of the year, if truth be told – I have been “giving thanks” for so many of you who from the smallest to largest acts continue to live life meaningfully. It’s in sharing and giving from the heart that one finds true freedom. We experienced this last weekend as a symphony of ministers came together to bring life to the 4th Sunday of Advent and the Christmas rituals of the Church.
It is impossible for me to go through a litany of thanks for everyone. Instead, I would like to give gratitude to some who do unrecognized liturgical ministry – at Christmas and throughout the year. They are on the “periphery” of ministry. By thanking them, I want to thank all of you. Here are some we need to thank…
Imagine what it is like to clean the Church after any Mass? After the weekend Masses? Consider the churches between and after Christmas Masses? In short, the churches are a mess! There are volunteers who pick up everything left behind and prepare the churches for those who are to come. They fashion the clean church that is part of a welcoming environment. To keep clean our Houses of Worship is no small task. More remarkable, what they do is done patiently and quietly and we need to thank them for this immense service.
Ever thought about doing not only your own laundry but also church laundry? Think about how many linens we go through on any given Sunday with eight Masses. That’s a great deal of linen that needs to be washed, whitened, ironed and folded. Now, multiply the laundering of linens on Christmas – to prepare an infinite number of linens for Christmas and to clean them afterward. There is no recognition and no visibility for doing this humble ministry. Yet, it is essential and most of us take it for granted. We want to thank them for this quiet service. Like all things done to give glory to Him in secret, there is a very loving and deserved reward.
To create a space for good worship requires an environment that reflects the season. It helps to have a keen eye and a thoughtful vision to create the austerity of the Season of Advent on the one hand and the grandiosity of Christmas on the other. That vision is brought to life by those who engage in this ministry and this is no easy ministry. The members of this ministry do not go unnoticed like the ministries I mentioned above; in this case, what is given as a gift is noticed by everyone. What is more, “everyone” is prone to comment. To one parishioner who commented, I responded, “there is no barking from the bleachers.” These ministers, at times, find themselves on the periphery. Maybe a word of gratitude to those who do this “heavy lift” is of the first order. Thank you for an incredible service rendered.
By thanking those in these “peripheral” ministries, I want to thank everyone who shared of their time, talent and treasures throughout 2017 and especially during the blur of the 4th Sunday of Advent/Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. There was a great deal of sharing, giving and service going on at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton!!!
I also want to use this occasion to invite so many not engaged in ministry to consider sharing your gifts with the Catholic Community of Pleasanton. Metaphorically and literally speaking we need to clean the church, to clean linens and to create a suitable environment where we worship the Lord. We need to add to the members of our active symphony. We need to take good care of what God has given us. Take hold of this invitation to engage in ministry. Make it a New Year resolution.
For all of you who remembered the priests and deacons at Christmas, we are grateful. We give glory to God, we build peace and we give thanks. There is so very much for which I am grateful.
Happy New Year!
December 24th, 2017
My brothers and sisters,
We remember the words of the Prophet Isaiah: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
It seems far-fetched that God would want to come to this earth through the word of a prophet and ultimately as He really and truly is. Looking at the darkness of the natural and inflicted violence that has plagued us this past year, we need to remind ourselves that He has experienced everything we have. He is the way that gives light for us. In fact, He is the light that can overcome any and all darkness. It is His light that reminds us and inspires us to be the best of who we are, to support our brothers and sisters without prejudice or judgement—when the needs of others compel us to act with no self-interest. We do this because of Christmas and what it really means to us as Catholic Christians.
We need to connect Christ to Christmas—to lay down the Christmas-to-do list and receive what Jesus has done for us. Now is the time to give of ourselves. This is how we, by living and acting as our Savior Jesus did, will heal the anxiety or depression that so many of us are feeling during these troubled times. Embrace the God of Light
who is always near us, always for us, and always in us.
If you belong to another religious tradition or if you are seeking at this time in your life, consider how Jesus lived and found his fundamental purpose in virtuous living. For me, that means that He was principled! He made life choices on principles and did not get caught in the sways of popularity, trends or counter-trends. None of that moved him. Jesus understood that you need to build upon bedrock and not upon shifting sands. He shares that message of value with us and we celebrate His birth. It’s about finding meaning by sharing your life so that others can live; it’s about allowing others to share their life with you so that you can live.
My brothers and sisters, Jesus will bring to fulfillment all that was promised to us—life and light, peace and hope. There will be no more death and darkness, rage and hopelessness. This Christmas, we will let Him do for us what He has promised for every man and woman in every generation. Join us and celebrate Him!
On behalf of the leadership at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton—St. Augustine Church and St. Elizabeth Seton Church, I wish you and your families a very blessed Christmas.
In His Light,
Fr. Paul Minnihan - Pastor
December 17th, 2017
My brothers and sisters,
During my preaching on the First Sunday of Advent, I mentioned as one possible spiritual exercise for the season, a gratitude list. I do that daily and it changes day to day. On this day, I would like to name some of those for whom we, as a parish, are grateful.
We have had a tremendous season of giving at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton. I am always very grateful for the broad involvement of so many – from the youngest to the oldest. It is good and right to remember that regardless of how much I have, I am called to share authentically and deliberately. To the multitude, I thank you for your generosity.
Last weekend as the Giving Tree sleighs were loaded in the parking lot at St. Augustine for delivery, Santa was in St. Augustine Hall having breakfast with the youngest of our parish. While at St. Elizabeth Seton, there was an expanse of beautiful and unique nativity scenes to be seen. To the Knights of Columbus and members of the Italian Catholic Federation, respectively, thank you for all the time and energy you provide to prepare and celebrate these events for the Catholic Community of Pleasanton and the Tri-Valley. We are so grateful for your kindness.
Also, this past week, we celebrated Mass for Our Lady of Guadalupe and Simbang Gabi. Each celebration was filled with great energy and ethnic folklore, which enriches these celebrations tremendously. And what compliments a festival celebration of Mass? Food! To all those who prepared for these celebrations and the receptions filled with food and fellowship, our parish is grateful.
And just a couple of days ago, we gathered at St. Elizabeth Seton for our Christmas Concert. As always, a great deal of gratitude to the choirs and soloists for sharing the gift of their voices and for the time spent in rehearsals, rehearsals and rehearsals. We are appreciative of the accompanists who over the course of many years we have come to know. To one and all who made the concert a great success, I want to express the parish’s gratitude.
And as we prepare our hearts for Christmas, let us remember the importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession). We had great celebrations of First Reconciliation for the kids in Faith Formation and we celebrated with our youth and young families on December 15th. This Thursday evening, December 21st, we will celebrate reconciliation at St. Augustine Church at 7:30pm. There will be a large number of priests joining us. I invite you to make time for where we need to spend time. Join us at St. Augustine on the 21st to experience mercy, kindness and wisdom that comes from Jesus, our Savior.
Finally, it’s hard to imagine, but next weekend is the Fourth Sunday of Advent/ Christmas Eve and Christmas Day is on Monday. We have been preparing, watching and waiting. Join us to celebrate what God has done for us for no other reason than to reveal the depth of His love – love is forgiving and love forecasts what is right. Let’s not take that for granted. Let us be mindful that we need to share and spread
that same love in word and action. We need to share the truth of Christmas with the ones we love and with the stranger, as well, who often go forgotten. Join us as we do that next weekend at St. Augustine and St. Elizabeth Seton. The schedule is inside the bulletin.
Going back to being grateful. For whom am I grateful for? I am grateful for all of you. In gratitude, let us all continue to prepare for the highway of the Lord to come at Christmas.
December 10th, 2017
My brothers and sisters,
I love the Advent readings from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah –I never tire of praying with them and I look forward to hearing them proclaimed at Mass. From Sunday, December 10th:
A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
the rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
Said in different words, God will drive straight through crooked ways. To that, we all can utter – “Sure, Fr. Paul.” But, let’s pause. Do you believe that? Do I believe that? Do we REALLY believe that? Real Judeo Christian/Catholic faith doesn’t base itself upon our accomplishments. Instead, faith is based upon our trust in God even before His designs are made visible. Faith is required before God’s accomplishments are brought to light. Then, to have faith is to deal with the dark – to recognize and deal with the dark areas of our lives and where we live. After all, it is right through that “crooked way,” that the Lord will pave His highway. Think about John the Baptist or the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Lord chose to speak through marginalized people in a rugged and rough place. This is imperative for us to remember. Our danger is to sanitize the biblical stories and forget their grittiness. Even worse, we can become indifferent to their wake-up call. We need to be careful not to make Advent almost fairytale-like or a beautiful and poetic read. These stories are, in part, crooked.
John the Baptist, the voice in the wilderness, was considered a rather peripheral figure back in the day. Today, he would bring upset to the Tri-Valley. Put in other words, Pleasanton Police would be watching him. Equally good to remember is that the Virgin Mary was likely recognized as a societal outcast and saw herself as one, too. The judgement rendered on her so-called lifestyle, would be shady and crooked, too.
These Advent stories really remind us that Jesus’ landing in the world was not on a pre-existing eight lane highway running through the Middle East with an exit sign for Bethlehem. The road was a rather crooked one where people were struggling to be true to God’s design for their lives – like John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary. Their culture distanced them and isolated them which is short-sighted (crooked). Somehow, they had faith that God WILL mark the straight path through the crooked lines. And to be clear, both John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary stood before God, too. They wanted their lives to be part of His highway too and avoid getting taken in by the dark valley or the rugged land or the rough country… by the crooked way. Don’t we all?
I would invite us to use this Season of Advent to realize that the Lord will speak to us in the crooked ways. We need to deal with these crooked ways honestly and caringly. In our own lives and in the culture where we live, when we deal, He will pave His highway of life right through it. That is good for us to remember – let this real belief govern how we live our day to day lives and treat people and situations where we find ourselves. What we overlook may be the place where God sees His potential pathway. He needs us to cooperate. We need eyes to see and ears to hear. We may need to look in places we would rather not see and listen to things we do not want to hear.
Let’s keep Adventing…
December 3rd, 2017
My brothers and sisters,
We begin the Season of Advent with a great deal happening in the Tri-Valley. Life and living it well is not easy, especially for our less fortunate brothers and sisters. Not only does this need to be discussed, but actual concrete assistance needs to be provided. The Catholic Community of Pleasanton has always been and continues to be exceedingly generous, recognizing that “there but for the grace of God go I.” In this season, we continue our CCOP tradition of “giving”, “serving” and “sharing”, so that this community and our extended community can take steps to live together in Christ making His values ours. We share the graces that God has given us.
Last weekend, I expressed my gratitude for so much “giving” from our Parish. This behavior is a tangible sign of who we are at our core. It’s more than a good act; these acts flow from the goodness of our core in Christ. We do these things because of who we are. So, thank you for…
The North Bay Fire Victims
The North Bay fires directly affected ten of the families CCOP has adopted. They have lost their homes and their needs are basic and profound. Gift cards will allow them to buy the items that are most needed at the moment.
Wish List Specialty Items
Take a look at the items at www.signupgenius.com/go/9040e48adaa2ba64-ccop2 and consider selecting an item that adopted family members have on their wish lists. You can also find this link on the website.
We are the righteousness of God alive in the world and in the Tri-Valley. We live this by “giving,” “serving” and “sharing”.
November 26th, 2017
My brothers and sisters,
I hope that you and yours had a blessed gathering for Thanksgiving. The dishes are done and now we begin the next preparations. Let’s face it…exhale, Christmas is just around the corner! I have my “to-do” list and I am sure that you have yours. But if truth be told, I probably need to put down my list and pick up the preparations that the Church invites us to be about till midday December 24th. We are in the Season of Advent.
The Scripture during Advent provides us with some great companions. We will walk with the Prophet Isaiah, King David, Nathan, St. Paul and of course, the Blessed Virgin Mary. However, this season of Advent I’m choosing to walk with the peripheral personality of John the Baptist. He was no wall flower but a very strong and commanding presence who prepared the way. His was the invitation to make crooked ways straight. John was one who never wanted recognition – to “stand out” – but he pointed to the One who would be recognized. It’s amazing actually how much we do “Stand Out” when we don’t draw attention to ourselves.
When John the Baptist walks with me, he says, “Paul, let’s take an inventory of your life and let’s look at what’s on your pathway. His invitation to me, my brothers and sisters, is not only to acknowledge my sin but also experience true conversion by taking those hard steps to turn from what is dark and to bask in the light. I need to straighten out what is crooked and I need to do the work. This takes time; it’s about the preparation.
During Advent and for a good part of 2018, we will be actively hearing proclamations from the Gospel according to St. Mark. Next week, we hear the beginning of this Gospel. It opens by saying, "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” So far…so good. Then, almost immediately, the Gospel records how John the Baptist turns up the heat. Repent and open up the pathway for the coming of the Lord. In John the Baptist’s journey with me, he asks me to look at how I have moved away from God. John’s call is not meant to be belittling; instead his summons is meant to point us in His direction. The Holy Spirit points out that we have a God who forgives. We hear God say, "Comfort, comfort … your sins are now forgiven" (Isaiah 40:1,2). The real gift of the season of preparation – Advent – is to be comforted because we want to make ready our lives to receive our savior and redeemer. We need to begin…
Let us take this opportunity to look deeply into our lives as individuals and as God’s people. Let’s commit ourselves to Sunday Mass each week. We will have opportunities during the next weeks to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) each Saturday afternoon from 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. at St. Augustine Church as well as the Communal Reconciliation Celebrations on Saturday, December 16th and on Thursday the 21st. During this time of preparation, John the Baptist might be interested in our Christmas Concert on December 15th at 7:30 p.m. at St. Elizabeth Seton Church. Perhaps you might want to join us.
May the Season of Advent provide the opportunity to make our first priority the coming of the Lord in ourselves… in our relationship with others… in relationship with God.
November 19th, 2017
My brothers and sisters,
Over the last month, I have been in a number of different conversations about being a deliberate Christian. How does one go about exercising faith in the world without proselytizing on the one hand or watering down “The Word” to a tweet or a FB billboard on the other hand? To find the middle ground or the right mix is about the integration of faith and service. It’s about sharing the fruits of prayer with others in loving action. While the pursuit of justice and charity are virtuous, they must be grounded for us in our faith. Our actions flow out of and back to our relationship with God and our conversation with God (prayer). When this happens, the measure of our real compassion lies not in our service to those on the margins, but only in our willingness to see ourselves in kinship with them. And that kinship is fostered by following Jesus, listening to Jesus, receiving Jesus and sharing him. The real miracles were his willingness to align himself with the tax collector, the blind, the lame, the woman at a well, the prostitute or the Samaritan of the day. Those women and men were his kin.
For all of us at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton, this is justice and charity through the eyes of evangelization. For us, it can only be through the eyes of evangelization. When I was pastor in another parish, a phenomenal woman who pursued justice with every fiber of her being told me that “evangelization” got in to the way of projects and slowed down the action. My response was that to do good
things without taking that to prayer and bringing that back to the work misses the mark of our Christian faith. The prayer reminds me that I am in relationship with
God through people and in relationship with people through God. Evangelization is the engine for justice and charity. These actions are first and foremost about encounters with people. After all, if these are God’s designs for what is right and good and not our own, we need to be in relationship. Perhaps that type of relational presence is itself a required condition in acts of justice and charity. This is required before we “do anything.”
I am not a fan of the expression, “you don’t know someone until you have walked in their shoes.” My brothers and sisters, that just does not work. I can’t walk in your shoes; you cannot walk in mine. But, I can learn from and relate to people. By doing this, what seems so “other” draws so much closer. How? Presence becomes the tool of evangelization.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola, 16th century founder of the Jesuits, left the world a great treasure in his Spiritual Exercises. Ignatius realized that we are to “find God in all things.” This process is evolutionary in three progressions: (1) the call to make all life choices in relation to the “end” for which we are created; (2) the process of the discernment of spirits to guide the interpretation of the movement of our hearts within the dynamics of choice; and (3) the understanding of the unity in all things. When we evolve in this way, justice and charity become the basis of our living before God. It was St. Theresa of Calcutta (Mother Theresa) in the slums of India that said: “I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.”
To evangelize is to be a community of welcome and to realize that justice and charity are about our relationship with God and each other.
November 12th, 2017
My brothers and sisters, For over 25 years, families from the Catholic Community of Pleasanton have generously participated in our GIVING TREE ministry. The GIVING TREE ministry is one of our charity and justice opportunities serving some of our parish family and the broader community. Our GIVING TREE ministry focuses on providing much needed gifts to those who may be experiencing a crisis in their lives. This affords the spirit of giving to touch their lives. This year, we have adopted 450 families.
The next two weekends, you can adopt one of these families at St. Augustine and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church. As you can well imagine, family size varies in number. There are families of four, five and six persons. There are larger families of seven, eight, nine and even ten members. For the larger families, consider joining with other families in our parish to adopt them. We also encourage parishioners to donate items such as bicycles with helmets, strollers and car seats. The GIVING TREE ministry also appreciates monetary gifts which will be applied to the purchase of some of the items I just listed.
There are also a few families we wish to adopt who are living through the horrific effects of the wildfires in the North Bay. As you can imagine, their needs are simple and most profound. They are in need of basic household items – furniture and appliances, for example. If you are interested in adopting one of these families, please contact me or Roxanne Rasmussen directly.
When you talk with one of our GIVING TREE ministers at the main entrances of either Church, you will receive a packet with detailed instructions on the purchase and packaging of gifts for our families. All gifts will need to be bundled together and placed in the large bags provided in your packet. Just follow those instructions. All gifts should be delivered to the rectory garage at St. Augustine by December 9th.
It is impossible to ignore the fragile state of the world, our country and our local community. There are so many families who are in critical situations. We have the opportunity to live out the call to give. Faith in Jesus Christ compels us to follow his lead. He gave generously to the point of giving His life. May we adopt these families and give so that they too may live with a spark of light. Let us be a giving tree that provides light and hope, which is so necessary today.
I am very appreciative of all you do.
November 5th, 2017
My brothers and sisters,
You have heard me say that one of the greatest challenges in a parish our size is to communicate well so that the left hand knows what the right hand is doing. I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you some upcoming justice and charity activities at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton. This is one of the concrete ways that our parish serves Him and here is another opportunity for each of us to be of service. It’s in the giving… This is also a great opportunity to involve our neighbors in the opportunities for being of service as we enter into the holiday season.
We announced last weekend at all Masses the opportunity to purchase a Fair Trade Chocolate Advent Calendar. You can do that after all the Masses. By purchasing the calendar, we consider this part of our effort to confront global poverty. In particular, this will help disadvantaged workers in developing countries to earn a fair price for their labor. Please be generous in supporting this event.
The Catholic Community of Pleasanton’s St. Vincent de Paul Conference is collecting non-expired and non-perishable food for its annual Thanksgiving Baskets for those in need. We would appreciate you providing gifts of canned tuna, chicken, fruit, vegetables and soup. Cereal, snacks, packaged food mixes and dried goods such as rice, pasta and beans are also welcomed. St. Vincent de Paul will purchase turkeys and fresh fruit for the families. Please leave your donations in the food bins in the main entrances of St. Augustine or St. Elizabeth Seton Church. We are collecting food until Saturday, November 18th. The Knights of Columbus will distribute the food baskets to local families on Sunday November 19th. Thank you for your generosity.
We are also announcing the next building day for Habitat for Humanity. Join with fellow parishioners to help a needy family. We will be working on a site in Fremont --Saturday Nov 18th 8:30 am to 4 pm. No special skills or experience are required but participants must be at least 16 years old and have your own transportation. To sign up or for additional information, please contact David Browne - firstname.lastname@example.org. Space is limited and the deadline for sign up is November 8th.
There is a great deal more on the horizon so stay tuned. One of the most powerful acts of love is to give of ourselves without condition. Involvement in these activities and so many others at the parish provides us with opportunities to remember who we are and that we serve Him.
October 29th, 2017
My brothers and sisters, we enter the month of November this week and the Church enters into a time of remembrance for our beloved dead. In the Christian calendar, this tradition is upheld with the celebration of All Saints’ Day, which is observed on Nov. 1. All Saints’ Day is a Holy Day of Obligation with Masses at St. Augustine Church at 8:30am and 7:30pm. At St. Elizabeth Seton, mass times are 12:10pm and 6:00pm. All Souls’ Day is on Nov 2nd with mass time at St. Augustine at 8:30am; St. Elizabeth Seton mass time is 12:10pm.
One of the most obvious reasons why we pray is need. Instinctively (that means prompted by the Spirit of God) I need to pray and so do you. It is important to remember that in all prayer it is we that are built up and changed, not God. We pray for the dead to comfort ourselves, to commend those who we love to God and in many cases rightly recognize that our relationships with those we know who have died might not have been perfect. In praying for the dead, we do two things: We highlight our faith in the power of God and we hold up the life of the person who has died so as to let God take care of things. God makes all things new and fresh. Even though we commend our loved ones who have died to God, they accompany us. There is a life presence between them and us. We pray for the dead to remain in contact with them. Just as we can hold someone’s hand here on earth, figuratively but really, we also can hold that person’s hand through and beyond death. When we come to the altar of God at the celebration of Eucharist – the Mass – heaven and earth unite. Mysteriously as we memorialize what Jesus did at the Last Supper, the beloved dead are with us as they are feasting in Heaven at the banquet that has no beginning or ending. We are holding hands because of God who gathers us to be united by who Jesus is and what he did.
During the month of November, we will enshrine our Books of the Dead. I would invite you to please write the names of those whom you wish to remember, and I would like to add some considerations. – WRITE the names of our beloved deliberately and thoughtfully. It’s an act of prayer – to write. Attaching a print out from a computer is NOT the same thing. Unless someone cannot come to Church, writing names for someone else is NOT the same. And when you write names, try to do this before or after Mass. It’s important to recognize our loved ones at Mass when we gather at the table where He gave us His life so that we might live. Because of Him, we pass through death to life. We will remember the names inscribed throughout the entire month of November.
Eternal Rest Grant unto them, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace.
We remember them…
October 22nd, 2017
My brothers and sisters,
Last weekend at all masses, the ritual to memorialize and stand in solidarity with the lives of our brothers and sisters affected by the string of recent tragedies – including the horrific wildfires in northern California – was done to offer what people need most…..prayer. Through communal prayer comes an acute awareness of being in the presence of God as one body. So acute, in fact, that we are nourished by the Son of God, His fullness, His body and blood. From there we give as He gave us His life. We receive His body to become His body today walking the earth going about doing good. A body that gives takes on many forms.
I would like to share an example of our giving. Northern California Wildfires $25,400 Earthquake Relief in Mexico $10,300 Hurricane Relief $16,300
If you would still like to support wildfire relief for Northern California, please go to our website at www.catholicsofpleasanton.org. To date, our charitable giving has been channeled through Catholic Charites USA for the hurricanes and earthquakes. For the wildfires to the North, our offering is getting channeled from the Diocese of Oakland to Catholic Charities of Santa Rosa. They are working with other agencies to provide short -term and long-term support for victims, people who are in shelters now but will need to find temporary housing while their homes are being rebuilt. Monetary donations will be the most useful contribution to that work; you can find other information at www.srcharities.org/fire-recovery and you can continue to contribute through our website.
For me, the testimony is not so much the amount given, but the very act of giving. To live is to give. We have been a community keenly aware of charitable giving; We must also be keenly aware of what to learn from these unspeakable events and to translate this level of care and support into everyday living with each other; care and support of the environment, the globe and beyond.
More to come…
October 15th, 2017
My brothers and sisters,
For the past month, we have all felt shocked and even shook by disbelief as we reflect upon the natural disasters that have been ravaging parts of the world – one after another. And to be perfectly honest, these are the ones that family and friends as well as the news media bring to our attention. There are so many others displaced and discarded. This past week, the raging fires touched California and specifically the counties to our north – Napa, Sonoma, Yuba and Lake. As we have been doing for others, we must do for these our brothers and sisters – support them in prayer, which is the MOST we do for each other. That prayer must be followed by opportunities for charitable giving and engagement. Thank you for your social consciousness as we support our friends to the north.
When natural disasters such as these happen, we turn to the resilience of people and as we have seen they are living examples of the right priority given to what’s REALLY important. It is imperative to stand on this bedrock. Upon reflection, what’s really important is to know that God does not start fires, hurricanes or earthquakes or anything else like this in order to scare us, shake us up or warn us that we are making a mess of things. The fact is that an imperfect nature, human freedom and sin remind us that our values are not always aligned with God’s blueprint and plans. It is equally important to remember that even if God does not cause such disasters, that does not mean that He will not speak through them. His Word (Jesus) is about life in the midst of the reality of ruin and carnage; He is there to say that emotions of confusion and anxiety, depression and despair that oftentimes accompany natural disasters are experienced but do not prevail.
As human beings, we always want answers, never more crucially than when a natural disaster jars what we seem to stand upon. What we ultimately stand upon is NOT the “Why didn’t God stop this” question; what we really stand upon is the gut reaction or intuition which is the God-spark in us that says your brother and sister are in need, do what I designed you to do. What He did for us is define us as His creation called to be of service to those in their real need.
Let us keep close to the heart of The Catholic Community of Pleasanton all those who lost their lives, those who are displaced and experiencing emotional upheaval and those who are being of service to people at need. To all of us brought together by God’s love in the midst of natural disasters, we remember and we pray.
October 8th, 2017
My brothers and sisters,
Some of you have doubtlessly seen this article. I found it a thoughtful read from Jackie Semmens in America Magazine as she ponders the pew. The title – “Yes, Millennials Like Brunch. But That’s Not Why They’re Skipping Mass.”
It is Sunday morning again. And we should go to Mass; we really should. We do not have an excuse this week. Most weeks we have an excuse. The baby is teething. The toddler had nightmares all night last night. The preschooler has a fever. Mom is coming down with a cold. Dad worked yesterday, and we have not seen him all week. Mom has morning sickness. Mom and Dad are just plain tired. Someone threw up. We are out of town. We have family in town. The weather is bad. The weather is nice. They are not all good excuses. The truth is, we do not go to Mass weekly because it is hard. Not hard in a “walk uphill both ways in the snow to fulfill our Christian duty” way. But hard in a “I don’t want to have to wrestle two preschoolers to sit still for an hour while I receive judgmental stares” way.
My standards are far more lax than those of my parents, who actually did have us walk uphill in the snow one Sunday morning. The truth is, we do not go to Mass weekly because it is hard. While a perfect attendance record may elude us, our twice-monthly attendance at Mass is practically pious by my generation’s standards. Two-thirds of millennial Catholics attend Mass a few times a year or less. I am guessing that for many attendance directly correlates with the number of times their own mom and dad come into town. Wriggly children are not the only reason my fellow millennials are missing from the pews. The benefits of a church community seem less tangible for young Catholics. The parish simply does not function as the same center of social life that it did for prior generations. Fellowship opportunities are limited for those who are older than youth group age and not quite old enough for the Tuesday morning knitting groups. But the growing dissatisfaction goes deeper than preferring brunch with friends over stilted coffee and donuts.
Millennials, many with a passion for social justice rooted in their Catholic values and upbringing, are dissatisfied with an institution that preaches community and compassion and often practices the opposite. Taught to reach out to the marginalized, young Catholics are typically protective of their L.G.B.T. friends—or feel unwelcome themselves. They do not want to be a part of an organization that has too often been a deep source of pain for the people they love. Wriggly children are not the only reason my fellow millennials are missing from the pews. There are other disconnects between the values of millennial Catholics and the church’s practices. They might find the lack of women in positions of leadership unacceptable or consider the church’s emphasis on sexual ethics—birth control, abortion, gay marriage—to be outsized when immigration, health care and climate change feel like far more pressing issues. Of course, people distance themselves from the faith—or at least the pews—for reasons beyond the doctrinal and political. Young Catholics who have gone through trying, dark times have sometimes found the faith of their childhood did not provide the protection or guidance they needed. Yes, millennials like brunch. But that’s not why they’re skipping Mass. Despite these disappointments, many of my peers have a profound desire to connect with God. But a hard and lonely pew may not be the easiest place to find that connection. Perhaps that is why Jesus is so often found going out and touching those in need, rather than lecturing the crowds, “The temple is open more than just twice a year, you know!” Those of us who remain in the pews have our work cut out for us. My family often skips Mass because of the amount of work involved. It is difficult to wrangle toddlers in the pews. It is difficult to give up Sunday mornings we could be spending making pancakes in our pajamas. But the truth is, being a practicing Catholic should be much harder than all of that.
If we truly wish to live out the call of the Gospel, those of us who remain in the pews have our work cut out for us. I dream of a better church. I hope for one that can be a home for all in need, from the L.G.B.T. teenager kicked out of the house by his family to the immigrant in need of protection to the young mother. If I leave the church, I cannot help provide that home for others—at least not in the place that first taught me why serving those on the edges of our society should be my top priority. Despite my frustrations, despite my children who do not sit still, we will keep going to Mass. We will go not just because of the Catholic guilt that starts eating at me if it has been longer than a few weeks since I spent a homily pacing in the vestibule with a crying child. I go because I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, the maker of all that is seen and unseen. What is unseen at the moment is the type of church we will choose to be for future generations. In all honesty, I do not know how to build a better church. But I am guessing it probably has something to do with showing up a little more often, not ducking out immediately after Communion and doing something more concrete than telling strangers on the internet I think we could do better. Perhaps I will get some more ideas at Mass this week. Perhaps not. Either way, I am out of excuses.
October 1st, 2017
My brothers and sisters, It was tremendously busy around these parts last weekend (September 23 and 24) and it’s good to give gratitude for all the “giving” people do in the Catholic Community of Pleasanton to make our parish a sign of Jesus’ ministry.
Last Saturday night, we hosted Chanticleer, the Emmy award winning and internationally recognized male chorus. Their performance of Heart of a Soldier was very well received. The throng that gathered responded to the performance with a standing ovation that was our measured and grateful noise for the great sound coming from that Orchestra of Voices. The evening was spectacular. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Ira Stein and Elaine Snyder and the host of volunteers who facilitated the planning from our side and the welcome that we strive to offer everyone.
Sunday was the parish picnic which had been in planning mode and under the radar. Arriving after the 11:00 AM Mass at St. Elizabeth Seton, I could hear the buzz of our parish family in the grotto at St. Augustine, young and old alike. Kids were painting rocks, playing games and running as kids have the energy to do. Adults were milling around, enjoying the kids and getting caught up. Ministry leaders were providing information for new and seasoned parishioners alike on the great opportunities to do service at The Catholic Community of Pleasanton. Thank you to Regina Stoops forproviding the voice behind the activities inviting us and directing us through the course of the day. David Grubbs provided sound and the Knights of Columbus provided set-up. Teens and parents helped put it all together and take it down. Thank you to the many business owners who provided gifts to be raffled and prizes to be won. Kudos to the Pozzi family for handling the raffle table. Alina Mateo coordinated the arts and crafts room. Rachelle Harmon took great care of the toddler room. “God Squad” and other IFC families assisted with games, rock painting, and advertising. Chuck Deckert caught the day in pictures to be found on our Facebook page and elsewhere. AND, of course, the food… to the Filipino and Indian communities for their native cuisine, to the Italian Catholic Federation for those deserts, to the Knights of Columbus for providing hot dogs, hamburgers and snow cones we say thank you not only for the scrumptious and delicious delights but for all the labor and preparation. I survived the duct tape, Fr. Kwame was singing and Fr. Filiberto enjoyed getting to know so many of you. Finally, a BIG thank you to Nicole Browne and Lien-Thi de la Pena for coordinating the picnic. To measure the work is pointless; the gratitude we can offer is the point.
Together, our commitment is a YES to God; a YES to serving this large family of faith. For that is when community is truly forged-- when we all come together and say YES! Let’s keep building up who we are – The Catholic Community of Pleasanton.
- Fr. Paul
September 24th, 2017
Brothers and sisters,
Like most of you, I have been growing my prayer card for persons who are affected by natural disasters – Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria as well as those traumatized by the earthquakes in southern Mexico and Mexico City. And with great sadness, we know that there are a host of other natural disasters in other parts of the world and we will continue to pray for everyone effected by these horrific experiences. For the week of September 24th, the parish will provide an opportunity to assist in relief efforts on our website and the monies donated will go toward earthquake relief in Mexico. You can also come to the office either at St. Augustine or St. Elizabeth Seton to drop off a contribution. Checks should be made out to the Catholic Community of Pleasanton and please put earthquake relief in the memo. The Catholic Community of Pleasanton will use the international arm of the Catholic Church in the United States – Catholic Relief Services – to allocate our funding. Please prayerfully consider a contribution. Thank you for your support of persons who need responders on so many different levels. The first level is prayer…
Last weekend, many of you had the opportunity to be introduced to the parish’s new associate pastor (Parochial Vicar), Fr. Filiberto Barerra. Filiberto was born in Aguascalientes, Mexico on July 20th 1967. Along with 12 siblings, he was raised by two amazing parents, who are now abiding in the presence of God in Heaven. His formation for priestly life and ministry started as a teenager in Mexico at the seminary in Aguascalientes. He was ordained a priest on June 28, 1998 by Bishop John Cummins. Over the course of a few years of ministry, he has had a wealth of experiences in parish life throughout the Diocese of Oakland. Most recently, he served as Associate Pastor at St. Leander in San Leandro. Serving as a priest has brought him tremendous joy, especially the celebration of the Eucharist (Mass). For relaxation, he enjoys long walks and music. He might be a bit of a foodie, too. He loves his native Mexico, the wonderful flavors of the food of his home and has a soft spot for Italian cuisine as well.
In addition to all the generalist responsibilities of any priest, he will have two specific areas of responsibility. First, he will be the priest contact for the parish’s Ministry of the Sick. He will be spending significant time at Valley Care Medical Center and visiting our brothers and sisters at other care facilities throughout the parish. Please feel free to contact Fr. Fili if you have needs for the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. He is working with an amazing team of ministers in the parish who provide an indispensable presence of Jesus the healer in our community. He will also be a team member of RCIA – the team that shapes formation opportunities for those adults to be fully initiated into the Catholic Church as they live their faith at The Catholic Community of Pleasanton. These adults will celebrate Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. If you have any questions or are interested, please contact Matt Gray. Information can be found on the website and bulletin. Because of these specific ministries, some of you will encounter Fr. Filiberto more personally. In every opportunity that comes your way, welcome him to the parish.
Have a great week…
September 17th, 2017
My brothers and sisters,
Wisdom from the Lord comes through Pope Francis inspiring the minds and hearts of many. I’d like to quote him and through the quotation offer an invitation.
“Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey.”
Have you drifted away from your Catholic faith? Do you know someone who is disillusioned by what they hear about the Church? Are you disillusioned by what you hear about your Church? Do you desire a life filled with an active faith through worship, faith formation and service?
The Catholic Community of Pleasanton offers a 6-week program for Catholics who for many different reasons are not actively practicing their faith in and through the Church. Some left hurt; others grew tired or indifferent with the Church; maybe YOU just need to fill a dark space with the light of Jesus. Maybe you feel in the dark of night and want that lamp to guide your steps. Returning Catholics is for you. This is a safe place to ask questions, learn about changes in the Church, and begin to experience a small community of faith.
What is the purpose of the Returning Catholics?
This is the Catholic Community of Pleasanton’s invitation to take another look at the Catholic Church, and to explore changes that may have occurred since you were a practicing Catholic. There is never any pressure to return; rather, we invite you to pray and begin to discern where God is in your life and whether or not you might wish to become part of the Church once again.
Who comes to Returning Catholic sessions?
Anyone who has been away from the Church. Some have been away for just a few years; others have stayed away for decades. Some people want updating on what they've missed. Others are not at all sure whether or not they want to come back; this is just a place to listen and see what may have changed in the Church, or in their own hearts. Participants range in age from twenties to eighties, and include men and women. What they have in common is a desire to take another look at their Church.
What if I have individual questions that I am uncomfortable bringing up in a large group?
You are encouraged to have at least one individual meeting with Fr. Paul, the pastor of the Catholic Community of Pleasanton. This is a good opportunity to speak one on one in a safe environment with him.
Let this be an invitation to you or another to join me and the team starting Thursday, October 5 at 7:30 PM in the St. Augustine Rectory Conference Room.
Be guided by the lamp of faith to guide you on the journey. Let’s learn more about the lamp!!!
September 10th, 2017
Notes from Fr. Kwame
Love is the Fulfillment of the Law
Our nation is facing a lot of challenges these days. Hurricane Harvey has killed many displaced families and destroyed property in Houston. Now Hurricane Irma is looming and threatening to hit Florida and the Southeast coastal region. Our national leaders are on the edge considering the situation with North Korea. Our government just announced that it will stop protecting people brought to our country as minors – vulnerable immigrants, simply because it is “Law”. These are some of our challenges, the mishandling of which would cause immense human suffering. What should a Christian do?
Among the readings this weekend, we are told by Saint Paul, that “Love is the fulfillment of the Law.” This statement is deeply instructive for every Christian who lives in our challenging times. The Law here specifically refers to the (Ten) Commandments in the Old Testament. So, the teaching of Saint Paul (and of Christ) is that, if you want to keep the Laws, you must use love. We should not keep the Law, or any Law for that matter, that has no love in it. In other words, we must not observe laws for the sake of the laws; for that means we are robots! Keeping laws and constitutions for their own sake would lead to a society and an environment of wickedness, immorality, abuse, hostility, and inhumanity! We would be at odds with other nations, live selfishly, deport vulnerable “strangers”, build a wall around ourselves, respond to violence with violence, and in time, destroy ourselves.
It is in this light that Jesus says, “treat him as a tax collector.” Some might think Jesus means we must give up on them or even treat them in a wicked way if our offender refuses to repent. However, we only need to ask ourselves, how did Jesus treat tax collectors and sinners in his own life? Ah, there is the answer! With greater love, with kindness, with much more breathing space and time for the offenders to get it right. Legally, if you follow the laws, you must abandon the unrepentant; but in the Christian way, in the way of love, if someone or a situation goes rogue, that means that much more of your love is required!
Friends in Christ, let us not be confused about how we are to live in our currently challenging times. The way of Christ is hard, sacrificial, passionate, but it is clear. It is the way of love. Hence, let us pray for the courage to stand for love over and above laws, partisan politics, selfish nationalism, etc. For at the end of the day
only LOVE remains!
September 4th, 2017
I still remember the feeling I had on my first Sunday at CCOP. It was July 6, 2014 when Fr. Paul introduced me to the community and I had a lot of mixed feelings….so excited but also nervous, especially at the end of mass when Father Paul asked me to introduce myself to the parishioners. I received a great welcome from all of you which filled this newly ordained priest with encouragement.
My first year was a great challenge for me. In the seminary, usually I did what they told me to do but in the parish, I had to do things on my own. In addition, I needed time to learn more about the people at CCOP and its culture. I was so lucky that Fr. Paul patiently gave me more time to gradually learn my priestly ministry. He gave me some great guidance and showed me how to start working in ministry in the parish. I
really appreciate him and will always consider him a great teacher.
Another challenge was my English pronunciation. I still remember some parishioners approached me and commented that my homilies were hard to understand due to my English pronunciation. It was really challenging for me at that point. I had to force
myself to work harder for my English pronunciation to become more understandable. I would like to say a special thank you to three people…Judy, Carolyn and Jim. They are great people who faithfully came to the office and tutored me. I consider it a gift that CCOP has given to me.
I also would like to thank Nicole Brown who helped me work with youth and children. When I just came out of the Seminary, I was not experienced in working with children and youth but Fr. Paul and Nicole encouraged and guided me. After a couple of weeks, I found that I was able to work with the youth and children and enjoyed it. Now I feel more confident in doing ministry for them.
In my second year, Fr. Leonard gave me a pile of information and paperwork for the ministry to the sick. I was struggling with how to run the ministry for a while but it was Dave Frankenberger, Pam Campion, Marilyn Lemm and Nancy Bankhead who stepped up to help me reorganize the ministry to our beloved brothers and sisters who are in the hospital, group homes, nursing homes, and homebound. I would like to say many thanks to all the volunteers who have been bringing Holy Communion to the sick. You are truly hands of God to touch His people.
There are more people I also want to thank for allowing me to work with them in serving people at CCOP, especially to all parish staff, including Olga, Marilu, Lorraine, Michael and to our wonderful deacons and faith formation staff.
Finally, I would like to say thank you to my brother priests, Fr. Paul, Fr. Kwame, Fr. Lee and Fr. Leonard. You have been greatly supportive brothers to me as I am your youngest brother priest in the Rectory. Thank you for such a great experience living and working together with you. I have learned a lot from you and I take your lessons and experiences with me as I go forward in serving God’s people.
There is a time to meet, a time to say goodbye; a time to laugh and a time to be sad. My dear brothers and sisters, thank you for everything! Thank you for your great support and prayers. I will miss you all and will keep all of you in my prayers.
August 27th, 2017
Brothers and sisters,
When I finished my assignment as a newly ordained priest at the Catholic community of Pleasanton (1994-1997), I was overcome with emotion. So much had happened in three years. Some of it joyful and some of it painful, but in the end I was grateful for everything I had gained. As Fr. Michael responds to God’s call to serve and share his life with another community, we take this opportunity to send him with our blessings. I will do this with him vicariously through you as I am away from the parish for the next week returning on Saturday night, September 2nd. As he is sent from us, perhaps it is good for the priest to reflect on what we receive from one community and offer a new community as we cross thresholds. This molds
a priest’s life and ministry.
When I left Pleasanton in 1997, I took time to prayerfully name the gifts received during those first three years of ministry as a priest. Given the nature of a gift, I would be hesitant to say those gifts were “what I always wanted” or “what I expected”. Instead, the real gifts came from learnings and opportunities I never fathomed, from moments of both sacrifice and delight. The greatest gift that I received upon leaving Pleasanton in 1997 was a fresh thoughtfulness in the Lord. Given the size of the parish, there were a number of occasions when I believed I made thoughtful decisions from adequate consultation and communication. Well, I realized that I did not. There is the practical side of consultation and communication. I might describe it as this: More counsel equals more information; the more perspectives, the greater the “buy-in.”
However, my great learning was the spiritual side of the two-sided coin. Good decision making aims to be a discernment of God’s will. Taking counsel is one way of finding out what God wants. In this way, good decisions cannot simply be the result of the widest consideration of perspectives. Good decisions are the result of broad and deep listening – listening to what God wants through the various channels through which God speaks. I need to listen well and communicate clearly to both those who receive and share God’s will.
I tend to believe that many of us who have journeyed through the Catholic Community of Pleasanton as “baby priests” learn this. The parish’s sheer matrix of ministers involved in His ministry requires priests to learn effective listening and communication skills. The gift is to see this not as a chore, but as a gift to appreciate God’s will through the community of believers and the insights we share with each other.
It is my hope that this has been Fr. Michael’s experience….as it was mine. He moves over the hill and down the road to St. Joseph parish in Fremont (Mission San Jose). That community will welcome him and embrace him, love him and challenge him as we did for his first three years of ordained life and ministry as a priest. His life will be filled with more joys and pains, with sacrifice and delight. And through it all, God is speaking and directing his life as a priest.
May God’s choicest blessings be upon him. As a community, we are grateful for his ministry among us.
Thank you, Michael, and we send you with our love…
August 20th, 2017
My brothers and sisters,
I received thoughtful feedback from my preaching on the weekend of August 12th--13th at St. Augustine Church. At those Masses, I equated the disciples in the boat preceding Jesus into stormy weather with the present-day storms that we are encountering. The Gospel captured the disciples’ anxiety, apprehension and fear without Jesus. They were caught in the storm, without their rudder to remind them who and whose they are. Similarly, when we consider the tensions that continue to heat-up in the country and around the world, we can be tossed by these storms which are creating anxieties, apprehensions and fear. To know who we are because of whose we are is the invitation to get out of the storm and stand firm on the foundations of our faith which requires charitable words and peaceful deeds. Here we might find the calm as Jesus reaches for your hand and mine to stop us from getting caught up in the storm and all its excesses. As women and men who try to live and exercise the virtues of our faith, He reaches for all our hands without preference and without judgment. He reaches for each of us because of our shared basic dignity.
I mentioned the gift of “equality” and “difference” last weekend when we consider the human person in his or her basic dignity. Someone asked me how those two truths come together. Great question!!! As Catholics and for Judeo-Christians, the human person’s divine origin and calling constitute the deepest basis of the human person’s fundamental dignity. Our shared dignity – basic equality – is not a goal to be reached but a gift given and the basis upon which fundamental human rights rest. These human rights, according to the Church’s social teaching, respect each person’s gender, race, color, social condition, language or religion. Because we are equal one next to another, the differences of one next to another is respected as well. This is the ground upon which we stand next to one another and next to the stranger. Any form of discrimination that violates these basic rights is unjust and unethical. What happened in Charlottesville and the rhetoric or lack of rhetoric in the public square should cause us pause.
Going forward, we are planning for an adult faith formation forum that will take up the exercise of these rights and corresponding responsibilities from the lens of our faith. Stay tuned for more information after Labor Day.
This Thursday and Friday, the pastoral staff is going to be away. We are leaving Pleasanton for a destination that no one knows to be led by a retreat master who is a surprise!!! The time is meant to be a gift. It’s a retreat and provides us time to grow together in Him. We will pray, ponder, play and putz. I would ask you to keep us in your prayers. Because we are away, there will be celebrations of the Liturgy of the Word with the reception of Holy Communion on Friday at the regular Mass times. Please gather together and pray for us!
And together, let’s pray for one another – for the stranger, for family and friends, for the United States and the for the world. To exercise the dignity of the human person, equal and different. To quote the great 19th century English convert, Cardinal John Newman, may we have clear heads and holy hearts.
August 13th, 2017
As we are looking at future shifts at Sunday 8:00 AM Mass, I want to thank everyone who took the time to respond to the request for constructive feedback on my letter “Why Do We Do What We Do? - Making a Joyful Noise.” If you want to see the letter regarding the proposed shifts at that Mass, please go to the website. I received quite a number of e-mails, a couple of letters mailed through the post office, responses through Facebook, several phone calls and a great number of face-to-face conversations. I’m glad that you took my invitation seriously and that you took these opportunities to speak with me. On that point, my door is always open. Taken together, I was heartened by the quality of the responses. The comments reflect the sentiment of the liturgy committee, staff leadership and pastoral council. I will forward to Deacon Gary and the Liturgy Committee some heartfelt and thought-filled reflections on improving the quality of our worship experience at The Catholic Community of Pleasanton. Again, I’m very grateful from the constructive nature of your considerations. The overall groundswell is quite favorable to adjusting 8:00 AM Mass.
Over the last couple of weeks, Deacon Gary who is Director of Liturgy and Ira, Coordinator of Music Ministry, worked with me on the practical logistics of implementing the shift. In order to be ready, we decided that the 8:00 AM Mass with sung Mass Parts will begin on September 10th. Like any shifts, there will be some tweaking that will take place. One of the greatest concerns that I heard was the need to revisit the experience. I agree wholeheartedly. We will be monitoring this to ensure that the experience of worship gives Glory to God in the first place and that we engage our talents well to express our faith in Him. And, we will look at the overall experience next summer. Thank you to one and all for your participation in this process.
Speaking of Mass, next weekend, Deacon Mario Rizzo, recently ordained for the Diocese of Oakland will join us at the 9:00 AM and 11:00 AM Masses at St. Elizabeth Seton Church. Mario is the next priest to be ordained for our Diocese. And, join us at St. Augustine Church on Sunday, August 27th at Noon. Fr. Michael will be celebrating his final Mass as Associate Pastor at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton. A reception will follow in St. Augustine Hall. Join us in praying for him as he moves to his new parish assignment at St. Joseph Parish in Fremont (Mission San Jose).
Finally, the Faith Formation leadership was quite excited after last weekend’s “greeting and meeting” at all the masses. They valued your questions and affirmations. We have a great year of faith formation opportunities before us. And DON’T FORGET… the NEXT registration is on Tuesday August 15th from 12:00 PM – 7:00 PM at St. Augustine Hall.
Have a good week and a safe back-to-school for everyone…
August 6th, 2017
My brothers and sisters,
It’s that time again and some are happy about this and others have mixed feelings. Soon, school is back in session for most of our kids and youth. Already, parents are registering them for all sorts of activities. The questions….What are their friends doing? Can they be in the same group as their friends? Choices? And choices!!! DON’T FORGET FAITH FORMATION! It may seem as if it is just one more activity among the many to balance. I would suggest that this should have priority because we all need to learn about the right values, virtues and behaviors to bring to everything we do! The stronger you are in faith and the more you work on living your faith, the more able we are to make the right choices that have enduring value. It’s the enduring quality in our choices that concerns me. That’s what faith in Jesus brings us and should bring our kids and youth.
Our need to learn about how to live faith ceases after we stop living in this world and we hope to live with Him for eternal life. Our faith formation programs are here to provide an additional resource for moms and dads to help our kids and youth make sound choices. The leadership at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton is here so assist you. While I don’t need to remind you, faith always begins at home and what is modeled at home is passed on to our children. If you would like more information, go to the website. Registration is on August 15th from 12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. at St. Augustine Hall. See you at registration…
FR. PAUL ON VOCATIONS TO PRIESTLY LIFE AND MINISTRY
I remember well how nervous I was to approach another priest about my questions and thoughts about becoming a priest. At a certain point, I knew that I needed to talk with a priest about whether or not I was being called. I just did not know. So many questions…Ultimately, I was guided and I am grateful. Over the years that I have been a priest, it’s been a joy and a privilege to share my journey with a good number of young men – to pray with them, to discuss and to discern what God is asking of them in their lives. To be a part of their discernment process is a gift. When I was Pastor of St. Monica in Moraga (2004-2007), I had such conversations with a young man – a CAL grad – named Mario Rizzo. On August 4th, he will be ordained a transitional Deacon before being ordained a Priest for The Diocese of Oakland. He asked me to place his vestments on him at his ordination. An amazing gift God has called Mario to exercise and an amazing gift that God has afforded me – to assist Mario along with others to discern the right response to God’s call in his life. Mario will be with us on August 20th at the 9:00 AM and 11:00 AM at St. Elizabeth Seton to Deacon with us at the celebration of the Eucharist.
I mention this because while I am reflecting upon some words to write and share with Mario before his ordination, three young men from The Catholic Community of Pleasanton approached me much like Mario did. And this happened just last weekend. This is not chance or serendipity. It’s Divine Order. Nervously each in his own way approached me wanting to sit down and share what he’s feeling and thinking, what’s exciting and daunting. This is a gift for them to start thinking with God about His plans for them; it’s a gift for those of you these young men trust to share very tender and not often well understood feelings and thoughts. These matters are to be handled with great care. We are dealing with matters that are of God.
How God’s providence works is a mystery. What I do know is that in a very short period of time, the future of priestly life and ministry came together in my life in connected but not connected ways. These were brief and individual encounters with young men who do not know each other. One who is getting ordained and three who are wondering about initial feelings and thoughts of God’s call as they discern. Ultimately, the future of priestly life and ministry is happening because He wills it! For our part, we must encourage this discernment. We all should take time to really discern what God calls us to be. If any one wishes to sit down with me, Fr. Kwame, Fr. Michael, Fr. Chris or anyone on staff, the door is wide open for a great conversation about how God might be calling you to share your gifts. Perhaps that is as a priest.
July 30th, 2017
My brothers and sisters,
Say hello to August… WOW!
Let’s start with some gratitude… I want to thank all of you who participated in the Backpack Drive over the past few weeks. After we brought all the school supplies into some classrooms, 20 teens came together and formed the assembly line. They packed 125 backpacks with new school supplies and filled 20 bags of school supplies for donation. This is up from 88 backpacks donated last year. Many thanks to everyone who contributed to this success. Most of the backpacks went to Tri-Valley Haven and others to the Pleasanton Unified School District to be distributed to needy students in our schools. When we communicate well and come together, this is how our community engages in great outreach. This is what Christian living is all about. If we are disciples of Jesus, we follow the leader. We do what He did. He gave away what He had, which proved to give life. We give and there is where life’s meaning is located.
Speaking of giving, we have been given the gift of life and there are some in the community who struggle with the value of life for a variety of reasons. Over the last few weeks, we have been giving strong emphasis to an evening on Suicide Prevention and Awareness. I hope to see you on Tuesday, August 1st at 7:30 pm at the St. Augustine campus. As your pastor, I want to emphasize that this IS an issue in Pleasanton and the Tri-Valley. It is a far larger issue than we may want to acknowledge. There is no way to manicure this or pretend it will go away. Why would we not want to have a greater awareness of the issue, the signals and steps to take to be of assistance? Life is precious. Life is Jesus and we must advocate for life in word and action.
The evening is for teens from middle through high school age and their parents, guardians or adult loved ones. The evening is for all of us who realize we need to learn something. We will have 2 workshops running simultaneously. In St. Augustine Church there will be a workshop for adults. In St. Augustine Hall is a workshop that will run for teens who are incoming middle through high school age. All are welcome from the community of Pleasanton and surrounding areas. This is especially timely as the beginning of the school year is coming for many of our youth.
This program is being presented by Crisis Support Services of Alameda County and
hosted by us.
See you on Tuesday night….
July 23rd, 2017
My brothers and sisters,
I want to thank the many of you who responded to my request for constructive feedback from my preaching last weekend. If you were not at Mass on the weekend of 15-16 July, please go to the website and read my letter “Why Do We Do What We Do: Making a Joyful Noise.” The letter reminds us of the need to be of strong voice and introduces the possibility of exploring the quality of that voice anew at Sunday 8:00 AM Mass at St. Augustine. So far, there were Facebook responses, emails and some phone calls. I will be gathering responses till the end of July. Please give me a bit of time to respond to your notes and emails.
This “corner” also allows me to clarify some points so that we can look ahead with greater clarity if we adopt the proposed changes. Here are some points that I wish to reiterate:
In addition to your observations on the proposed shift at 8:00 AM Mass, there are related items that I will forward to Deacon Gary for the consideration of the Liturgy Committee. For now, let me give you an example. A few people commented that it’s important to stay till the end of Mass because the ritual is not formally ended till we are sent forth following the final blessing. I can do nothing else but agree on that point.
Yet, some of these comments noted that we do not give due gratitude to those who share their voices and skills on instruments when we walk out and they are still giving glory to God (Music Ministry). This is a good thing to consider. Of course, from time to time there is good reason to leave a bit early. For me, it’s a good reminder to be present with others at worship, supporting others at worship and remaining present, active and aware of what it is we are doing. So many other comments fall along this level of thoughtfulness.
Reminding ourselves that liturgy (Mass) is the center of our lives is a good thing, maybe the most important of things. How often we take this for granted. It’s good to remember that Jesus calls us to Mass. He is proclaiming God’s Word at Mass. He gives us His body and blood at Mass and He sends us to give our faith to others. What we do at Mass is all about Him; it’s not about me or you. If we are His disciples, His followers, then we need to do what He did. He gave His life. Come to Mass to give something. Give your life to Him.
Take time for family and friends…
July 16th, 2017
My brothers and sisters, Last week, I mentioned that there is a great deal of “summer cleaning” going on at The Catholic Community of Pleasanton – St. Augustine and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. To clean well also provides occasion for an inventory. It’s time for us to “take stock.” This is happening as we go forward with putting action to our mission – To Know Christ Better, Live as He Calls Us to Live and Make Him Better Known. We do this through the sharing of our Judeo Christian (Roman Catholic) identity – Liturgy, Learning and Living. Learning (Faith Formation) is assessing future possibilities for adult faith formation in particular. New personnel bring the gift of freshness. Living is also going through some growth spurts. It’s imperative to ensure that what we are doing is effectively meeting people where we find them, communicating with them the love and mercy of Jesus and inviting them to walk forward in solid well rounded human relationships that embody justice and charity. In all of these sharing, we are offering what we have been given, an intimate relationship with Jesus.
This weekend, I’d like to spend a bit more time on Liturgy. There are many opportunities and some challenges that we face as a community of faith at worship, especially at weekend Mass. One opportunity, for example, is to appreciate the depth of encountering Christ before and after Mass. Part of preparation for Mass should include some sacred silence as well as gathering with and greeting our brothers and sisters. How many times have my friends told me that they are preparing for an important meeting. These friends are taking time. Well, is there a more significant meeting or encounter than with the living Jesus? That’s what Mass celebrates. This is a REAL encounter; He is present. I, for one, should be prepped for this meeting and not fly in by the seat of my pants. Similarly, we should feel the need to stay after Mass and not dash off to the next appointment. We’ve just been strengthened by sharing the Body and Blood of Christ. This is the most opportune time to build bonds. To say this a bit more humorously, the Prayer after Communion is not meant to be said in your car as you accelerate out of the parking lot. Let’s take our time as difficult as this is in our crazy paced world. And to be clear, what I share here, I too must learn. We will be working on this opportunity which is a challenge – two sides of the same coin.
You will find enclosed a letter from me. It is an invitation to consider how we worship at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton and what needs to be done to widen the port so that ALL can be made to feel more welcome. After reading the letter and hearing me preach (I’m playing PING PONG) this weekend, please feel free to contact me if you have any constructive thoughts on what is being proposed. You can reach me at email@example.com or (925) 846-4489.
As we are cleaning and stocking, take some time to enjoy family and friends during these beautiful days. Enjoy…
July 9th, 2017
My brothers and sisters,
Last week, someone said to me in passing, “things must slow down during the summertime at CCOP (The Catholic Community of Pleasanton).” My response: “Well many of our families are on vacation at different times, but we are still going full steam with much to be done.”
July is the time when we “clean house” at CCOP. When I was growing up in Castro Valley, my mother – who is quite the devotee of “cleanliness is next to Godliness” – would spend considerable calendared time cleaning. For many of us, this was once known as “Spring Cleaning.” As I understand, the name referred to the days when homes were heated by fireplaces, and efforts were made to prevent heat from escaping. The coming of spring and warm weather was an opportunity to air the house and clean it of soot and all the grime accumulated over the winter months. Well, at CCOP it’s Summer cleaning.
This is part and parcel of parish life. Oftentimes, after a very busy June 2017, it’s time to clean and take inventory. So, the entire staff and people who sit next to you in the pew on Sunday are “airing the house.” Over the next weeks, faith formation coordinators are going through their offices, cabinets, libraries. The liturgy teams are cleaning the sacristies and churches at St. Augustine and St. Elizabeth Seton. The office staff is checking inventories, organizing files, and streamlining processes. There are Eagle Scout projects underway to beautify the campus at St. Augustine Church. If you have been watching, this is no small task.
Over the next weeks, there will be a great deal of commotion around the rectory. There will be the removal of what has served us well and the installation of what will serve us in the future. The original kitchen in the rectory has had a robust life. At over 50 years old (that’s my age!), it’s time to replace floor, counters, cabinets and update appliances. I’m very grateful to some of our parishioners who privately funded this project. I did not want the funding of the priest’s kitchen as part of the capital campaign, which is going to constructing and securing public buildings. We are still raising some monies to complete the project. If you are interested, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be patient with the noise and dust if you come to visit the rectory.
It is summertime, but the good work continues. We appreciate all the support and all the hands that are helping us do “summer cleaning.” Cleanliness is next to Godliness…
Have a good week,
July 2nd, 2017
My brothers and sisters,
We are heading into the 4th of July. This holiday makes our secular lives very sacred as
Americans. It is a time for celebrations and many of you are on vacation or taking an extended weekend. There will be firework shows and parties. During the festivities, it is also good for us to remember who we are and what we are becoming. Today, given the polarization and tension in our country, it is good to ask ourselves where we are going…
As many of you are well-aware, Mark Zuckerberg has been discerning the future of Facebook. He’s asking “where are we going?” In a recent statement to help steer direction, he described the evolution from connecting persons on Facebook to becoming more about community mindedness, perhaps even service for the greater good. I would add the opportunity to build the common good. Clearly, he is trying to push away from small-minded thinking for one and all when we only associate with like-minded individuals as a basis of connection. And for now, isn’t this becoming the case in the United States? Zuckerberg appears to be making a plea for community organizing using social media. The role once taken up by churches appears to be his aim in utilizing the technologies that so many churches are not using. And yet, nothing takes the place of people interacting with people. Dialogue and fruitful discussion needs a space and a place. Also, it raises another question for me. How important is it for me to communicate my Catholic identity? Do I feel comfortable in such a discussion or standing alongside others who share my faith? I have said in more than a few homilies, “I’m Catholic first; then I am American.” This presses my community of faith to speak credibly to the American community especially in the most localized setting such as Pleasanton, Dublin or Livermore. Do I feel informed enough to speak as a member of my faith community? Can I impact the public square with my community’s faith? Can I discuss and dialogue purposefully? This should not be misconstrued as sharing my faith “to win.” The Lord manages providence; I do not. I am responsible for engaging my gifts fully in the conversation. So, how do I participate in such activity?
The theme of faith-filled participation is taken up by the United States Catholic bishops in their statement on political responsibility, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. They point to Pope Francis’ words to remind us that working to transform the world is part of “our baptismal commitment to follow Jesus Christ and to bear Christian witness in all we do.” To what I said above, it is good to bring Christ to the forefront of where we are going. An important way to do this is through our participation in the public square. So what can we do? There is running for office, working within political parties or communicating concerns and positions to elected officials. We can participate by joining advocacy networks and other community based organizations. We do this however, not on our own initiative, but as a member of the community of Christ in the first place. And in all things, what is spoken must be done in a spirit of charity and kindness. Ferocity and condescension might be one tactic but it does not foster constructive conversation or right activism. That is not Christ!
This week, we look forward to celebrating the Fourth of July. Unlike some places in the world, we have the ability, as Americans, to take an active role in political life without fear of discrimination. It is a time to remember who we are and where we are going.
Happy 4th of July…
June 25th, 2017
My brothers and sisters,
There’s more gratitude to go around this week. Vacation Bible School was a smashing success. Maker Fun Factory reminded all of us that we are created by God, made by God to do what will give us life and joy and hope. Our kids were in groups led by Decker the Crab, Tina the Termite, Bubba the Whale, Skyler the Bowerbird and Abbee the Bee. We reflected upon how wonderful God made us inside and out; how He supports us and builds us up; how He’s with us even when we cannot see him; His love for us never ends; we are here for a reason – His reason!!!
As many of you know, God’s creation is revealed beautifully in Genesis. One “day” in creation was focused upon throughout the week: “And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures’.” Water is essential. God made it so. We need to be mindful of water usage and share resources with those who do not have access to fresh and safe water. Access to fresh water is both a local issue and a global issue. Access to fresh water is a problem. I’m so happy to hear that everyone at Maker Fun Factory is joining others to work toward a solution. Monies raised will be sent to Catholic Relief Services (CRS). This arm of charity and justice for the Catholic Church is deep in the well ensuring that water is clean and available. This is one more example of the tremendous outreach that is the bedrock to our identity as Catholics and underscores who we are at The Catholic Community of Pleasanton.
I want to give a HUGE “shout out” to the many adults and to the buzz of youth who worked side by side with our kids. To the countless number of people who brought to life Maker Fun Factory, we are so very, very grateful. The leadership team worked countless hours with the co-directors Lien-Thi de la Pena and Christine Micco. Applause goes to Lisa Ager, Therese Ard, Lisa Bencriscutto, Rachel Brockett, Kate Chase, Paula Crow-Mora, Kelly French, Anne Marie Gallagher, Lorraine Hamlin, Rachelle Harmon, Nancy Masucci, KC Nissen, Marianne Ottaway, Sandra Pastor, Gritty Thomas, Lanette Wessel, Kristin Wheeler, Laura Yozzo, Tara Sheehan, Lisa De Trane and Gerri Baesemann. Thanks, too, to Henry Correa, Sharon Hanson and Kathy Works from Faith Formation for the “behind-the-scenes" support.
During these warm days, please keep hydrated and be safe. Many have been to the Alameda County Fair that we host in Pleasanton. I’m hearing “not to be missed” by so many of you. Hope to see you there one evening this week.
Enjoy these summer days…
June 18th, 2017
My brothers and sisters,
“Gratitude” is a word that when used appropriately reflects layers of rich meaning. The Catholic Community of Pleasanton (CCOP) fills my heart with gratitude to God. Last weekend provided an immense opportunity to be with you after being away. It was just tremendous. Relationships were renewed, bonds were forged further and I finished the marathon preach at St. Augustine and St. Elizabeth Seton well aware of the treasure that this parish is. God’s presence is so vividly alive here. It’s good to be home and to be with this family of faith. I’m proud and grateful to be your pastor. It’s also what I call the “good” challenge. For me, the challenge is not only ensuring that ministry is provided in the present including all the resources required but also visioning and building a future on the present. It’s about the “day to day;” it’s about the future.
I’m grateful for the opportunities that God’s providence holds for the future of CCOP. Most are well aware that Nicole Browne, the Coordinator of High School Youth Ministry and Confirmation, has been nursing some physical ailments for some time. To say that she was frustrated is an understatement. When she spoke with me about her future, I was saddened to see her go given her gifts exercised at CCOP and our great working relationship. Well, not so fast… Nicole approached me during the job search and I’m happy to share that Nicole wants her present ministry to be her future and our future. She will continue to bring her talents to the leadership of CCOP and lead our ministry to high school youth.
I’m very pleased to introduce our new Coordinator of Middle School Youth Ministry and the Intergenerational Faith Communities (IFC) for the parish. Lien-Thi de la Pena joins our ministerial team having been quite active in the parish in a variety of classroom settings. Lien-Thi moved here just 7 years ago with her husband Ed, and 4 great kids – Emily, Joshua, Theresa and Megan – they have become an essential part of our family fabric. Already holding a good understanding of Pleasanton, the families she will be serving and the programs that she has already participated in as a dedicated volunteer and parent for years, her positive attitude will be a fantastic fit for the department and the parish. How do we welcome Lien-Thi? Vacation Bible School (VBS) !!! Welcome aboard!
I’d also like to share with you Bishop Barber’s appointment of Fr. Filiberto Barerra as parochial vicar (associate pastor) at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton. Filiberto was born in Aguascalientes, Mexico on July 20th 1967. Along with l2 siblings, he was raised by two amazing parents, who are now in the presence of God in Heaven. His formation for priestly life and ministry started as a teenager in Mexico at the seminary in Aguascalientes. He was ordained a priest on June 28, 1998 by Bishop John Cummins. Over the course of a few years of ministry, he has had a wealth of experiences in parish life throughout the diocese of Oakland. Currently, he is associate pastor at St. Leander in San Leandro. Priesthood has brought him tremendous joys, especially the celebration of the Eucharist (Mass). For relaxation, he enjoys long walks and music. He might be a bit of a foodie, too. He loves his native Mexico and the wonderful flavors of the food of his home and has a soft spot for Italian cuisine as well. He will join us beginning the first week of September.
We are so happy that Nicole Browne, Lien-Thi and Fr. Filiberto will add to leadership at The Catholic Community of Pleasanton. His ministry, grounded in our faith tradition, must be ever fresh and new. We should be filled with gratitude.
June 11th, 2017
The Great Communicator,
My brothers and sisters in Christ,
This week we enter into the season of Ordinary Time as we celebrate the Solemnity Of The Most Holy Trinity. This mystery is at the very heart of our Catholic faith...one God in three persons - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. A friend of mine recently told me that the Trinity is about how God communicates. At first, I didn't quite understand, however, there are a myriad of examples.
God, the Father, speaks to us through His very creation. Jesus Christ, the Son and master communicator, teaches us lovingly and mercifully so that we might better understand His will and proclaim it to others. Scripture is inspired which means that God breathes His life and truth into authors who are fully free. That combination is what makes this revelation. The Sacraments - Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist, to name a few, are the signs and instruments whereby God communicates perfectly His wondrous love. That love, is Jesus Himself alive in the Holy Spirit. In fact, it's the Holy Spirit who edifies and animates the Church. In turn, the Church's essence is to serve the world and for our Parish, specifically the needs of the Tri-Valley. We could discuss how God communicates all day and night.
This gives perspective for my role to foster effective communications at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton. I'm not "The Communicator," but I realize that we need to put Him first as the source of communication and the message to be communicated.
We communicate with each other through a variety of mediums, but how engaged are we with these different types of communications? CCOP has over 75 active and vibrant ministries, as varied as we are as parishioners…everything from Grief Ministry and Ministry of Mothers Sharing (M.O.M.S.) to Military Peer Support and Women in God’s Spirit (WINGS) and everything in between.
In years past, the only way to know about these ministries and activities was through the weekly bulletin and perhaps, the bulletin boards and handouts in the vestibule. Both are still way for a parish to communicate, but technology has also yielded new tools for communication. Here are some:
Visit Our Website: Our website, www.catholicsofpleasanton.org, is an incredibly vast resource of information and activities here in the parish. You will find the most recent and timely information on the homepage as well as links to news and events.
Follow Us On Facebook: CCOP also has a Facebook page. You can search for it on Facebook or click on the Facebook icon at the bottom of every page on our website.
Watch The Weekly Videos: We publish weekly videos, the Pastor’s Message, where the readings from the weekend are interpreted and examined, on both Facebook and YouTube. You can find these short 3 to 4 minute videos by going to the homepage of the website and clicking on “Pastor’s Message”, which will take you directly to our YouTube channel. While there, consider subscribing to our channel so you are notified every time a new video is posted.
Join Flocknote: Flocknote is a new messaging tool that allows us to send updates about parish activities via email and text. It is simple to join and easy to use. You can find a more detailed explanation by clicking on the “Flocknote” icon on the homepage.
All of these things, old and new, are only tools to help us communicate with each other and the community as a whole about His message and presence in the Tri-Valley. I urge us all not only to listen, but actively participate in communicating His mission as we are called to do.
On an unrelated note, we welcome back Fr. Paul Minnihan from his time away. We missed your stewardship and pastoral guidance and are grateful for your return! Welcome back!
Also, a heartfelt thank you to Fr. Paul Vassar for his service at our parish over the last few months. Thank you!
Director Of Communications
June 4th, 2017
Notes from Deacon Gary
Brothers and Sisters,
Often, I come across articles that are truly worth passing on. This article by Dianne Bergant, (America: May 9, 2005) is one of
“So many stories in the Bible recount the wondrous working of God. In some of them, the events are reported in such unremarkable ways that one wonders whether or not anything exceptional really happened. An example of this might be God’s revelation to the prophet Elijah in “a tiny whispering voice” (1 Kgs 19:12) or Jesus’ changing the bread and wine into his body and blood (Mk 14:22-24). Other stories are replete with astonishing natural phenomena, like the thunder, lightning and smoke that accompanied the revelation of God at Sinai (Ex 19:16-19), or Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain with Elijah and Moses (Lk 9:28-36). The Pentecost event belongs to this second group.
The first reading for this feast describes an extraordinary event. There is a great noise, like that produced by a hurricane. Then tongues of fire appear over the heads of the followers of Jesus. The noise and the fire are what were heard and seen, but what really happened? The reading says that “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” But what does that mean? We are told that the disciples were then able to speak in a way that those present from all over the world could understand them in their own native language. But does this answer satisfy our questioning?
The reading tells us what happened. The disciples announced the good news of salvation “as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” We, children of the scientific age, are interested in the mechanics of the event. Did it really happen as described? Was there an actual noise? Genuine tongues of fire? And how could they speak in one language and be understood in another? None of these questions is as important as the one that is often omitted: What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit?
Both the Gospel and the reading from Corinthians provide us with examples of this mysterious phenomenon. Put simply, it means that the followers of Jesus were given the power promised by Jesus to further the reign of God that he inaugurated. The Gospel tells us that the disciples received the Spirit so that they would be able to exercise judgment within the community. “Forgiving and holding back forgiveness of sin” is a way of expressing complete jurisdiction. It is a way of suggesting totality, like flesh and blood, or east and west, or left and right. Having received the Holy Spirit, the disciples are given authority within the community.
The second reading, a passage from Paul, offers a more extensive portrait of what it meant to be filled with the Spirit. First, it was the power of the Spirit that enabled believers publicly to acknowledge their religious allegiance: “Jesus is Lord!” This was not only a religious profession; it was also a political proclamation. It meant: I choose Jesus, not the emperor. How many of us are able to stand up for religious values in the face of social or political opposition? The power of the Spirit enables believers to do so.
Paul goes on to speak of the gift (chárisma) that each one has been given as a manifestation of the Spirit. In this passage he does not explicitly identify these gifts, for his focus seems to be on the unity that is possible in such diversity. This is clear from his reference to the many parts making up one body. We have different gifts, different forms of service and different workings or expressions of power. But these are all manifestations of the same Spirit, given to us for the benefit of the entire body.
So what happened on that first Pentecost, and what does it all mean for us today? The Spirit of God took hold of the first disciples with a force like a mighty wind, and they were set on fire with zeal for the reign of God. As baptized and confirmed Christians, we too have been seized by that same Spirit; we too have been given gifts meant for the service of others.
Pentecost is not simply the “birthday of the church.” It is more than that. It is the feast that calls us out from behind the locked doors where, like the disciples in the Gospel reading, we may be hiding for fear of others. It is the feast that reminds us that we are indeed people filled with the Spirit, people with gifts that the world needs so desperately: wisdom for a world searching for meaning, knowledge for a world seeking insight, healing for a world torn apart by violence, prophecy for a world in need of direction, discernment of spirits for a world confronted by competing forces.
The power of the Spirit worked wonders in and through the lives of the first disciples. The power of the Spirit has worked wonders in and through the lives of believers down through the ages. What wonders will the Spirit work in and through us today? Don’t you wonder what will really happen?”
Director Of Liturgy
May 28th, 2017
Endings and New Beginnings - Joy, Loss and Hope
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
We have celebrated joyfully over the past six weeks of the Easter Season, knowing that the risen Christ, our Redeemer, still lives among us today. This weekend, we hear from the very end of the gospel of Matthew. Jesus tells the disciples: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Jesus commissions us and He assures us of His ever-present help.
And we hear from the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, about Jesus appearing to the Apostles during forty days after His Resurrection. Jesus says “… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Then Jesus ascends to heaven, taken up in a cloud.
Jesus’ resurrection, the final commissioning of the apostles, and Jesus’ Ascension must have left the apostles confused with mixed feelings of joy, loss and hope - the loss of Jesus on earth, the confident hope that He remains with us forever, and the challenge of being sent forth
We hear this as we come to the graduation season, as many of us experience a mixture of joy, loss and hope.
We may fear facing the unknown in our future, or be excited about the challenges ahead. Whatever our feelings are, we can be confident in Jesus’ promise that “I am with you always, until the end of the age”. Like the apostles, we can trust that Jesus remains with us no matter where life takes us. And we can be confident in His promise, “… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.”
Let us not be found “standing there looking at the sky”, but rather hurrying down the mountainside to encounter Christ living among us and in us. May we walk with Him and be open to the Holy Spirit working in us.
Our prayers and best wishes go to all of our graduates, their parents and families, and to all others experiencing a transition in life. May you be greatly blessed in all your new endeavors and may God bless all of us in our journey!
Deacon Joe Gourley
May 21st, 2017
Confirmation - Just another Sacrament?
Blessings, People of God,
Hard to believe, but here we are celebrating the Sixth Sunday of Easter. It’s been a glorious Easter Season so far, with wonderful readings to ponder, incredible celebrations and opportunities to encounter our Risen Lord. This weekend we are blessed with the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation, where 111 of our teens will be fully initiated into the Catholic Faith. Nicole Browne, Youth Minister and Confirmation Coordinator, has dedicated her time, effort and talents assisting these students in preparation for this wonderful sacrament.
We might be able to name the sacraments and briefly explain them. We have learned in our faith journey that we believe, "the sacraments are signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us”. But have we acknowledged their meaning? In that acknowledgement, do we gratefully accept the incredible gift bestowed on us by God? Or do we sometimes view them as just another Catholic milestone?
Baptism creates in us a new life, the life of God Himself, and purges us of Original Sin. Reconciliation purifies us of the sins we commit ourselves. The Anointing of the Sick is administered to bring spiritual and even physical strength during an illness or life threatening situation. Matrimony and Holy Orders establish us sacramentally in two diverse forms of Christian vocation. The blessed Eucharist nourishes us with the very Body and Blood of Christ Himself and makes Him present in our midst.
But what is Confirmation all about? The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "For
the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed”. Huh? What does that mean? It simply means we are given the strength through the Holy Spirit to live our lives as Christ taught and to be true witnesses of the faith. We decide to do this in our everyday lives and tasks. We seek to be Christ and see Christ in everyone and everything that crosses our path.
I remember as a young man preparing for this sacrament and the countless hours in class with the Sisters and that “wonderful” Baltimore Catechism. Wonderful moments stand out in my memories of those days. Being told I would be “an adult” in the Catholic Church; that I could take my place in the spreading of God’s kingdom - that I was making this choice on my own, not because of my parents. I felt as though I was being given the “keys” to the car. I remember the words of Sister Ann when she exclaimed in class: “You’ve only just begun”. She was right and Confirmation is what
opened the door. I now had the responsibility to share and live the Faith.
So please join us in congratulating the incredible youth of our parish as they participate in the Sacrament of Confirmation and take the next step in their faith journey. May the beauty of their celebration renew in us the love and promise we made to our God, this church and ourselves.
God, bless you and your family.
In His Name
Director Of Life Long Learning
May 14th, 2017
My brothers and sisters,
I was walking through Safeway this past Monday to get some odds and ends when I heard a young voice say to his mother, “Fr. Paul’s back, Mom!” Needless to say, a young and happy face greeted me with mother in tow. It was wonderful to see “Pleasanton” in that young face filled with hopes and opportunities, and to see his mother’s caring and nurturing gaze upon her son. It was a mother’s love, no doubt. And since we were in Safeway, we had a great conversation while discussing quinoa recipes!!!
This past week, I was home briefly to meet with our parish’s leadership – pastoral and finance councils, the “Arise and Build” cabinet (building campaign), the faith formation coordination staff, administrative staff and clergy (deacons and priests). Having been away since 13 February, it was great to check-in with one another and appreciate what has been happening in the parish – Pleasanton and the broader Tri-Valley.
I also had the opportunity to see many in my support groups for alcoholics, including many in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. The fellowship is strong, supportive and life-giving. I was also able to spend some quality time with my mom and dad in Castro Valley. At ages 90 and 85 – acting and feeling as if they are 50 and 45 – my folks are in good form. One of my father’s classic lines that the extended family often times mimics is this: “Paul, what’s happening and what’s going on?” With so many people in this community, I spent time doing just that and I heard so much of what has been happening in their lives. I look forward to doing this with all of you when I am back for good in June.
During the Easter Season, we have been encountering the Risen Jesus. The One who has risen from the dead is walking the earth before ascending to God. And just what do His followers, friends and strangers see and experience? Jesus IS revealing the freshness and newness that God alone can bring. And at the same time, those who encounter Jesus who is risen experience the real tangible signs of how He lived His life on earth. In other words, His wounds were visible – He bore them and He wore them as do we all.
My brothers and sisters, the beauty of Easter is to celebrate life. God doesn’t want us to live; He wants us to LIVE! Concretely, that means to build a culture of life and to cultivate life. It requires that you and I, in fact each and every one of us, must take care of ourselves and allow others to care for us. Over the past three months I’ve been learning to do just that. More to come…
This weekend, we celebrate Mother’s Day. We honor tremendous women who not only cooperate with God’s life giving designs, but also nurture and foster life by the manner in which they tend to those they love. As a people of faith, we need to look no farther that Jesus’ mother, the Virgin Mary. Her cradling care for her son Jesus epitomizes the depth of selfless and responsible love at any cost. To our mothers, I wish you a very blessed day when we celebrate and thank God for you as you give real flesh to a mother’s love. We ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to protect you, watch over you and raise you from her heart to the Sacred Heart of the Risen Lord Jesus.
I will see you at the end of the month.
Happy Mother’s Day.
May 7th, 2017
Shepherds Must Be Sheep Too
The Fourth Sunday of Easter is often called “Good Shepherd Sunday.” This Sunday we are invited to reflect on and learn from the leadership quality of our risen savior Jesus Christ. Too often we associate the word “shepherd” to bishops and priests because they are officially our pastors. However, we find a much broader understanding that, not only the ordained, but all those “baptized” are leaders and shepherds as well! We are called to celebrate our “priesthood of the faithful”.
In the gospel reading, we hear that the shepherd must enter through the “Gate” himself or herself, if they want to lead the sheep effectively. A shepherd who scales over the fence is not legitimate but a stranger. The sheep cannot learn from or recognized such a behavior, hence the sheep cannot follow. It means that even the leader must also be a learner; the shepherd must learn to be a sheep too. You cannot possibly lead anyone if you don’t know what if feels like to be led; for
you cannot give what you don’t have.
Pope Francis once said that “the shepherd must smell like the sheep.” While he spoke these words to the priests, he meant it for all of us. When we were baptized, we were anointed with the oil of sacred Chrism and we were pronounced priests and priestesses, prophets and prophetesses, kings and queens, because Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is all of these. So, although we are not “ordained priests,” yet we are “general priests” by virtue of our baptism. We have the responsibility to lead exemplary lifestyles for other people to follow, even as we ourselves learn from Jesus Christ. Christian leadership then has this quality of being both a “servant leadership”.
In the first reading we see Peter and the disciples, after they had gone through baptism themselves, leading other people to accept the message of Jesus and receive baptism. The leader must not only talk and expect followers to walk; the leader must walk, for the leader is the same as the one led: A good shepherd is one and the same as the good sheep. Concretely, what does this mean for us?
It is the season when our children make their first communion, and many more are preparing for confirmation. We pray for them most importantly that they embrace the gift of Christian leadership; may they see themselves as both shepherds and sheep at the same time. But if we are to teach them effectively, and be good shepherds to them, we must also dedicate ourselves to life-learning; we must teach by our own following of Jesus’ love, passion and compassion.
Happy Good Shepherd Sunday!
April 30th, 2017
Stories of Hope ...
We may have or know someone who has experienced what we call, “Stories of Hope”. We hear a lot of them during the season of Lent, but we can just as easily call them Easter stories. Whether it’s a community of women in Mexico, a family in India, or a young man in El Salvador, each is faced with a challenge - a crisis of faith. Instead of throwing up their hands, they commit to act.
For me, these stories aren’t so different from the Emmaus story.
When the risen Jesus encounters his disciples on the road to Emmaus, it’s quite clear that their journey away from Jerusalem is, in fact, a journey away from hope. They’ve witnessed their friend, their hoped-for savior die. They’ve seen their community scattered. They think their trust in God was misplaced. What is left for them now?
Jesus, of course, turns them around - quite literally. Their encounter with the risen Christ means a renewed encounter with hope. God is not done yet, and darkness and suffering do not have the final word. The disciples reverse direction, heading back to Jerusalem to proclaim the good news of the risen Christ.
Our modern day “Stories of Hope” remind us that this Emmaus story continues to unfold in our own time. Some 1.3 billion people live in extreme poverty, 805 million don’t have enough food to eat and more than a billion people do not have adequate or safe water to drink. We need only turn on the nightly news to know that war and violence plague our communities - both at home and abroad. Where should we place our hope when the challenges seem insurmountable? It’s tempting to throw up our hands in despair.
Yet, this is the story of Resurrection. We meet Christ daily in the faces of our neighbors, those we meet in our work, our school, our home, on our streets. These encounters need not be enormous acts of philanthropy or world-saving initiatives; sometimes all it takes is a little snack, a small gesture to affirm our common humanity.
We encounter Christ, too, within ourselves. By probing the depths of our own inner life, we come in contact with the God who desires that we live in community - that we look out for one another. And in these encounters, we have reason to hope. Because God is not done yet - and so long as we have strength to continue the work of building a culture of encounter, of responding to our Gospel call, neither are
As we begin this Easter season, let us commit ourselves to sharing Easter hope and joy with all those we encounter.
Deacon Gary Wortham
Director Of Liturgy
April 23, 2017: Divine Mercy Sunday
I want to take this opportunity to wish all of you a blessed Easter filled with moments of life and new beginnings. You are very much at the heart of my prayer. I look forward to returning and ministering among you.
The reason for this letter from me is to celebrate with you. During the Easter Season we celebrate Baptisms, Confirmation for our youth and First Eucharist, too. Also, there are a number of marriages celebrated at both St. Augustine and St. Elizabeth Seton church. These occasions are what we might call sacramental thresholds. In everyday talk, we might refer to these as commencements or beginnings. When we celebrate sacraments, we claim to know what we are getting ourselves into (or so we think) or others speak on our behalf such as when we baptize our babies. But honestly, we know just a small part of what it is we commit to be and do. And that will always be the case. After all, we are PART of the mystery of how God is alive in the world and what He does. In the beginning and in the end, we are not meant to understand His design; we are called to trust Him
Here’s an image. When we live out of faith in Him, we allow God to drive the car and we trust that God knows we are in the passenger seat. He asks our thoughts about the road map and we respond to His driving. But in the end, He’s driving the car if we let Him. How we get to the destination, the map for each of us as individuals, is for Him to determine and for us to offer wise considerations. Is it easy to let Him drive? Oh heavens no!!! I mean NO, NO and NO! Yet, we can see those who allow Him to drive right in our midst.
We’ve had some turnover in parish staff. The past two years are marked by some comings and goings – These changes are born of new opportunities closer to home, moves across the United States and time to cross thresholds and mark new beginnings. As I reflect upon these thresholds, there is a common denominator. These talented women and men allow God to drive the car. Earlier in the year, I mentioned that the coordinator of middle school youth ministry, Nancy Schlachte, would be leaving us after seven years of tremendous service. Her departure is a definite loss. But as she said to me, “It’s time.” And, Nancy and Carl are preparing to leave Pleasanton for that place and space where God is driving them. It is my hope that they find serenity and joy in the newness. We wish them well and pray for them both and their growing family… Congratulations!!!
As many of you might imagine, to coordinate a middle school or high school faith learning program is not easy, whatsoever. To be a bit more blunt about it – this is not for the faint of heart and the demands are more than just a few. I could be jarringly blunt, but I believe you get my point. Nicole Browne’s coordination of high school youth ministry and Confirmation is a thankless task. She balances the demands of families in the parish with program requirements that the Diocese of Oakland places upon all parishes and youth ministers. There are calendars and more calendars that impact planning. This type of a juggle is not easy and it is exhausting. What I know is Nicole does this ministry because of our high school youth. She loves them. As you might know, Nicole has been recovering from surgery that has slowed down this otherwise fast paced woman of faith. Add into this mix that her youngest of three is graduating from high school this year. After six years of youth ministry Nicole is ready to shift gears into new forms of His ministry. We are in conversation about some future possibilities as she discerns. On your behalf, I thank her for the time, energy and enthusiasm she brings to our high school youth ministry. Nicole and her husband Dave are great models of faith, marriage and authentic living. It’s been a joy to minister with her and I look forward to what this threshold crossing brings. When you see her in the pews of St. Augustine or St. Elizabeth Seton, take the opportunity to say thank you. As to her future, God is driving the car.
celebrate these women with you, in particular, as we anticipate that God is driving others to CCOP to bring new life, energy and direction to our learning ministries (Faith Formation). Happy Easter to Nicole and Nancy! It’s about crossing thresholds; it’s about beginnings; it’s about Easter. To you, the Catholic Community of Pleasanton – HAPPY EASTER!!!
You are missed!!!
April 16th: Easter Sunday
Jesus Lives…I Can Face Tomorrow!
On September 1, 2005 in the late afternoon hours, I was on one of hundreds of buses evacuating people out of New Orleans. We were stranded-and-rescued Hurricane Katrina survivors. As the buses went across the bridge over the Mississippi River, I took a final glance at the flooded city and I felt my entire life and work in New Orleans buried, under water – dead! The sense of loss of my church community felt as though I had lost everything: Katrina felt like death for me. But, since 2007, here I am once again with a Catholic Christian community, and feeling I have never been busier in a parish since Katrina: I am alive! I am out of my grave, Alleluia! So, what’s the secret that brought this change? I’d say, it is the Easter Hope that brings; it is the Hope that Christ is Risen and lives! And because he lives, I can face tomorrow.
Theologians tell us that hope is an anticipation or expectation that God will act in the future. By “active hope,” we expect that God will raise us up again. Hope is that strong expectation of God’s action, which then moves us to prepare the way for the divine. Hope is manifested in what we do to bring God’s action into reality. If God will bring me out of my grave, then this hope must show in the kind of life I now live. Jesus’s resurrection from the dead is meant to trigger hope in our living now.
Indeed, we have been prepared for the Good News of Jesus’s resurrection when, a couple of weeks ago, we read that Jesus raised his own friend Lazarus from his grave. In that incident Jesus demanded from Martha and the people to “roll the stone away” – that was their hope! They did roll the stone, and Jesus went to work; Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Hope in Jesus indeed is the secret of surviving any kind of loss including the biggest – the loss of life. Again and again, God has inspired hope among people of Israel. Through the prophet Ezekiel God promised, “I will open your graves and have you rise from them”. Here then, we have
sufficient reason to hope in this God to raise us up from any grave, and from any losses in our lives! Like Peter in Acts of the Apostles, John, Mary Magdalene, and others, we too are witnesses of God’s power over death and all losses.
You may have lost your job, spouse to death or to divorce, family, church, personal dignity, social status, wealth, house or home, friends or loved ones, you name it. Like Lazarus you, too, are a friend of Jesus because you are baptized into Christ Jesus. And your hope that your friend Jesus will work on your behalf will result in your rising again – your restoration!
Hope in Jesus is a gift to our newly baptized, those who have joined our Christian community through initiation. They are now one with us in this hope that comes from Easter; it is the hope that Jesus lives, and so, we can face the future.
April 9th, 2017
Why we have Processions...
Processions are an intimate part of our Catholic liturgical and spiritual life that date back to our Jewish roots. Our processions are a type of pilgrimage first undertaken by the Jews to represent important historical events and always start somewhere and go somewhere; they are movement – both physical and spiritual. They remind us that our Christian life is a constant movement toward God and our eternal home. We are after all a pilgrim people.
Today is Passion (Palm) Sunday; the beginning of Holy Week and the most Holy season of the church; a season offering several opportunities for all of us to join in procession. We begin with the procession of palms. The Roman Missal calls for a procession or solemn entrance before Mass on Passion Sunday. A procession with palms on the Sunday before Easter has a long tradition in our Church and is mentioned by Egeria in her account of Holy Week in Jerusalem in the 4th century. In the Middle-Ages the procession usually moved from one church to another and included a representation of Christ seated on a wooden donkey. The procession with palms is the first of several processions during Holy Week. It leads us to the proclamation of the Passion of the Lord and takes us from joyful acclamation to sober reflection.
On Holy Thursday night, we join the procession to wash each other’s feet and, later, follow the Blessed Sacrament as it is solemnly carried through the church to a special place of reservation in the chapel. On Good Friday, we process from St. Augustine to St. Elizabeth Seton during the Stations of the Cross (Cross Walk) and will later that evening process to the Cross in veneration. At the Easter Vigil we solemnly follow the Paschal Candle in procession from the Holy Fire into the church and from the Word to the Waters of Baptism.
These ritual processions give expression to our faith. They offer all of us the opportunity to participate in public acts of worship. When we join in the processions on Passion Sunday or during the Sacred Triduum, we see, as does the world, the Church on the move, acting as a single unit, acclaiming Christ with shouts of Hosanna or Alleluia. These processions are the Church at prayer. These processions are all of us at prayer.
Just as all of us would be never elbow our way to the front of the Communion line, neither should we break the procession by running around it. Let us enter into this most sacred time and space with a sense of reverence, prayer and awe!
Join us in our Holy Week Processions
Our Holy Thursday service at St. Elizabeth Seton concludes with a Solemn Procession
from the Church into the Chapel of Repose where we continue our evening in silent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament until midnight.
Cross Walk from St. Augustine Church parking lot to St. Elizabeth Seton Church
St. Elizabeth Seton -- We begin at the vacant lot adjacent to the John Paul II Activity Center with the Holy Fire and follow the Easter Candle in Solemn Procession into St.
Elizabeth Seton Church.
April 2nd, 2017
Notes from Matt Gray
In the Gospel for the Fifth Sunday of Lent the raising of Lazarus foreshadows the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. It is an emotional account of friendship and love, grief and hope that reveals Jesus’ identity as the Christ, the Son of God. He raises Lazarus so that we may believe that the Father sent him. And it is through our belief that we connect our love, grief and hope to Jesus. We become one with Him. His mission becomes our mission. Those who believe will never die.
Mixed into this story are key words and phrases that tell us something about the life we are invited to live. For example, to people grieving their deceased friend, Jesus asks, “Where have you laid him?” They answer, “Come and see.” Come and see can be our words today: Jesus, come and see our sorrow and what brings us despair. Come and see our darkness and things that extinguish our hope. Come and see the binding power, the strength of our anxieties, fears, and insecurities. Jesus, I don’t feel joy. I am worn out and indifferent to so many things…Jesus come and see me as I am. Come into my heart with your love and peace and set me free.
The invitation for Jesus to come and see leads Him to the tomb and to the innermost parts of our being. That is what happens when we invite Jesus: He doesn’t stay on the periphery. He goes deep inside! At the tomb Jesus prays and then cries out, “Lazarus, come out!” Jesus is sent into the world to reveal God’s love for us. This love restores Lazarus’ life. But Jesus isn’t finished. “Untie him and let him go,” he says to the others. God’s love is the power that sets us free. Others are there to untie us. We don’t heal on our own. We are baptized into a community. We untie one another.
We untie each other by accepting others and by acting out of genuine concern for others, especially those in need. We learn to untie one another at Mass, where we listen to the stories and bring all that we are to the table and allow Christ to transform us so we are able to carry out his work.
The focus is always outside our doors. We gather to be sent. We model our faith and
people notice. Grounded in Jesus’ love, we do great work for others through our various organizations like the Knights of Columbus, St. Vincent DePaul and a host of other ministries from visiting the sick and the imprisoned to accompanying those who grieve the loss of loved ones.
When we are exposed to the love of Jesus, we can become the people we are called to be. We accompany others. We invite others to share in the joy that we know. What a gift it is to encourage your spouse, friend, or co-worker to deepen his or her faith by completing the Sacraments of Initiation! Or, maybe you realize that Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist are gifts waiting for you to accept now. Life touched by Jesus and lived through the lens of Gospels and the Sacraments changes everything.
Faith is contagious and it is in faith that we untie those around us. We all have friends and family members who are not religious but who feel a bit empty, perhaps without meaning or purpose. Our doors are open. We can encourage them to try the Invite 2.0 series, designed specifically for those who are not Catholic or religious but who feel a tug to something spiritual. We invite and watch the Holy Spirit unfold and enliven others to enjoy healthy and holy relationships.
We trust that God’s promise and dream for us is enough because God has already acted. As Paul tells us in today’s second reading, the Spirit of Jesus already dwells in us. And because of what has already happened through Christ, with joy and hope we do the work of Jesus to build the Tri-Valley into a holy community and to help change the world.
March 26th, 2017
Closer to God? How?
Blessings, People of God,
My dear sisters and brothers, together we have journeyed in this Season of Lent - challenging ourselves, giving of ourselves and looking at ourselves. Historically at this time my friends, usually my non-Catholic ones, interrogate me on what’s it’s all about. This “Lent thing” - giving something up, praying, giving to the poor. The general question is why? Replying that it’s another way I work towards getting closer to God, seems inadequate in their eyes and produces the next question, how?
For some, it’s an opportunity to get into a theological discussion; for others, a chance to show how Catholics have it wrong and yet others seek knowledge and explanation. I feel blessed that the Lord has given me this opportunity to spread the Word and yet cautious as to what to say. I’m asked, “What do you do during Lent that’s so special”. Of course, I echo the three things we are challenged to do during Lent: Praying, Fasting and Almsgiving.
Praying? Quickly I am put on the spot that as Christians we should pray not just during Lent. Catholics don’t pray all year? As ridiculous as that claim may sound, there are those that question our spirituality. Yes, we pray all the time, but during Lent our intent is to increase prayer time with a renewed dedication. Our efforts in prayer are focused on taking more time to raise our minds to God, to love Him with intensity, seeking His friendship and wishing to be in communion. These are not new goals. They are daily goals, but life sometimes gets in the way. Lent, reminds us to slow down and re energize our efforts.
Fasting? Now here, my friends have a big issue. “How does giving up chocolate for forty days help you get closer to God?” My retort normally points to the act of fasting and not the item being “given up”. Fasting is not just the act of “giving up something”. It’s fasting during the Lenten period and what I am doing then is fasting from the world. Normally I pause for a moment to enjoy the “deer in the headlights” looks after making that statement. Then I explain. Fasting is a way to suppress the desires of this world, to acknowledge that I live with Jesus as the center of my life, not the pleasures of this world. The “thing” I give up is a symbol of those desires. In fasting and suppressing the desires of the world, I open my heart to God.
Almsgiving? What’s that? Giving to the poor? Of course, we all should do that all the time, is the gist of this discussion. Again, I explain that it’s not a new thing, just a focused attempt during Lent. Here my response is accepted and no clarification is necessary, but of course there is always another question; “where do you get this from, Catholic school?” My answer, “No, scripture and Jesus”. “Remember the temptation in the desert?” The answer is simplistic and quick, “Oh yea, bread, danger and power”. I’m asked, “what do you think they mean?”
Now the Lord gives me the chance to evangelize, and I share my interpretation of the three temptations as I have learned and sought in my faith journey. Taking one at a time as it was given to me I continue. Bread – not to make the pleasures of the world the center of life, God is the center of my life. Danger – not to submit to the desire of seeking glory, honor or to be noticed, instead seek God and accept His will and love in your life. Finally, Power – seeking with zeal, and submitting to this temptation takes us away from God.
So my friends, I pray your Lenten journey continues to fulfill your life with God’s love.
In His Name,
Director Of Life Long Learning
March 19th , 2017
Living Our Faith in Lent
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
As the Body of Christ, we are now three weeks into our journey together through the desert of Lent towards Easter. We pray, reflect, sacrifice and give to others in need. We repent, re-think our lives, and consider how we live out the Gospel of Christ.
As we journey we encounter some who thirst physically, and others who, like the Samaritan woman at the well, thirst emotionally and spiritually. We encounter others who yearn for acceptance and understanding, just as we seek to be accepted and understood. Jesus calls us to open our eyes to see the broader world more clearly, to recognize others in their needs, to pursue charity and justice.
The Samaritan woman at the well in today’s gospel still cries out today in the 10 million refugees, who yearn for a better life, but suffer closed borders and discrimination for their faith or ethnicity. Jesus calls us to bring his mercy to them, as He brought mercy to the woman at the well. As we pray, reflect and repent in Lent, we might also rethink whatever attitudes we hold onto, that hold us back from being Christ to the Samaritans in our world today.
Beginning this week, over three Sundays, we celebrate the Scrutinies with the Elect who prepare for the sacraments of initiation at Easter. They began the RCIA process months ago and have been formed in the faith. The Elect seek a more intimate knowledge of Christ and his Church, and to progress in genuine self-knowledge through serious examination of their lives and true repentance. The Scrutinies call them to look deeply at themselves and to come closer to God, to eliminate what is weak and sinful, and to affirm what is holy. The Scrutinies call us to
do the same.
In the First Scrutiny this week we pray for their thirst, and for our thirst, to be quenched by the living waters of Christ Jesus, as we reflect on the gospel of the Samaritan woman.
Next week, at the Second Scrutiny, we will pray for them and ourselves to see more clearly in the light of Christ, to be free from false values that blind us, and to give fearless witness to the faith, even in the face of ridicule. We reflect on the gospel of the man born blind.
At the Third Scrutiny, we will pray for the Elect to be led to the resurrection and new life in the risen Christ. We pray this for ourselves as well, as we reflect on the gospel of Lazarus.
As we continue our Lenten journey and pray for the Elect, we pray that we too may remain faithful to our baptismal promises.
May we journey well together through the remainder of Lent so our spirit is filled with Christ the Redeemer who is:
May God bless all of us in our journey!
Deacon Joe Gourley
March 12th, 2017
What’s In It For Me? Listen To Jesus!
We heard Jesus say, in last Sunday’s gospel: “… one does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” This is an invitation to trust God’s word! In the gospel of this 2nd Sunday of Lent, we hear God say, about Jesus: “This is my beloved Son … listen to him.” Somehow, God seems to invite us to invest our confidence and trust in God – Time for a trust-booster shot! But, why would we need our trust and confidence in God boosted now? My guess is that we are in the second week of Lent and by now, some of us, if not all, may be second-guessing the usefulness and value of our spiritual disciplines, whether prescribed by the Church or personally chosen. After two Friday abstentions from meat or other self-chosen things, participation in stations of the cross, doing charitable works like “Rice Bowl” and others, receiving the sacrament, it is not abnormal for one to ask, “by the way, what’s in all these for me?”
The disciples of Jesus were just like us. They have followed Jesus all the way, listening to him, learning from him, believing in him and they have signed on to be in his company, with all the risks and dangers. But, like us, they did not know what the end was. They would like to know to what end are their sacrifices, work and wonder. Here’s Jesus’ blessed assurance – the disciples’ insurance: The transfiguration! That scene where Jesus was transfigured, and glowing bright, must be the place any retiree would give their lifesavings to be. How do I know that? Well, listen to Peter when he experienced that scene: he said, “it is good for us to be here… let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Yes, this fisherman turned disciple knew he has discovered where to live forever; he wants to retire right there! While it is not yet time to retire, and enjoy this beautiful environment, still Jesus wanted the disciples to keep that assurance alive in their minds. This assurance would be handy when the times of second-guessing and doubts arise.
If you find yourself asking “what’s in it for me?” or if have ever had doubts about any aspect of Christian life and spirituality, then in this gospel, lies your answer. Your peace of mind, your insurance policy is in Jesus. God says, “listen to him!” In other words, you can trust Jesus! Lent is a season of intense reflection about our discipleship – how we follow Jesus. From our reflections, we discover different callings – huge or small – that we need to embrace. You may have discovered a new ministry or a new way of living in the Church, in your neighborhood, family, among your friends, or on your job. Perhaps you find out you don’t really have friends … no true relationship. With these discoveries come invitations to sign on to them, a call like that of Abram, to venture into the unknown, “new” and uncharted waters. Would you like to know what’s in there for you?
Listen to Jesus!
March 5th, 2017
Lent: What’s The Buzz about?
Blessings People of God,
Growing up Catholic in New York City, I was always fascinated by this time of year in our Liturgical Calendar and yet I could never explain why. I remember one of my earliest memories of Ash Wednesday was me asking my mother “Why were we doing this?”. Her answer still resonates today, “be quiet and get in line”. It didn’t answer the question but I did as I was told.
Then I grew a little in age, if not in wisdom, and entered CCD classes. That’s what we called it those days and Ash Wednesday would eventually be upon us. Again, the same question reared its head. This time Sister tried to simplify things by saying “my dear child, it’s a test of your Faith”…leaving me to ponder and hope for a multiple choice test. Yet her answer, while not satisfying my curiosity, left me thirsting for more.
As a teenager, while struggling through my scripture studies courses, we were taught the significance of “40 days” and how God tested and challenged His people using the 40-day model: Genesis 7:12 with Noah and the flood, Exodus 24 with Moses and the mountain. I remembered the 12 spies being sent to the promised land as explained in Numbers and it continued with 1 Samuel 17 when Goliath tested Israel, 1 Kings 19:8 with Elijah sent on his journey. Finally, the biggie, at least I saw it that way, of course, Matthew 4 with Jesus in the desert. With each story and discussion by our teachers, I was on my way in my faith journey to answer that question that so
intrigued me. Little did I know the quest would be so fascinating.
So I pondered why Jesus would need to be tested and it dawned on me He did it for me…not Him. Yes, of course, He was preparing for His ministry and mission but He was also bringing something to light for us. To look inside of ourselves, to realize how weak we are and how much we need Him. To show us as our temptations creep in on us, He is there to help us conquer them and live the life God intended for us to live.
Studying the Gospel of Matthew made the three things we were told we should do during Lent make sense. An epiphany came to light in me as I read the words Jesus spoke. “When” you pray, “when” to do almsgiving, I noted that He said “when” not “if” and tried teaching us how we should proceed in our life. The simplicity in His words and to how God takes care of us and to not worry about the ways of man.
Lent is not just a test of Faith, it’s a test of me. My opportunity to refine my love for Jesus. To see others through the eyes of God. To realize that God just wants me to be the best version of myself. To take stock in how I fit in the Body of Christ and how He lives in me. I don’t do it because I have to, I do it because I want to.
So as we continue through Lent with purpose, consider giving God His special time each day. If we pray daily, pray a little more….read scripture and if we already do, spend a little more time with it. While looking at God’s creation, see Him there and in everyone. Every year I was told I needed to “give up something” for Lent, I decided years ago that for me that was not enough. I needed to do more. So I try to give more of myself, to God, my family, the Body of Christ and especially to you my brothers and sisters.
In His Name,
Director of Life Long Learning
February 27th, 2017
Lent: What Happened to the Alleluia?
My Brothers and Sisters,
Lent is only a short three days away and, with it several changes: green turns to purple, the Confiteor (I confess to Almighty God…) returns as the Penitential Act; the Creed changes from the Nicene Creed to the older Apostles’ Creed and the prayers used during Mass take on a more “Lenten” tone. But the one change that I am questioned about the most is, “What happened to the Alleluia?” “Where did it go?” I will attempt to use this opportunity to explain.
In the language of worship, there are words and phrases that are not translated; words that seem to need no translation. Amen; Kyrie, eleison; and Alleluia are such words. Alleluia is heard throughout the Christian world, whether the Mass is in Latin or Greek, Slavonic or Armenian, French or English. It is a word that has occasionally been translated but, more often than not, has been left untranslated. It is a “modification” of the Hebrew word Hallelujah, a word which means "praise the Lord." The alleluia evokes an immediate response of joy and renewed hope; naturally connecting it to the most important feast of the Church year, Easter. This has led to some unique, beautiful, and interesting traditions in our Church history.
This association of alleluia with Easter led to the tradition of intentionally omitting it from the liturgy during the season of Lent, a kind of verbal fast which has the effect, not of depressing the mood of the liturgy, but of creating a sense of anticipation and even greater joy when the familiar word of praise returns. Indeed, when the alleluia does return, it is with an incredible flourish. Before the proclamation of the Gospel at the Great Vigil of Easter, alleluia is sung to an exceptionally elaborate tone. It is a moment of unrestrained fervor as a cantor intones the elaborate alleluia, and the congregation sings it back. The cantor raises the pitch and sings the alleluia a second time, and again the congregation echoes it back. Once more, the cantor raises the pitch, and the congregation responds. And then the good news is proclaimed that Christ is risen from the dead.
The dramatic effect of the return of the alleluia is heightened considerably by the fact that no alleluias have been heard since Lent began. We do not use it at church, we do not use it at home. We do not use it anywhere. We let it rest, as it were, during Lent, so that when it reappears on Easter, we may hear it afresh. In fact, once it returns on Easter, we give it no rest at all, repeating it again and again, in celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus!
February 19th, 2017
“You have heard it was said….But I say to you..."
Dear friends in Christ,
We are living in politically challenging times. So strong is this challenge we face that many of us try to hide from the issues. Some of us have questions about the intersection of our faith and our political climate. We may even try to separate our political life from our religious life. We think that we can actually live a purely religious life without politics – but we are deceiving ourselves. Instead we should see these times as a gift from God. These political challenges serve as magnets and motors to move us out of our comfort zone, settled complacent and spiritually amnesic. How boring! How can we as Catholic Christians believe that our faith has no answer to our present questions and issues? If this is the case, then our faith would be irrelevant and our practices a waste of time.
I think our fear of squarely engaging the political issues of our times comes from the fact that we don’t know our faith well or we feel what we know is no match for the political issues we nevertheless have to deal with. For many of us, what we learned in Catechism or elementary faith formation has remained intact, with no updating. With a knowledge of faith and God so “old” and so archaic we feel powerless, sometimes ashamed, in the face of our political challenges, but Jesus comes to the rescue!
In the gospel reading Jesus invites us to update our faith and its practices. We must retrieve our faith, dust it off, interpret it, update it in dialogue with our current and future social, political and cultural world. Again we cannot slice and dice our humanity into enemies and friends just because we disagree on certain issues, like partisan political persuasions for example. Such enmity is elementary, stagnating and immature. Instead, Jesus asks us to move the bar a notch higher above simply “loving those who love you,” and to promote a lifestyle that can accommodate an inclusive humanity. The first reading says, “though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen, do not incur sin because of him [or her].” So, we cannot abdicate our responsibility to engage in our political climate that comes to us in the positions and views of our fellow parishioners, citizens, co-workers and friends.
If you feel afraid, powerless, or inadequate to live your faith meaningfully in this our political world, I suggest you take a look at the lifelong learning opportunities we have here at CCOP. Attend Bible Study, join a Small Christian Community, participate in WINGS, visit the sessions of RCIA, the Youth Group – “God Squad,” Invite 2.0, etc. It is not enough to have completed your initiation and have happily married in the Church. You must grow and mature in your faith to survive in our challenging times.
February 12th, 2017
My brothers and sisters,
Lent is on the horizon. March 1st is Ash Wednesday!!! There will be plentiful opportunities to deepen your faith life, strip away the layers and focus on what’s essential. In a parish the size of The Catholic Community of Pleasanton, it is easy to remain anonymous – to slide in and out of Mass without talking to anyone. It’s always important to remember that Mass is not a time for private devotion. To the contrary, Mass is public worship, which means that we must gather. Doing so requires not just time before Mass (Think about arriving 5 minutes earlier than five minutes later), but also intentional decisions to meet others, learn names and grow together. As we move toward the season of Lent, I’d like to bring the following to your attention.
Each year, we have our Parish Mission during Lent. From Monday, March 20th thru Wednesday, March 22nd Brother William Woeger, a Christian Brother from Omaha, Nebraska will be with us. William and I have been friends for the last 10 years or so. He is an artist and a liturgist. You will find him very thoughtful with a wonderful wit about him. Speakers who can make us ponder and laugh simultaneously are gifts from God. He is Director of the Office of Worship in the Archdiocese of Omaha and we worked closely while I was Provost at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland. I would encourage you to mark your calendar for either the morning sessions after 8:30 AM Mass at St. Augustine or the evening sessions at St. Elizabeth Seton beginning at 7:30 PM.
Like last year, we are encouraging all of you to consider joining or forming a Small Christian Community (SCC) for the season of Lent. Some groups are based upon the neighborhood where you live, others are based upon like interests, such as recently married couples. SCCs look at life in the light of our faith and share experiences in a comfortable setting, typically in the host’s home. No special knowledge is needed; only your willingness to share. Most groups will focus on the Sunday readings during Lent. Opportunities to sign-up for a group are available after all masses next weekend – February 18/19 in the main entrances to both churches. You can also go to the parish website page for SCCs HERE.
Finally, as we did in 2016 during the Year of Mercy, we want to underscore the importance of the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). We will have communal celebrations in the latter part of the Lenten Season. In addition, we are available, the priests, for private appointments. If you want to spend more time celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation or if you wish to experience Spiritual Direction (conversation that can include the Sacrament of Reconciliation), then call the rectory to set an appointment with a priest. We all need to explore situations and experiences through the lens of our faith in Jesus, our redeemer healer and savior. We all need to experience the warmth of His light that transforms darkness.
There will be more to come, but these are some large Lenten brushstrokes. And as for this week on Tuesday, February 14th the Church celebrates the Memorial of Saints Cyril, a Monk, and Methodius, a bishop. Oh… and Happy Valentines Day.
February 5th, 2017
My brothers and sisters,
Given the present temperature of the public square in our country, I thought it best to touch the intersection of Catholic Social Teaching and the rise in Nationalism. Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego penned this article for America Magazine. McElroy is one of the United States Bishop Conference’s chief spokespersons on the Church and public policy. This is an enlightening read…Fr. Paul
WHAT IS THE CATHOLIC RESPONSE TO THE RISE IN NATIONALISM
A powerful nationalism surges through our country. It points to the feelings of dispossession that have been abroad in our land. It hints of past betrayal. It calls forth sentiments of heartfelt patriotism rooted in the historic legacy of the American experiment in freedom and democracy. It signals a nostalgia for the past and searches for renewed greatness in our nation.
As a new administration and Congress begin, the merger of populism and nationalism at work in the cultural and political currents of the United States compels us to explore deeply the nature of both nationalism and patriotism and to evaluate them in the light of our identity as disciples of Jesus Christ.
In Catholic social teaching, the love of country is a virtue. The Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church states clearly that “the principle of solidarity requires that men and women of our day cultivate a greater awareness that they are debtors of the society of which they have become a part.” And in his moving message to the people of Poland entitled “My Beloved Countrymen,” Pope John Paul II spoke of true patriotism amid the cauldron of oppression and upheaval: “Love of our motherland unites us and must unite us above all the differences. It has nothing in common with narrow nationalism or chauvinism. It is the right of the human heart. It is the measure of human nobility.”
But if love of country is a virtue and a moral obligation, the nationalistic impulse itself has no moral identity. It can signal the most virtuous patriotism that integrates the love of country into the spectrum of moral obligations that accrue to our humanity, or it can be rooted in pride, isolationism and discrimination.
There are three questions the United States must wrestle with in the coming months in order to insure that the nationalist impulse so prominent in our society today produces a substantive patriotism that is morally sound and unitive for our country.
Who Are “We the People?
”The first of these questions is: Who are “the people” in the United States? Populist movements in American history, and in this most recent election cycle, have raised important and substantial claims of injustice against oppression by elites in economic, political, juridical and cultural life. They have brought to the fore the need for democratic reforms that have empowered the citizenry of the United States in enormously beneficial ways. But frequently populist nationalism has targeted specific marginalized groups in American society—the Irish, blacks, Southern Europeans, Jews, immigrants and the poor. As a consequence, populist nationalism has often been exclusionary and nativist, carrying with it claims that “the people” are really only some of the people who live within the United States.
The recent election campaign was deeply marred by exclusionary rhetoric and proposals that have driven deep wedges into our culture and raised the specter of imposing exclusionary government policies that target specific groups on the margins of our society. It is essential that this nativist element of the nationalist current in our culture, that does not represent a majority of Americans in either political party, be purged from the national debate in the coming months.
In its place, the church teaches, must be the principle of solidarity, which “highlights in a particular way the intrinsic social nature of the human person, the equality of all in dignity and rights and the common path of individuals and peoples toward an ever more committed unity.” The well-being of our nation cannot be advanced by a search for unity rooted in exclusion. Rather we must seek to heal the cultural divide that is so detrimental to our country’s future by fostering a deep spirit of inclusion and put behind us the ideological and partisan tribalism that has brought us to this continuing national impasse on the most basic issues facing our nation. The Catholic sense of solidarity has been so absent in our nation during the past decade that we have lost our way. The first step to recovery is to rediscover the bonds that tie us all together as a people and to accentuate them in our society, culture and politics.
“Who are the people” in the United States? All of us.
Where Lies America’s Greatness?
The second question that America must confront is: What does greatness mean for the United States? Does this greatness revolve principally around questions of power, wealth and success? Or is the greatness we seek founded in the order of justice, freedom, truth and solidarity? In short, is it a material greatness or a greatness of the soul?
The question of American exceptionalism has long been a source of contention in historical and political debate. And this exceptionalism has been characterized in many different ways. But at this moment in our nation’s history the most important idea of exceptionalism that we might claim flows from the reality that we as a nation of immigrants are not tied together by connections of blood, but rather by the set of aspirations our founders set forth in 1776 and that they both succeeded in attaining and failed to attain. Thus patriotism for us as Americans is an aspiration renewed in every age by understanding the noble elements of our nation’s birth and the defects of its original vision. Our patriotism is not a foundation for pride but an ever-deepening challenge to ennoble our culture, society and government. As Pope Francis reminded us in his address to Congress, America’s greatness lies in the freedom proclaimed by Abraham Lincoln, the justice lived out by Dorothy Day, the poignant dream of racial equality articulated by Martin Luther King Jr. and the spiritual richness of Thomas Merton.
Such a greatness seeks to challenge every injustice in our midst—the reality that young black men fear for their security when facing law enforcement, the sense of dispossession felt by young white men without a college education; the specter of deportation for mothers and fathers and Dreamers and children in the millions, the fear that police face every day trying to protect society; discrimination against Muslims; the economic devastation of family life in the coal country of our nation.
In the coming months there will be efforts from every part of the political spectrum to curtail this expansive vision of American greatness, to reduce it to something parochial, materialistic, divisive or superficial. But fidelity to the dreams and the failures of our founders, and, even more important, to the dignity of the human person and the common good demanded by our Catholic faith, must not allow us to ignore the fundamental reality that greatness for our nation is not a possession or power but an ever-challenging aspiration of the heart and soul.
Nationalism and the International Common Good
The final question our country must answer in relation to the nationalism coursing through our culture is whether that nationalism conceives itself as rooted in the interests of the United States alone, or whether it is connected on a fundamental level with our obligations to the whole of humanity. In surveying the effects of globalization on the world, Pope Benedict lamented, “as society becomes ever more globalized, it makes us neighbors but does not make us brothers.” What are the central bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood that the empirical reality of globalization thrusts upon the people of every nation as members of the human family?
The starting point for identifying the demands of the international common good lies in the pivotal affirmations of our faith that God is the father of the entire human family, that creation is a gift to every man and woman, that the stewardship of our planet belongs by right to all and that war is a massive failure of the entire human family.
These teachings point to the obligation of every nation to integrate its policies and the pursuit of its national interests with the good of humanity as a whole, becoming, in the words of Pope Francis, “a community that sacrifices particular interests in order to share in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life.” Parochial nationalism utterly rejects such an integration. Thus a central question for our nation, and especially for the Catholic community, is whether our nation’s actions in three key issue areas of foreign policy will be dictated by American self-interest alone or by American interest seen in the context of the international common good.
Three Key Issue Areas
The first of these issue areas is the global economy. Speaking to the United Nations, Pope Francis was clear in describing the current economic realities of our world that all nations must sacrifice to change: “In effect, a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and the disadvantaged. Economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity and a grave offense against human rights….” In the vision of economic life that the pope has so powerfully presented to the world, grotesque levels of inequality, unemployment, dire poverty and malnutrition constitute the wholesale violation of core elements of an authentic substantive global common good. They are compounded by the instrumentalization of the human person through globalized markets in human trafficking, the sexual exploitation of children, slave labor and the drug and weapons trades.
The second area of challenge between nationalism and Catholic social teaching centers on the global environment. In “Laudato Si’” Pope Francis sounds a fire bell to the world about the environmental crisis looming for our world in climate change, the deterioration of biodiversity and the loss of farmlands and water for the poorest peoples of the world. The pope is clear that the only pathway forward lies in international cooperation designed to confront the destructive trajectories that have been inflicted upon our common home by human choice. “An interdependent world not only makes us more conscious of the negative effects of certain lifestyles and models of production and consumption that affect us all; more important, it motivates us to ensure that solutions are proposed from a global perspective, and not simply to defend the interests of a few countries. Interdependence obliges us to think of one world with a common plan.”
The third major area of Catholic social teaching that conflicts with nationalism concerns the responsibility of all peoples for the refugees in the world. It was this responsibility that brought Pope Francis to the island of Lampedusa in the earliest days of his pontificate to remember in prayer those hundreds of refugees who had drowned seeking freedom from oppression and suffering. Recalling the story of Cain and Abel in the Book of Genesis, Francis declared: “God asks each one of us: Where is the blood of your brother that cries out to me?... Today no one in the world feels responsible for this; we have lost the sense of fraternal responsibility.” In a world that is confronting the largest refugee crisis in more than six decades, the nationalism surging through the United States categorically denies just that sense of responsibility for refugees that Francis underscores. This is what passes for nationalism in a country that has historically distinguished itself as being a haven for refugees.
The Task Ahead
The Catholic vote was pivotal in the 2016 election. Now the Catholic community must be pivotal in bringing the vision of the church’s social teaching into the dialogue that will unfold in the coming months. That dialogue is immensely enriched by the new acceptance within the presidency and the Congress of the right to life for the unborn. It must also be enriched by a rearticulation of what patriotism means for the citizens of our nation: a patriotism that recognizes that every member of our society constitutes equally “the people,” a patriotism that sees greatness not in power or wealth but as a moral and spiritual aspiration founded in justice, freedom and solidarity; and a patriotism that advances America’s aims in the world in a manner that enhances the dignity and integral human development of all peoples.
Robert W. McElroy
January 29th, 2017
My brothers and sisters,
Last weekend, a parishioner approached me after Mass. She was clearly irritated with the number of cell phones ringing and the number of people texting during the celebration of the Eucharist. I bring this up – not to go on a rant – but for us to consider what we do and to heighten awareness of what we need to do.
Information technologies (the internet, email, software programs like Facebook and Instagram, mobile phones, IPhones and pads) have made us the most informed, efficient, and communicative people ever. We have the capability all day, every day, of accessing world events, world news, and detailed accounts of what our families and friends are doing at any moment. That’s the positive side of the equation.
Less wonderful is what this is doing to our lives, how it is changing our expectations, and robbing us of the simple capacity to stop, shut off the machines, and rest. As we get wrapped up more and more in mobile devices, texting, email, Facebook and Instagram we are beginning to live with the expectation that we must be attentive all the time to everything that’s happening in the world and within the lives of our families and friends. The spoken and unspoken expectation is that we be available always – and so too others. We used to send each other notes and letters and expect a reply within days, weeks, or months. Now the expectation for a reply is minutes or hours, and we feel impatient with others when this expectation is not met and guilty inside of ourselves when we can’t meet it.
And so we are, daily, becoming more enslaved to and more compulsive in our use of mobile phones and pads. For many of us it is now impossible to take off a day – imagine two days off – and be on a genuine holiday or vacation. Rather the pressure is on us to constantly check for texts, emails, phone messages, and the like; and the expectation from our families, friends, and colleagues is precisely that we are checking these regularly. And, I am not well disciplined in this regard either!!!
But the rhythm of time as God designed it is meant to give us, regularly, weekly, some time off the wheel, some “Sabbath-time” when ordinary life, ordinary pressures, ordinary work, and ordinary expectations are bracketed and we give ourselves permission to stop, to shut things down, and to rest. Today, nowhere is this more appropriate and urgent than in regards to our use of our mobile devices.
I’d like us to consider committing ourselves to shutting our devices off so that the celebration of the Eucharist can be a “Sabbath-hour.” When we can step away and escape the rapid and fast paced movement of time. It might do us all well to just slow down and spend focused time in prayer.
What do you think? Leave the device at home or under lock and key as we celebrate Mass.
Let’s commit to try!!!
January 22nd, 2017
My brothers and sisters,
This weekend (January 21st—22nd), our youth who are preparing for Confirmation are away on retreat at Mt. Hermon. There are 116 teens, along with a host of adult leaders – almost 150 in total. Let’s keep them in our prayers. Our youth are continuing their discernment (prayerful and thoughtful reflection) and preparation to embrace and live out the fullness of their initiation as Catholic Christians. The Sacrament of Confirmation will complete this part of their faith journey and initiate the next stages of ongoing discernment of their vocations. They are the young Church and we have a great deal to learn from them as all of us are “learning” to be followers of Christ. Just what is the Lord calling them to do with their lives? How will they respond to the Lord’s promptings?
Just this past week, Pope Francis reminded the Church that his focus and our focus need to be on youth. We are in an early period of preparation for a gathering in Rome in October 2018. At that gathering, the leaders of the Church will discuss the youth of the world. This will be eye opening, because while we can speak of a globalization of “youth culture,” what it means to be a teenager in Pleasanton might be somewhat different that being a teenager in Ghana or Haiti or even Argentina. These nuances will be part of the conversation. The theme of this conversation with the youth is "Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment."
Pope Francis has released a preparatory document that can be found on the parish website. Attached to the document are questions to stimulate conversation. Some questions are general and some questions are specific to the part of the world in which we live. For us, that’s the Americas. Nicole Browne, our high school youth minister, intends to engage our youth in exploring the preparatory document and encouraging them to respond to the questions. We will then forward the content of their conversation to ensure that our responses will be part of the living reflections on youth. These responses will be part of a conversation of the global church. How awesome that the youth of Pleasanton’s considerations will be heard!
This is an awesome opportunity to remind ourselves that we are part of a Universal Church that extends beyond our lived experience. When the Pope released the document and the questions, he directly addressed the youth and young adults of the global church. He wants them "to be the center of attention" for the entire process "because you are in my heart." We have the opportunity to learn from the faith experiences of our young church.
And we pray for the 116 youth on retreat this weekend. Protect them, love them and
guide them, loving and merciful God.
January 15th, 2017
Brothers and sisters,
Now that we have moved beyond the Christmas Season, I want to take this opportunity on behalf of all the staff to thank you for your kindness and generosity. You shower us with gifts and sentiments of love and appreciation. We feel the same way.
This past week, we began the parish’s new initiative, Invite 2.0. This is an invitation to spirituality. Belief in a personal God is something Christians presume. Should we? Those in the millennial generation who self identify as Catholic Christians are not so certain that they have a personal relationship with God – almost 40%! This is not limited to that generation alone. There needs to be a broad conversation inviting men and women to consider the beauty of something so personal and so deep with God.
I would like to encourage you, the members of the Catholic Community of Pleasanton, to ask someone you know who is “seeking” to join us. As you have heard, this is not adult education for members of the parish; this is not RCIA; it’s not Returning Catholics. This is an opportunity for those in the broader community to ask the most basic of questions in a welcoming environment. To engage in a conversation that is free and ranging far reaching. This is the place and the space to seek and to seek freely. Please join us on Wednesday evenings at 7:30 PM. Invite 2.0 meets in the Chapel of St. Elizabeth Seton.
Finally, it is clear that we are back in full swing after Christmas. The January Adult Education Series continues on Thursday evenings at St Elizabeth Seton Church.
Start time is 7:30 PM. Let’s keep those preparing for Confirmation in our prayers as they go on retreat as well. High School leadership continues to collect socks, scarves, gloves and hats for the homeless. There are bins in the entrances to both churches. Last drop off day is January 27.
As we move through January, let’s continue to be a community that is activated by our personal and communal relationship with Jesus.
January 8th, 2017
My brothers and sisters,
What’s praise? We need to consider that the heart of our worship must entail praise. Right now, we are living in times that have many people worried and concerned for a variety of reasons. In the midst of all of this, how can we be a people who rightly praise God? I’m not someone who puts on the appearance of “praise.” Instead, praise must come from the core and be part of a deliberate awareness of how it is we stand in relationship to God. In short, we need to glorify God in all things and sing His praises.
The January Lecture Series for 2017 is on praise. Last Thursday, Fr. Kwame touched on the general theme of praise. This week, with my background in worship (liturgy), I will touch on how we need to raise a joyful voice when we are at worship. During some seasons that means uproarious jubilance; at other times praise can be more “thoughtful,” causing pause. Praise is not just banging the drum.
Week three, we will touch upon how we lift ourselves in praise in our learning! For all of us, that means a deliberate desire to grow in a consciousness of Jesus. He accompanies us and wants us to know Him. For all of us who have been in love, we want to get to know that person thoroughly and intensely. Jesus wants us to feel that for Him. We need to learn about him inside and out.
Finally, praise must be grounded in our everydayness. Living justly, temperately and charitably is the bedrock of the Christian lifestyle. We will spend the final week in January touching on how to take our faith into the classroom and conference room, to the living room and the dinner table, to the friend and the stranger alike. In all ways, we must be about praise.
My friends, join us on the Thursdays in January at 7:30pm at Saint Elizabeth Seton. We build community and have an opportunity to know each other far more deeply when we share what is at our core – faith.
I look forward to seeing you!!!
And… Happy New Year,
January 1st, 2017
My brothers and sisters,
Happy New Year! This day is even more special for us Catholics as we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God – Mother of Jesus, Mother of the Church, your mother and mine. Now that is a mouthful!!! It is so significant to consider the relational quality of the celebration. Because of our relationship to God and God taking full human flesh – Jesus – anything said of them must be said of the Church. And if the Church is God’s visible presence on earth, the tangible symbol of Jesus alive, then what is said of the Church must be said of you and me. So Mary is Mother of the Church and Mary is my mother and yours.
The implications are beautiful and powerful. When I consider Mary’s faithfulness to Jesus her son, the depth of her love for Him is no different than the depth of her love for you and me. My brothers and sisters… read the Scripture, what she loved, cherished, endured and suffered as she walked with Him is exactly what she lives with us. And she challenges us with a mother’s love in the same way she challenged Jesus, albeit infrequently. Do remember when Jesus walked away from Mary and Joseph when he was a boy. Mary was not too happy (Luke 2)! She might say the same to me and some of my behavior! “Paul, what are you doing?” She might say the same to you too!!!
While this is true, these moments are just that – moments. The Virgin Mary’s love for you and me is rooted deep and soars to the heavens. As she believed in her Son, she believes in us. So we need to remember who and whose we are. We are the presence of Jesus in the world and we belong to God. When we pray this way, think this way, talk this way and act as such, Mary affirms us and supports us in the pursuit of virtuous and good living.
As we begin the New Year, as we celebrate Mary on this Solemnity, let us be mindful that our resolutions don’t need to be grand. The resolutions don’t need to be about weight loss or gain in particular. We don’t’ need to make that HUGE resolution to go to the gym. Why don’t we commit to something far more basic and far more challenging? This is especially the case when we look at the present world. Maybe our resolution in 2017 needs to be an affirmation of who and whose we are and all that implies. It takes integrity to live this way. While some may call it simplistic and naïve, to stand up against what is shady – to live with integrity and virtue – builds character and takes character.
Look at the basic patterns of behavior that are Jesus’. How does He treat the poor? How does He treat His adversaries? How does He treat the infirmed? How does He utilize His time? His talent? His treasure? Whatever He does specifically, He glorifies God above all else. He glorifies the Father. And He trusts His mother’s love. To do so well, we need to trust in the maternal care of Mary, God’s mother and ours. And if we do, then we can stand tall to be Jesus in a world desperately in need of mercy and
New Year Blessings,
December 25th, 2016
My brothers and sisters,
Merry Christmas!!! On behalf of the pastoral staff and leadership councils at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton, I want to wish you and your families the joy and peace of Jesus – birthed into the world, as God chose in an act of pure love to enter as our Savior and Redeemer. Obviously, as we look at Jesus in the Sacred Scripture, we can see at every twist and turn how He made crooked ways straight. For us, we need to remember that we are not alone on this journey. When I look to Jesus and his life on earth, I inevitably find the pathway for healthy living. None of us do that perfectly and we must rely upon Him.
I’m also aware that this time of year is difficult for some. The loss of a loved one, broken relationships and so many other situations and experiences surface during this season. May the soothing peace of Jesus be revealed through care that is
received by others. And when necessary, reach out – from both sides! If we know someone who is lonely or alone, reach out to them. If one is lonely or alone, then find those right spaces or places where you can be in healthy relationships.
Let us cherish what is of utmost importance to Him and should be to us – family. My Christmas hope for all of you is to cherish your families and accept members of your families as they are. From there we create environments where each of us can grow. All of us are a mix of saint and sinner and like Pope Francis, the point of departure should be the person and loving the person.
Above all else, what the Christmas Season should remind us to be about is the relationship. Relationship with God and with one another is how we are fundamentally formed. We get so busy with the busyness of too much happening that we never stop to ponder what is of essential importance. It’s about family and keeping grounded in a relationship with God the Father and His Son and our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
To all of you, the blessings of Christmas. May the Light that is born into the world illuminate you, warm you and comfort you.
December 11th, 2016
My brothers and sisters,
We started out this Advent journey with the invitation to be attentive. Do we see beyond the veneer of things in our fast-paced living? Are we thoughtful stewards of the gifts God has given us which amounts to just about everything that is fundamentally good? When we exercise good stewardship, what is good becomes virtuous.
Over this season, there is so much happening that we need to take stock. Let’s start with the Giving Tree. This weekend, over 3,300 individuals will receive Christmas presents from YOU! When the gifts are delivered, we are handing them a gift that is basic and essential. We are providing coats, shirts and pants. And for the kids, we provide these essentials as well as a little something from Santa. On behalf of the Giving Tree leadership team, I want to thank you for this exercise of stewardship.
We are also collecting unwrapped gifts for the families of those who are detained and held at Santa Rita Jail. All too often, the families feel the pinch of their loved one’s situation. We have an opportunity to ease that pain and provide gifts for the children of inmates. There are bins in the main entrances of both churches. Again, a stewardship opportunity…
Tonight (Sunday), Fr. Kwame and I are hosting an evening on the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession). Together, we will meet after the 6:30 PM Mass. We are going to speak about what Reconciliation is and address many of the misconceptions about it! All too often, we do not embrace this Sacrament. Ultimately, do we understand that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is about freedom to go forward? See you on Sunday night…
Wednesday and Thursday – December 14th and 15th – are opportunities for communal reconciliation (confession). This is the celebration that Fr. Kwame and I are discussing on Sunday as preparation. As stewards, this is the opportunity to assess when we are hoarding our gifts or not using them wisely or for the benefit of others. I don’t know about you, but that in itself puts me in the frame of mind to acknowledge my sin, seek forgiveness and correct my ways. Wednesday night is for the youth and their families. Something to consider… I know that so many of us enjoy seeing the youth together as they embody church and so attend that service. As a result, the numbers are huge as are the lines for confession. Please consider going on Thursday if you have an empty nest. There, on Thursday, we can still pray with and for our youth, but it’s first and foremost about us experiencing the Sacrament. Something to consider…
On Friday night, we will be the recipients of fellow parishioners sharing their talents and being good stewards of their God given gifts. Our annual Christmas Concert is on Friday, December 16th at St. Elizabeth Seton Church. I have heard from a number of reliable sources that Ira has been cracking the whip. Also, he heard from so many of you the past two years who said the concert was not long enough!!! So, a song or two have been added. And, from the chatter that comes my way, there might be some singers this year who may surprise many of you. It’s a great night for your kids and for the whole family. Bring a neighbor!!!
As you can see… it’s a busy week at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton. It’s an awesome time! It is a time to be attentive. It is a time to watch and wait. It is a time to assess our stewardship – as individuals and as members of the parish. It is a time to consider how we exercise good use of our time, our gifts and our income. Now is the time for us to consider how we exercise everything God has given us.
We are moving through Advent. Let’s be mindful as we walk into real light and walk with the Lord!!!
We need to be so very grateful. Let’s be virtuous!!!
December 4th, 2016
My brothers and sisters,
This Advent, I have made it my personal prayer and focus to be present in relationships that are meaningful. A good friend texted me to say: “We need to get together and spend some time. We see each other in passing and never seek to make time to sit down.” He’s right. The season of Advent – in part – invites us to pay attention, to make deliberate and long lasting decisions on what is needed for right living. Like a New Year resolution, a commitment to focus or better self as the dawn of a new Church year begins is important. However, let’s not allow the focus to slip away as oftentimes those January 1st promises go by the wayside.
One way to be attentive during this season of Advent is to begin considering stewardship as a core value for Christian living. Many think stewardship is JUST about money. Stewardship is central to our identity and a good map for putting faith into action. One of the primary tenets is this – everything is a gift… To make time to sit down with my friend who texted me is not easy. And I can make every excuse imaginable. That relationship is a gift. In the beginning and in the end, it’s about how I respond and how you respond from understanding I deserve nothing from God; I have been given everything from Him – my life, my abilities, my family, my relationships. In other words, who we are and what we “have” is given by God. As
Christians we must remember that we are His and that the here and now while very real and felt, is transitory. Our ultimate citizenship is with Him in that home called eternal. If that is the case, then we need to begin to order our lives with Him and toward Him. Easy? Oh heavens no...
I have been jotting down some basic questions for us to consider… Do I begin my day in prayer? For who and for what do I pray? Do I pray out loud with my family? Am I grateful in prayer or only “asking” when I believe I “need” something? Do I believe that I am responsible to cultivate life – mine and others – to thank God for His love. Is worship – going to Mass – a chore or is it the veiled gift that keeps on giving? Do I engage in ministry at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton? Do I see ministry as a way to give back to God? Do I share an appropriate amount of my income with the Catholic Community of Pleasanton prayerfully and deliberately? Do I support the ministry of charity and justice at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton? Do I see myself as part of the Catholic Community of Pleasanton or do I just go to Church?
These are just a few questions that I believe are worth pondering. If we are called to be attentive, then we need to know upon what we should focus. This season is an invitation to take an inventory. I believe that the above questions – while simple – serve as a point of departure to streamline our lives, hone in on basics and be clear about priorities. The Catholic Community of Pleasanton exists to be a steward of God’s goodness.
Why the underlined attention upon the Catholic Community of Pleasanton? It’s quite simple. Faith is lived in community. As a Catholic Christian Community we must stand together in order to support one another as we gather for liturgy, learning and living. We do this so that we can engage in outreach together. This allows us to give back to God not in just a personal manner, but as His people. That’s why the Catholic Community of Pleasanton exists. We exist for Him.
To spend these next weeks of Advent pondering stewardship and praying over the exercise of stewardship may prove the best way you can prepare for Christmas. As I said the past two weeks in my preaching, this season is a busy one. Let’s be busy about the business of the One who is to come into the world. Let’s get busy and continue to answer the Lord like John the Baptist and Mary, the Mother of God, Mother of the Church, your mother and my mother. They kept focused. Let’s follow the lead of our great ancestors in faith. It’s not just sitting back to watch and wait for the Lord who is to come. I need to get busy about being a good and faithful steward.
Let’s keep it real in Advent…
November 27th, 2016
My brothers and sisters,
I hope you had a good Thanksgiving Day with family and friends. It is certainly a time to be grateful for the basics. At times, we take family for granted. Family life is fragile and needs to be cradled and cultivated. Sometimes, the ones we love are the most neglected relationships. Let’s be thankful for the gift of family.
For some the end of November and December are difficult times. Given the passing of loved ones and the reality of broken families, it is best to reach out to others so that we are not alone during this time. The Catholic Community of Pleasanton’s grief support is a tremendous asset for our parish. Those involved with this ministry give of themselves tirelessly and generously. Members of the parish staff are also available if anyone needs to talk or receive spiritual direction. We have competent leaders who are here to support the community.
Given everything that is happening in the country, it is also a time to be respectful and civil in our conversations. I remember when I first went to seminary, kindness and charitable words were underscored. If we cannot say something positive, then we can probably do greater good being silent. When we do want to express dissatisfaction, the right to assemble is fundamental and should be peaceful
without resorting to violence.
Let’s keep each other in our prayers as we enter the Advent Season and begin the new Church year. We watch and wait for the One who was born of the Virgin and transformed the world. It will get busy the month of December as we prepare for Christmas and the Christmas Season. Let’s try to not get lost in the busyness and
return to the importance of family and time together.
O come, O come Emmanuel. Be with us
November 20th, 2016
My brothers and sisters,
The trip to Italy was tremendous and while the group was large – 58 pilgrims – we stayed together. I thoroughly enjoyed walking through the streets of the various cities. Just magical! Thank God I was walking given the amount of pasta that was consumed!!! Of course, Assisi was a highlight. There is something magical about that place. There is a definite sacredness. To stand in the place where Christ told St. Francis to “rebuild his church” and to walk through it was so profoundly significant.
My personal joy was celebrating Mass in the various churches. In Rome, we visited the four major basilicas – St. Peter, St. John Lateran which is the Bishop of Rome’s cathedral, St. Mary Major and St. Paul Outside the Walls. And at each, we journeyed through the great doors but only after praying the Penitential Act (I confess to Almighty God and to you my brothers and sisters…). It was a sacred time.
In particular for me having Mass at 8:00 AM in St Peter Basilica was an honor. That early in the morning, the cavernous basilica is not crowded with people. Expecting the usual hordes of people, you could have picked my jaw up off the floor. There was a stillness to the sacred space with light pouring through the windows. We celebrated Mass at the altar of St. Joseph, which is just to the right of the main altar. Just an amazing opportunity and gift.
And the saying “all roads lead to Rome” is so apt. One day as we toured the Roman catacombs, I met up with a friend who works in the Archdiocese of Seattle. What a pleasant surprise! And then had lunch with another friend who is a Catholic journalist and met a seminary classmate. It’s a small world.
The purpose and time of the pilgrimage was to close out the Year of Mercy. We will do this on Sunday for the Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe. There will be ample opportunities to celebrate the Sacrament of reconciliation and penance which has been a major focus this Jubilee Year. Opportunities for individual and communal celebrations will be in the months of December.
It’s good to be home and back in Pleasanton with all of you. You were remembered at every Mass I celebrated and I appreciate your prayers for me.
Hope to see you on Thanksgiving Day. Mass is at 10:00 AM at St. Augustine.
November 13th, 2016
Faith Formation Update...
Blessings People of God,
As we enter into our third month of the Faith Formation Season we wish to take the opportunity to give the parish an update of CCOP’s programs. As you know CCOP strives to offer ongoing faith formation opportunities for you and your family, no matter who you are and where you are on life’s journey.
Currently our youth programs are at capacity, offering basic faith formation classes along with sacramental prep classes. Our AMP and High School youth groups continue to grow and flourish under the leadership of Nancy Schlachte and Nicole Browne. We also have a strong CIC (Christian Initiation for Children). Together, we are partners in educating the children in CCOP and ourselves, in the Catholic faith. Thank you for the trust and confidence you place in us.
We are proud to say that we are also evaluating and refining the Adult Faith Formation programs. As some of you may know, we recently started the new Bible Study classes under the tutelage of Father Kwame. We also are in the planning stages of the January Series for 2017. Adult RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) under the direction of Matt Gray, is another example of our continued commitment to serve those who seek Christ. Along with these programs, other programs are in the design stage and 2017 promises to be an exciting year for CCOP Faith Formation.
Being in Faith Formation for over 25 years and having served in both the small neighborhood church to the large mega-church, I am both excited and honored to be part of this interesting time here at CCOP. In my short time here, I have had the pleasure of meeting many families and parishioners who share that excitement for things to come. From our baptism to early education, from the sacramental preparation years to middle school, high school, and beyond, we will attempt to offer many dynamic ways for all of us to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ and His
Of course we all must deal with challenges. To have a family is also to be busy. Between sports, school, and different activities, so much of your time is already filled. We choose these activities for our families because we believe that they will allow for growth, for maturity, and for further opportunities in life. At CCOP we believe that knowing God, to hear the good news of Jesus Christ and His teachings, and to learn the teachings of His Church create new opportunities in this life and in the one to come. Time management isn’t the only challenge for us, the dedicated staff, catechists and volunteers are the backbone of any Faith Formation Program. We were dealt an unexpected blow with the departure of Jennifer Tilton, our Elementary and Sacramental Prep Coordinator. Jennifer’s husband, a member of the US Military, was issued orders and needed to relocate his family to the Mid-West. We wish Jennifer the best and will keep her in our prayers.
We will continue forward with purpose under Father Paul’s guidance and your support. We pray that through our parish you will encounter God and all that He has in store for you.
In His Name,
November 6th, 2016
Brothers and Sisters,
There are two openings for the Pastoral Council for the term that starts in January. Perhaps you have given some thought to self nominating and wondered how the process actually works. I would like to share a little bit of my experiences of going through the discernment process.
I moved to Pleasanton and joined The Catholic Community of Pleasanton in 2004. I joined the Giving Tree ministry and became a Eucharistic Minister. I have been involved in or led several ministries since then, including the Picnic, First Wednesdays, and Cookie Sundays for Newcomers. I listened to fellow parishioners while we talked about CCOP -- what was already great and what else we could do to build a stronger community.
I have learned about how CCOP works and what makes it tick. I have met so many people who give tirelessly to make CCOP run smoothly every day, day in and day out, to support the many programs and operations of our Parish. CCOP has been a blessing in my life, which is why I have always felt I have had more to give and wanted to contribute to the future of CCOP -- to be a part of the next chapter. Perhaps you feel this way too.
I was elected to the Pastoral Council for my first term. Then we transitioned to the Discernment process and I wondered how it was going to work, but went into it with an open mind and heart. It turned out to be an amazing, faith-filled experience. Through the entire process, each of us continued to discern whether the Pastoral Council was a fit for us. Submitting a biography was a first step into the process. We came together with the standing Pastoral Council and other parishioners who were also discerning. We shared our experiences and continued asking questions during two sessions. At any time, one could decide it wasn’t a good fit. We listened and learned about one another. We started to evolve into a team.
As we came together on the Pastoral Council, we built upon what we started. Whether discussing new initiatives or operational programs, one thing is always true and that is how much we collectively care about CCOP. Decisions are not made hastily, but rather slowly and deliberately, and always with an eye toward how we can better serve God and make him better known here at CCOP and in the Tri-Valley.
If you feel a calling to share your gifts through the Pastoral Council, please take a moment to explore the website and click on the Pastoral Council button on the home page. Feel free to reach out to me, Fr. Paul, or another pastoral council member with any questions you may have.
Pastoral Council Chair
October 30th, 2016
Notes from Deacon Gary
Brothers and Sisters,
The great season of Advent and a new liturgical year begins in a few weeks. And, as is our tradition at CCOP, so also our new Liturgical Ministry Year. As such, I thought it a good idea to provide you with an assessment of where we stand regarding liturgical ministry signups and encourage you to sign up for one if you haven’t already done so.
A heartfelt “Thank You!” to all who’ve already signed up for a ministry, whether it be a liturgical ministry or any of the other great ministries that CCOP has to offer. CCOP truly understands what it means to be great stewards! Stewards of not only our treasure, but also of our time and talent.
Many of you have heard me say that a community such as ours requires a large number of ministers – we simply do not have the staffing to support all of the wonderful ministries offered here! As an example, we need approximately 275 ministers to make a weekend of eight Masses run smoothly. Our goal is to have our liturgical ministers serve once per month – doing the math, we need at least 1,100 people to minister our liturgies each month (even more for those months having five weeks). To date, we have less than 600 people signed up for a liturgical minstry. This means that, unless more of you sign up, these ministers will almost certainly have to double-up; serving more than once per month – and frankly, this is staggering given the size of our parish and number of potential ministers!
All eight Masses are in great need of additional ministers (greeters, ushers, Eucharistic ministers, head Eucharistic ministers and altar servers). Furthermore, we need more ministers to help with our Children’s Liturgy of the Word (CLW) program as well as an additional 22 for the Altar Linen ministry.
CLW is a venue that is designed for kids (4 to 10 years of age) to experience the Liturgy of the Word proclaimed and explained at their age level. We create a safe, kid-friendly environment separate from the grown-ups. Children actively participate in liturgy including helping with readings and engaging in inter-active homilies, all in a setting where they can ask questions and have a little wiggle room to be children. It is truly building the foundation of our faith and the Mass.
The Altar Linen ministry prepares all of the linens needed for Mass. This is a ministry that is done in the comfort of your own home and is truly one of our “silent” ministries…immensely important to our ability to celebrate Mass but almost entirely unseen…in the background.
If you were away last month while we were focusing on ministry sign ups, please fill out one of the forms in the vestibule. If you took your form home and forgot to turn it in, please do so as soon as possible. If you weren’t planning on signing up, please reconsider. As baptized Christians, it is our duty to serve – and this is a great opportunity to serve.
All ministries provide training, on-going mentoring, opportunities to get to know more of our fellow parishioners and perhaps, best of all, no meetings! But beyond all of that, you are attending Mass, anyway. Why not lend a hand?
If you have any questions, please find one of the liturgical coordinators (LCs) – every Mass has at least one. You can also contact me via email.
October 23rd, 2016
Where Does God Want You To Be?
My brothers and sisters in Christ,
As you may know, we have opened up nominations to fill two seats that will be vacated on The Catholic Community of Pleasanton’s Pastoral Council. Two of the members have termed out and those seats need to be filled for the upcoming year. In addition, Fr. Paul has two additional appointments which he is given the choice to fill at his discretion.
Have you considered nominating somebody in the Parish, perhaps yourself, for Pastoral Council? If not, I would urge you to prayerfully consider doing so…and here’s why:
I was nominated for the Pastoral Council in October of 2014 and went through the
discernment process the next month. At that time, I was a “Returning Catholic” with a newly baptized baby girl and had only been in the Parish for a little over a year. As the process began in the rectory conference room on a Sunday afternoon, I found myself in a room full of people I didn't know; discerning a position I didn't completely understand. It was uncomfortable and unclear.
What I did know was that I was trying to deepen my faith and felt truly called to utilize my skills and talents for the betterment of the Parish. How I would accomplish that by being on the Pastoral Council wasn't clear to me at the time, but looking back on it two years later, it was right where God wanted me to be.
The Pastoral Council is a diverse group of parishioners from different walks of life all guided by the Holy Spirit with a desire to serve. Many of us not only serve on the Pastoral Council, but work on other projects within the Parish. As a consultative body to the Pastor, we deal with a wide range of issues from Parish finances and communications to strategic initiatives and operations.
I have been blessed to work with a truly gifted and talented group of individuals as part of the Pastoral Council; from Fr. Paul and other clergy, to my fellow council members, the directors of Liturgy, Living and Lifelong Learning, Parish staff and many of my fellow parishioners here at CCOP. The time I have served has given me
great insight into the tremendous work and effort that so many people here at CCOP contribute to help nurture and grow our tremendous faith community.
I was also humbled by the realization that for 115 years our fellow parishioners have come before us working to grow and care for this sacred place that I quite honestly had taken for granted. The time had come for me to do my part with the gifts that God had bestowed upon me and I found the opportunity to do that on Pastoral Council.
As a member of the Pastoral Council over the last two years, guided by the Holy Spirit, I have been able to use my charisms to contribute to the betterment of the Parish and the community in ways I had never previously thought possible. It has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life and I am honored to have had the opportunity to be a part of it.
We are all part of the body of Christ with gifts that God bestowed on us. How can you best use them to serve Him, His Church and more specifically this Parish? Where does God want you to be? Pastoral Council may be the answer.
I would invite you to visit the Pastoral Council page to learn more.
Pastoral Council Member
October 16th, 2016
Brothers and sisters,
This reflection might be better called “odds and ends.” Midway through October, I want to offer some words of thanks and look ahead at things that are coming.
What an evening for Festa Italiana last Saturday night in St. Augustine Hall! The place was packed, kids were playing, and the most wonderful smell of herbs and sauce floated through the hall. And the decibel level? It was a joyful noise, indeed!!! On your behalf, I want to thank the “team of Italians” from the Knights of Columbus who prepared, cooked, served and cleaned-up. Most of us have little idea how much work goes into this celebration. It’s tremendous. What a great gift! And as Steve Natale said, “We are all Italian on a night like that.” Thanks again, my brothers.
We continue to take nominations for pastoral council until the end of the month. Please take a moment to look at the position description for pastoral council members online. There, you will also read the witness statements from Randy Coste and Roxanne Rasmussen. Their experiences may help you consider a desire to serve God and serve the Catholic Community of Pleasanton in this capacity. Again, please see the website for more information. We are taking nominations till the end of the month. The first discernment day is Saturday, November 12th.
Finally, I leave this week for the long planned pilgrimage to Italy. Please pray for me during this time. We embark on this spiritual journey to close the Jubilee Year, the Holy Year, of Mercy. Departure from San Francisco is on the 18th of October. The journey begins in Venice. Then, we move to Florence, Assisi and conclude the pilgrimage in Rome. Unquestionably, one highlight will be to walk through the Holy Door of Mercy at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. There will be many highlights, of course. But for me, this is NOT an opportunity to be a tourist. I’m a pilgrim! So I do NOT intend to live behind an iPhone taking pictures and videos. Social media goes away. This is not about gift shops and purchasing tchotchke. This is about a group of people touching holy ground and passing through holy doors in prayer. I want to be a sponge and absorb everything around me and make a spiritual inventory of what is deep within. That really is the point of a pilgrimage. And as I leave for these days that are a gift, all of you are with me. I will take the Catholic Community of Pleasanton to these sights. As I celebrate Mass I will take you with me to the altar of God and remember you each day at Mass. Your needs and concerns and prayers are wrapped in mine.
In the coming weeks, others will be writing reflections for the front of the bulletin and Frs. Kwame and Michael will be doing the 3 minute mini-homilies (sermons) from the Sunday Mass. These can be found on the website or our Facebook page. Let’s keep each other in prayer. I will see you upon my return.
October 9th, 2016
Notes from Matt Gray,
The Gardens of Haiti
A couple of weeks ago, I went with two others on a missionary immersion trip affiliated with the Maryknoll order of priests and nuns. We traveled to Haiti and spent one week in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. We didn’t go to “do” anything or to try to build or “fix” anything. The model that we used was one of encounter. The metaphor is to walk with care through someone else’s garden. This posture is central to what it is to do “mission” work today.
There was a strong spiritual dimension to our time in Haiti. On three mornings we celebrated Mass at the convent of the Missionaries of Charity, the religious order founded by Mother Teresa. We also joined the Sisters at their clinic. Inside the clinic is a room that contains 44 cribs and in each crib is a malnourished infant. The infants’ mothers bring their babies to the clinic because they have no food for them and their
tiny bodies show signs of starvation. I spent two hours holding and feeding these babies. My experience with the Missionaries of Charities was Eucharist, pure and simple: We gathered for Mass and then were sent to the clinic to somehow be Christ to others. As Catholics, we gather to be sent. This is who we are and what we do whether we live in Pleasanton or in Haiti.
The immersion trip included time with Fr. Frank, a diocesan priest from Connecticut who found his “niche” in Haiti. Fr. Frank connects parishes in the United States to parishes in Haiti. It’s the encounter: Through time and visits, the pastors and the people of two parishes in two different countries develop relationships. We were able
to visit with a pastor in a parish located in a very poor neighborhood to see how this model works. The Haitian parishes receive critical resources from US parishes and the US parishes develop relationships and friendship with the people they support. Both communities learn from the other and benefit from this model of mission. It’s the mission of relationships, of encounter in the other’s garden.
Port au Prince is a city that is home to one-third of the country’s 11 million people. The population density is overwhelming -- so much traffic and so many people in such a small space. In addition to experiencing Port au Prince, we spent two days with three nuns who live and minister to families in rural villages. These nuns showed us a school where tuition is less than $10 a year. We also saw two orphanages: one which houses and schools 53 girls; the other, an orphanage that focuses on orphans with mental illnesses and special needs. To say that we saw some heartbreaking stuff would be an understatement.
We also saw hardworking people very proud of their history. Many are living on the margin, one day to the next. They display their dignity through neatness of dress, shoes that are shined, children in school uniforms. By appearance alone, one would never know the depth of their struggle with poverty. Haitians experience first-hand what we preach: A faithful God who never abandons His people; His love is stronger than human misery. Sometimes the best that we can do is admit that we don’t understand. We don’t have all the answers. With faith and deep trust in the mission of Jesus, we know our stories are still unfolding -- stories that when connected to each other through Jesus lead us from being broken to given to others, from having no hope to hope, from death to new life. This is the world in which we live and, together, are called to cultivate.
Director Of RCIA
October 2nd, 2016
My brothers and sisters,
Every four or five years, the priests of the Diocese of Oakland (Alameda and Contra Costa Counties) go away to share time together. We celebrate our faith in the living Jesus Christ, building our fraternal bonds as priests and discussing matters that are of importance to how we live priestly life and ministry. This week Frs. Michael, Kwame and I will be doing just that with the others. We will spend five days October 3rd – October 7th in Asilomar (Monterey Bay) discussing strategies for parish planning.
Some of you might remember that a couple of years ago, four of us from the Parish went to Denver for an Amazing Parish conference. There we shared best practices and discussed different strategies to develop parish life at the beginning of the 21st Century. We gathered with a variety of parishes from across the country. In part, the “take away” from that conference helped crystalized a parish plan. It has been crafted by the parish pastoral council, provided financial resources by the parish finance council and implemented by the Catholic Community of Pleasanton staff. Ours is only two years old. While we continue to work out the lumps and bumps, it is reviewed and adjusted annually. In the world in which we live, to create a three to five year plan is not advisable. This is even more the case as we look at the state of faith and religion in the United States. We need to be constantly attentive to swings and shifts, all the while grounded in the firm foundation of Jesus.
In a world that is accelerating at warp speed, the shape of parish life becomes a healthy tug o’ war. Put in terms of evangelization, the expressions and methods to exercise and spread our faith must meet the times in which we live. As a result, new initiatives and opportunities for the church to lead and respond to the present day are essential. In these areas, we must be ever adaptable and responsible to lead.
That’s one part of the tug. The pull against that tug is to ENSURE that the Message of Salvation, the whole Judeo Christian faith, expressed in the proclamation of the Word and in the celebration of Sacrament is intact! My brothers and sisters, this is revealed and this is inspired. Baptism configured us once and for all to Christ. Confirmation and Eucharist grounds us always and everywhere in Him. This truth transcends any moment in history and every age!!! As His ambassadors, we must be aware that both in season and out of season, this is our truth. We need to be true to who we are, which means true to Christ…
Finally, I want to take this opportunity to thank Roxanne Rasmussen and her team for planning and leading the celebration of the parish picnic! The afternoon, by all accounts, was enjoyed by those who braved the heat! Please see my note of thanks inside the bulletin. As I mentioned last week, I was in El Cerrito for St. Jerome Parish’s 75th anniversary with Bishop Cummins and a host of others. Notable… the 25 degree difference between weather on the bay and weather in the Tri-Valley! But, it’s always good to be at home at The Catholic Community of Pleasanton.
Have a good week…
September 25th, 2016
My brothers and sisters,
Enjoy the parish picnic this weekend! I am off to St. Jerome Catholic Church in El Cerrito where I was first a pastor in 2001. While I regret missing the picnic, the El Cerrito community celebrates its 75th anniversary. I look forward to enjoying the company of many longtime friends and former parishioners. It is right to give gratitude to God for the countless gifts given to them and given to us. It’s about building the future toward the Kingdom.
Following this month of ministry sign-up, where we committed to sharing our gifts in ministry for the next year, there is opportunity to consider another form of ministry. We will begin our discernment process to fill two seats that will be vacated on The Catholic Community of Pleasanton’s Pastoral Council. Two of our members have termed out and those seats need to be filled. In addition, as Pastor I have two appointments which I am given the choice to fill according to the By-Laws. I think it is important to consider persons that you might wish us to pray over and consider for the Council. You may self nominate or nominate another. In nominating another, please ensure the agreement of that individual first. To aid you in the discernment, here is what the Council “does”:
The Parish Pastoral Council is the chief advisory body to the Pastor, guided by the Holy Spirit and the Gospel. The Council’s charge is to ensure that the Catholic
Community of Pleasanton is fulfilling its mission: To know Christ better, live as He calls us to live and make Him better known. This is accomplished through the celebration of the liturgy, learning, and Christian living.
The members provide consultation to the Pastor and Parish Directors of liturgy, learning and living by developing, monitoring, and recommending goals and priorities in the Parish Plan. The members of the Pastoral Council should have a grasp of the breadth of the Parish or have the ability to gain that awareness. As such, the various members will serve as a conduit to ensure the whole Council has a good view of the Parish and, in turn, reflect the views of the Council back to the Parish. This action will enable the Council to be responsible for the annual assessment of the Parish Plan and the ongoing development and implementation of the Plan.
Those who are chosen to participate on the Council should be individuals well respected in the community for their knowledge, vision and pastoral leadership. These gifts must be grounded in a life of prayer. It is essential for the health and well-being of the Parish that members who are selected be pastoral in focus.
There will be more information to come in the following weeks. Please be sure to see the discernment nomination forms in the vestibule or online. Let’s pray for one another as we consider those whose gifts would serve our Parish best.
If anyone has any questions or if they would like to talk to any member of the Council about the positions, they are welcome to reach out to the team. Please go to the website for contact information.
Enjoy the picnic!!!
September 18th, 2016
My brothers and sisters,
Well into September, there is a great deal happening. Faith Formation is beginning. Youth leadership coordinated by Nicole Browne has taken off like a rocket ship with over 30 participants to provide peer leadership. Adult faith formation is starting new directions with Henry Correa working with Fr. Kwame. Bible Study will begin in October. The January Faith Formation series is in the planning stage. Great things are happening in our Learning department.
In the department of Christian Living I wanted to draw your attention to an ongoing desire to develop small Christian Communities (SCC’s). This past January-February we encouraged parishioners to join SCC's. As a result, 8 new groups formed with about 90 participants. We now have more than 25 SCC's meeting in homes to share faith, pray and support each other. They meet on a schedule and frequency that fits their needs. In Lent, many groups explored the topic of mercy in the light of this holy year declared by Pope Francis. After Easter, some groups explored Laudato Si, the Pope’s letter on respect for the environment. Still other groups reflected upon the Sunday readings.
SCC signups will take place in the vestibules after all masses on the weekend of September 18th and 19th. An SCC information evening will be held on Wednesday, September 21st at 7:30 PM in Room 16 in St. Augustine's Hall, and information is available on the website.
I would encourage you to consider signingup for ministry. As I have said on many different occasions, ministry in Liturgy, Learning and Living is not an option but an exercise of our faith that was born through the waters of Baptism.
Finally, next Sunday, September 25th, is the Parish Picnic on the back lawn at St. Augustine from 11:00 AM till 3:00 PM. There will be entertainment, good food, games for kids and contests of all sorts. Once again, there will be opportunities for FREE family portraits. Tracy Seeger Photography is offering this great service. Stop by the parish bell in the back of Church. And of course, there will be opportunities to sign-up for ministries at that time, too.
There is a great deal going on at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton. Come be a part of this great faith energy.
Have a great weekend,
September 11th, 2016
My brothers and sisters,
During the month of September, we are offered the opportunity to renew or be part of a dedicated ministry at The Catholic Community of Pleasanton. This week, I would like to focus on ministry at Mass. These ministries – oftentimes called “liturgical ministries” – support each other and enhance each other so that the celebration of Eucharist is reverent, deliberate and fullbodied. Because of the underscored value of
everyone gathered, this communal action at Mass is NOT private devotion. In the 1950’s Pope Pius XII called Mass the Church’s public worship. If this is public, then we need to appreciate that all are welcome to engage in this open and central action of the Church. Church is not a club.
I enjoy going to Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco and listening to the symphony. My silent engagement is appropriate. Paul Minnihan is an active spectator soaking in the sounds and gazing around the symphony hall. As many of you know, I also enjoy watching the Raiders play football. Here, I can get actively involved by leaping to my feet at the sight of a great quarterback sack or grab my head and cringe at a dropped pass. But, I am seated in the Oakland Coliseum or watching the game through a screen. In either case – the symphony or the football game – I’m the spectator.
This is NOT the case with Mass. There is no room for spectators. We are not given “seats” to watch “a show” on the stage or field. And, we are not just involved; we are active participants. What does that mean? It’s about the relationship. We exercise who we are together. In other words, we are interactive with each other and with God the Father to whom the prayer is addressed as we remember – memorialize and make real – the effects of salvation history in the proclamation of the Word and in remembrance of the Last Supper. Our words, actions and gestures are not distractions from personal prayerfulness, but a reminder that we are part of one public act of worship at Mass to glorify God. Specifically, when you are engaged as a greeter, altar server, lector, choir member, usher, minister of communion you are focusing your baptismal identity into a concrete action to help all of us celebrate.
This weekend (September 10/11), ministers from each Mass will give a brief witness talk after communion at their respective Mass. I invite you to be present to their words and consider how their action in ministry invites you to do the same. In the end, these ministries are not an option, but a necessary response to Baptism as we participate in the central action of the Church. We are not mere recipients at Mass, but active participants. Take a sign-up form home with you or go to the website. We will be handing out and collecting forms for the rest of the month.
In the great document on liturgy from the Second Vatican Council that took place in the 1960’s, we were told then and as future magisterial writings continually underscore, the People of God engage in full, active and conscious participation at Mass. To be clear, this is NOT about doing things. It is a mindset. We are invited to a mindset of being present as doers, a mindset of doing together the bodily and public action that is the central mystery of faith and our right worship that gives glory to God.
Sign-up to be part of this mindset!!!!
September 4th, 2016
My brothers and sisters,
As we rest from our labor and work, I would like to wish all of you a blessed Labor Day weekend. It is only fitting that we consider the right to work and the dignity of work. The Jewish scriptures offer a certain vision of work. Work is a blessing!!! It is clear in the Book of Genesis that men and women were to make something of the world on God’s behalf, in no small part through the labor of our hands.
If we consider how this touches our lives in the Tri-Valley and elsewhere, work plays an essential role in realizing human dignity. The role of the worker helps to ensure the provisions of food, shelter, clothing, medical care, education, a just society and effective government. I am always fascinated by those who say “it takes a family and not a village.” They miss the whole point as much as those who say “it takes a village and not a family.” It takes both the immediacy of family life at work and the related village, each supporting the other to build up “the good.”
Let’s consider this from another angle. The horizon of God’s initial “work,” the very act of Creation, provides us a horizon to understand “work” and to be cooperative with God. This invites creativity and recognition that our work should in the end glorify God’s work. In fact, the word for “work” in Hebrew is avodah, which translates as “worship.” Our work IS an act of worship that points to the Creator as the first worker. This can have far reaching consequences on how we view our labor, our work, on this weekend. If we have a right to worship God, then we have a right to work. On the other hand, laziness or sloth is in some measure turning away from the Creator and His work.
Rest is another matter. This weekend, we also celebrate the importance of rest. I do not mean rest for its own sake; instead, rest as care for the body so that with God and like God we are capable of doing work that is for the good and builds up the common good. Remember that God rested from his labors! We need to worship rightful rest, too!
Consider beginning Labor Day, Monday, with the celebration of Mass at 8:30 AM at St. Augustine Church. There we have the opportunity to work as we worship God.
Then, let us take a fitting and deserved rest.
Happy Labor Day!!!
August 28th, 2016
“Conduct your affairs with humility…” (Sirach 3:17)
Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
We continue to follow Jesus’ teaching about heaven – aka, the reign or kingdom of God. We have learned in the past Sundays’ Gospels, that we experience heaven when we share our gifts and not hoard them (18th Sunday), when we are spiritually awake and not sleeping or dead (19th Sunday), when we passionately love one another (20th Sunday), and when we live lives that include (not exclude) others in imitation of our Inclusive God (21st Sunday).
And now, as if to cap it all, Jesus teaches us that we are in heaven when we live with humility! Like the “narrow gate”, humility is a very challenging lifestyle in our world, especially in the United States, where individualism instructs us to parade and sing our own praises. Here in our country, one cannot adopt lowly lifestyle, places and status for fear of being labeled vulnerable, weak and rejected. So, our question would understandably be: What is humility? Why must we humble ourselves?
First, in our gospel reading, Jesus describes a humble lifestyle with an invitee taking the lowest seat at a banquet. He seems to reason that humility begins when we remember and recognize who we were originally. Only then can we recognize that any achievement or status that we have comes from grace. We aren’t the ones to recognize and praise our status because these are always in relation to others. What is status if it is not recognizable by others…and God?
Secondly, if we recognize that our status and achievement come from grace, humility comes to completion when we recognize and invite to share our status and achievement, those who aren’t so lucky or who haven’t received grace like we have received. We are able to invite to our party, people who aren’t of the same status as we are blessed to have – the poor, the rejected, etc.
In these two ways, living a life of humility generates a community of love, mercy, sharing, spiritual awareness, and a life of inclusivity. If we live with humility, as Jesus and the first reading suggest, we will have heaven – the kingdom of God – right here in our present world. God bless our week!
August 21st, 2016
My brothers and sisters,
Over the past week, I have had a variety of conversations with members of our community who look at everything happening in the world and our nation. Others have come by to discuss personal issues that are affecting them. There is a great deal going on in our lives! In both cases, some of them exhaled in total exasperation, shaking their heads.
I began to ask myself about the role of Christian hope in the midst of the darkness that weighs us down. So here is a nugget that I wish to share.
What does hope mean to the Christian?
How does the Bible define hope?
Hope is essential to the believer for joy;
so it’s critical to have.
Hope is not “I hope my team wins the Super Bowl” or “I hope I get a raise”. Biblical hope is not a hope-so but it is a know-so. It isn’t wishing for the best. It isn’t waiting to see what happens and hope that it turns out well. Hope is not a feeling or an emotion. Hope is the knowledge of facts. If someone says to you that “I hope you have a good day”, there is no guarantee that the day will go well. To have a biblical hope is to have a sure anchor of the soul, not hoping for rain because the forecast says that there is a 60% chance of rain and you hope that you get your garden watered. That is not hope…that is wishful thinking and it is utterly undependable and has no power to bring anything to pass. Human hope pales in comparison to biblical hope, as we shall read.
A Christian’s definition of hope is far superior to that of the world. Instead of wishing or hoping for something to happen, believers know that their hope is solid, concrete evidence because it is grounded in the Word of God. The Christian has a hope that is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). It is a hope that is like faith - - a faith that cannot be moved by circumstances or what the eyes see because an unseen God is seen in His faithfulness.
St. Paul may give us the best example of hope in the Letter to the Romans. Whenever I encounter hopelessness, I usually direct them where St. Paul tells the believer, “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” because “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31)? If God is on your side, how sure is that hope! I believe that everyone will go through a dark night of the soul where deep doubts and fears flare up but extinguishing those fears is as simple as staying rooted in the Scripture.
Something for us to consider during these times.
August 14th, 2016
Brothers and sisters,
Many of you are getting ready for back to school. And at CCOP, we are getting ready
for the academic year to begin as well. We build much of our calendar around
I am very pleased to announce that we have hired our new Elementary Faith Formation Coordinator. Allow me to introduce you to Mrs. Jennifer Tilton. Here’s a bit about Jen…
Jen was born and raised in Livermore and has been a professional educator for over 20 years. She started as a fifth grade teacher and has been either a vice-principal or
principal at the elementary, middle and high school levels. She is currently completing her doctorate in educational leadership at the University of the Pacific.
After marrying a Catholic and beginning to raise their children in the faith, Jen decided to fully enter into the communion of the Church this Easter after participating in our RCIA program. She was Baptized, Confirmed and received Eucharist.
Jen is married to Paul Tilton, a Major in the U.S. Army stationed at Camp Parks. They
have two daughters, Madeline and Claire and they all currently live in Livermore with
their two black labs.
Jen, we welcomed you into the Church this past Easter. Now we walk with you as you
respond to this call to exercise His ministry. We look forward to engaging in His ministry with you.
Jen can be reached at the Faith Formation Office in St. Augustine Hall.
Have a great week…
August 7th, 2016
My brothers and sisters,
Over these last weeks, Luke’s Gospel has focused upon self-knowledge and self-awareness – to move from narrow interest in self into service (I mentioned this in my homily at the end of July). This weekend, the scripture continues down the pathway as we focus on right service and responsible stewardship. The scripture turns to an active responsibility on our part for what is essentially God’s. We need to act accordingly. Yet oftentimes we get stuck in looking at our service in comparison to another’s.
This point of focus reminds me of a conversation I had with a parishioner one day at one of the many coffee haunts in town. He prefaced his question this way – “I’m a generous guy and I lead a good life. I’ve devoted my life to service. Then I look at those who are uncaring, cranky, angry, aloof and doing just enough to get by”. Without saying it, this gentleman believed himself superior to “cranky”, and could only discuss his service by using “cranky” as the tape measure. Even if he did not mention “cranky”, like many of us he was making that comparison on some level.
And yet we believe that in God’s eyes we are equal. Really? So I wonder – Is our belief that we are no better than others, often times, just a veiled screen? Maybe this doesn’t stand the full test of honesty. We can’t say out loud that we are better than others. After all, who wants to be seen as proud or described as arrogant? And, is it possible to be humble without that, too, becoming a pride-filled boast?
Maybe we need to stop comparing ourselves to each other. Because here is where we get into trouble. Relationships are severed by comparisons; trite judgments are made; the gossip begins. Instead, when we act with true humility and see ourselves as no better or worse than another, we are looking deep within... very deeply within. We can be truly humble because we know “who” and “whose” we are (I mentioned this a few weeks ago in the Sunday homily). Who are we? We are reliant and not self sufficient. We are fearful and not too sure of ourselves. We are insecure and really not that secure; we do not want to be ridiculed but appreciated. “Whose” are we? We equally belong to God and God’s mercy.
Why mercy? Well, we are no better than another although the behavior does not always correspond. I know that Paul Minnihan needs God’s mercy as much as the greatest sinner on earth and vice-versa. However we don’t come to this by comparing ourselves to others, but by recognizing how truly lost we are when we all
stand outside of God’s mercy.
It’s good to remember that we do not give life to ourselves, sustain our lives alone or redeem ourselves. The Gospel proclamation on Sunday reminds us, “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be”. We need to place our treasure in the bank of real humble service. As servants of the Lord, we need to know how to invest properly in the Lord. Perhaps such an investment begins with humble stewardship. It’s not about being prideful or living the “pretend pious” humility. It really is at heart knowing “who” and “whose” we are. And as each of our lives paths in this life are unique, you and I are like everyone else!
July 31st, 2016
My brothers and sisters,
I don’t know about you, but the field of politics has exhausted me. Regardless of your news source, we have been washed with speeches and commentary. It’s really numbing. We have just been through a cycle of political conventions. Gulp. And I pause. Choreographed, buffed and so polished, these conventions say very little to me. I wish that we could just start to speak honestly. I believe over these weeks that you have heard my upset with where we are as a country and nation. Perhaps many of you feel the same. As a pastor, I am gauging the pulse and I need to speak to the pulse. As a nation, where do we go?
Before I venture forward, I’d like to quote from Thomas Jefferson, “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy as cause for ending a friendship.” That’s something to consider, my brother and sisters.
That said, here is where I will begin. A number of people ask me about my vote. Are you Trump? Are you Clinton? Are you Independent? My brothers and sisters… I’m Catholic! From my toes to the top of my rapidly balding head, I am Catholic. I don’t vote political party lines. I vote Catholic. Historically, I have voted for Democrats and Republicans. And when I vote Catholic, I account for the great span of Catholic. Are there certain matters that Trump endorses that are Catholic? Absolutely… Are there certain matters that Clinton endorses that are Catholic? Absolutely. And I need to ask myself how well am I informed about Church teaching to let that dictate my vote.
It’s funny when after a given Mass, one member of our community will say to me, “I know you are a Republican.” I simply turn around and another says, “Democrat, I knew it.” I laugh. I’m amazed at the number of people who wonder about my political affiliation. The concern is more about my political persuasion. Imagine if the question was more fundamental. Imagine if my faith, my Judeo-Christian faith, my being a Catholic made the difference.
I think it would be remarkable if someone said, “Are you voting Catholic?” And what does that mean? To vote Catholic is to vote for a culture of life. You cannot base your vote on one issue and one issue alone. I need to ponder the breadth of life.
Our politics cannot capture our faith. And my brothers and sisters, the day that a political platform captures your faith and mine, we are in trouble. So what was spoken at both conventions and what is not popular is “Vote your conscience.”
That can sound so very relative and wishy washy. However, if we understand what the Church teaches, then we have a point of departure. But I am the first to say that what we “think” the Church teaches may not be what in fact the Church teaches. In the cafeteria model of faith, do I really understand what the Church teaches and why? Based upon assumption, I may dismiss or adopt what I think we believe. In fact, maybe I am missing the mark.
Let’s think about our awareness of faith. If we need to grow into a real and lived faith, then let’s do that. I am far less concerned if you are a Republican, Democrat, Independent or indifferent. What I care about as a pastor is that we know our faith. Do we? Do we?
In the beginning and the end, our faith will guide and govern our lives.
July 24th, 2016
My brothers and sisters,
Over the last two months, I have given you updates on the job position search for the new Director of Life Long Learning. I am happy to share with you that after an extensive search and interview process, we have located the director and the director has located the Catholic Community of Pleasanton.
First, a recap on process. We employed the same process when we sought the new Director of Music Ministry for the parish – the position that Ira holds. This is a process that has proven effective although it is time consuming. I want to thank all those involved in the interview process. For their time and for their talent, the parish is very grateful.
To the process itself… Along with other candidates whose resumes matched the required background and skills, the new director went through a first interview with a combined team made up of parents/catechists, members of the pastoral council, and the Director of Liturgy (Deacon Gary) and the Director of Living (Deacon Joe). Then, he met with me and the faith formation team along with Matt Gray, head of RCIA. Fr. Kwame who will be the clergy representative for the Department of Learning joined that interview as well. There was unanimity around the competency and comfort with the new director.
Subsequently, I met with the director and in the course of that ranging conversation, offered him the ministry position. There is excitement in his voice. Given his history working well in what is a “very large” parish, the fit for CCOP is good. We welcome Henry to the Catholic Community of Pleasanton.
Allow me to introduce you to Mr. Henry Correa. Here’s a bit about Henry…
Henry was born and raised in New York City. Raised in a strong Catholic household, he was involved in church life form an early age. He served proudly in the U.S. Air Force for 10 years including as a member of the Air Force Choir while stationed in Colorado. While overseas, he was a member of the Air Force Communications Inspection Team.
Henry has been in education and programming for over 25 years. He started as a pre-school teacher and has taught a range of subjects and grades to include junior college. He has served on the City of Tracy Mayor’s Anti-Gang Task Force and as liaison officer for after school programs between the City and the Unified School Districts. In addition, as a program designer and manager, Henry has worked for both Alameda and San Joaquin counties.
He has been in leadership ministry at parishes in Mountain View and most recently St. Bernard in Tracy. Henry has served in the capacity of Confirmation & RCIA Director, Catechist, Lector, Eucharistic Minister, Pastoral Minister, Youth Minister, Drama Coach, Drama Technical Advisor and Athletic Director.
Henry recently celebrated 40 years of marriage. He has two daughters and 5 grandchildren. He currently lives in Tracy with his wife Leticia, his sister-in-law Becky, their two dogs and cat.
Welcome to Pleasanton, Henry. We look forward to engaging in His ministry with you. He will begin on August 1st.
May your week be blessed…
July 17th, 2016
My brothers and sisters,
In the midst of what seems so wrong in both the United States and throughout the world, there is great need to consider the violence and all its excesses. So much seems on the brink due to tensions between those charged to uphold law and the persons who receive their protection; between people of different races and creeds, orientation and gender biases. At times, it looks and feels very grim. I share your feelings of frustration, pain and sadness over everything that has happened. Yet, as your pastor and a man, I desire to live with the conviction of hope and the warm light of life that lures and bathes us. From this faith-based desire, I want to consider the following. How to build the good society is the ultimate question!!!
For me, it starts with pondering from my very limited gaze what might be at stake and what we have seen. First, it becomes glaringly apparent that mental illness and the treatment of those with such chronic conditions deserves our attention. These are human persons, your brother and sister, who need and deserve to be safe with affordable access to care. The basis of mental illness are many and varied. There are
those born with a disposition toward chemical imbalance and bipolarity; there have been those who have experienced trauma of a variety of sorts – to include those who have been at war and seen its ravages and horrors. All of these unchecked might contribute to horrific situations as we have seen.
Second, as this plays out, we need to ensure that there are checks and balances put in place for the safety of the other. The excess in demonstrations or stoking mob mentality exacerbates the situation to a point of violence where rational and conversation is snuffed out. This is not to suggest that there aren’t situations that demand justice but how do we go about it? Peaceful assembly articulated in Catholic social teaching and in our own country’s historical struggle must be the way to realize this. Here is where I start to locate hope and light.
Third, oftentimes our desire to exercise rights as well as basic freedoms clashes with the need to exercise these calmly, politely and even serenely. As I look at the tragedies in Florida, Louisiana, Minnesota, Michigan and Texas over the last month, I wonder what the constructive conversation is and what can we do. There is no question that we need action from our elected representatives and there seems to be an unfortunate void of constructive conversation in Congress. Finger pointing is
not a solution.
Finally, as your pastor I believe that conversation must begin with us. The conversation might well begin on the micro level in order to address these searing macro phenomena of today – I am seeking a value-based grass roots level. Maybe it is best to turn toward what is right and good. Maybe it’s time to engage in greater service of all varieties that aim at building up the common good. Maybe we need to strengthen marriages and families. Maybe time spent together is necessary in a world of excessive and accelerating social media. Maybe we need to love our neighbor as ourselves. Maybe what we need to remember is that we equally have a
share in the divine life. God has an indwelling in you and me and that needs to be safeguarded and treasured.
We pray for all who have been the victims of violence and injustice. The pursuit of justice must be tempered with mercy and loving kindness – with charity and thoughtfulness. We pray, we remember and we hope.
July 10th, 2016
My brothers and sisters,
From time to time, people ask me what I get out of Mass. BIG question… The Eucharist for me is simple: the Eucharist is God’s physical embrace of us, God’s touch. Nowhere is the body of Christ so present and available for deep intimacy as in the Eucharist. Today we do not take seriously enough this radical, physical and intimate character of the Eucharist. Rarely do we risk understanding the Eucharist in these earthy terms which might be good for us to consider. We are the poorer for it.
The early church was less reluctant in this than we are. For them, the Eucharist was a communion of such deep physical intimacy that they surrounded it with a certain secrecy. Unless you were fully initiated, you were NOT welcome. As crazy as it sounds, the basis was worship as an intimate gathering of God’s faithful.
They never spoke about the Eucharist to anyone except to fully-initiated Christians – You had to be baptized and confirmed to celebrate Eucharist. Our present practice within the RCIA of asking catechumens to leave after the homily and before the Eucharistic Prayer is based upon this ancient discipline.
This secrecy, however, was not an attempt to surround the Eucharist with a certain mystique so as to intrigue others to be curious about it, as is usually the case with secrecy of this kind. It was not an attempt to create some secret cult. Surprisingly, the secrecy was a reverence. For them, the Eucharist was such an intimate thing that one didn’t do it with just anyone nor did one talk about it publicly.
The Eucharist is the touch, the physical coming together, the embrace, the source and the summit.
The mystery of the Body of Christ—God becoming incarnate, The Word taking full human flesh, is what we should adore and glorify. Christ leaving us the Word and
the Eucharist, and the intimacy and communion that we experience with Christ and each other in the Eucharist - can, in the end, not be exaggerated.
Have a great week…
July 3rd, 2016
My brothers and sisters,
Last weekend (June 25/26), we prayed well and laughed hard as we sent Pat Morgan, Liz Rogers and Leonard Marrujo into their respective new ministries. I want to take this opportunity to thank some by name for anchoring the day and making it a true celebration. Paulette Callahan and her reception team crafted the atmosphere and pulled together many dishes and drinks to keep our collective tummy satisfied at the reception. Dan Hughes and the Knights of Columbus brought the grills out and took care of more than a few hot dogs and hamburgers for us to enjoy. Bronco and our facilities team did a great job to set up St. John Paul II Activity Center. I appreciated the adult choir moving to St. Elizabeth Seton last weekend in order to lift our voices in song. To the many who helped and to all who celebrated these three ministers, thank you for being part of a great day.
As I started my homily at the 11:00 AM Mass to celebrate how these three exercised His ministry, I mentioned Jesus’ words to James and John. We keep our hands on the plow. And as we till the fields, we go forward, we look up and out. We gaze at our eternal destiny, the new Jerusalem. This means we keep looking ahead. Where we find ourselves at any given moment is just for a period of time. It is not permanent. Before us is opportunity. So we wish Pat, Liz and Leonard to keep their hands on the plow and till the earth on their journeys. There are great opportunities before them!!!
And to our opportunities… Someone’s plow has brought him to the Catholic Community of Pleasanton. We welcome Fr. Kwame. He will be introduced over the next few weeks at all the Masses. Kwame has settled in nicely and will make an outstanding addition to the parish team. He will be the clergy representative to Lifelong Learning (adult and child faith formation) and the team that is already in place. In mid-August, other new team members will plow and till the earth with us at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton. We look forward to their arrival. We are in the last stages of interviews for these who applied for these positions. I want to thank the interview team for making valuable and insightful recommendations to me. To Bill Beston who chaired along with Heather Babati, Paula Parisi, Michael Harmon, Gary Wortham and Joe Gourley – we are grateful for the hours and days put into the interviews.
Finally, and as I mentioned last week, the kids at Vacation Bible School collected treasure for our brothers and sisters who face hardship and difficulties. They supported Catholic Relief Services, Young Neighbors in Action and our co-sponsored refugee family. They raised $5092.00. To congratulate them does not seem appropriate; to encourage them to continue caring for those who have real needs is the right message. Born from our worship, born from Mass, they are living and breathing part of our Catholic identity which is Jesus the light of the world.
Summer is well under way and life is going full speed at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton.
June 26th, 2016
My brothers and sisters,
We just completed another successful Vacation Bible School (VBS). This year, our kids went on a Cave Quest to find Jesus who is our light. Our kids encountered Jesus who gives us hope, courage, direction, love and power!!! They were well served by an incredible group of youth from our parish who are big brothers and sisters. Over the course of the week, I watched the great care they took of our kids on their cave quest. What a wonderful witness to community at work and faith in action! In addition, there are a host of moms and dads and other adults who went on their Cave Quest to share faith with our kids.
In particular, there are some who deserve a “shout out”. A word of gratitude to our codirectors, Lien-Thi de la Pena and Christine Micco. Most of us cannot begin to imagine the coordination required, and these wonderful women make it happen. Immense support and formation was provided by our station leaders and assistants – Deirdre Carrick, Lisa Boyer, Robin Taggart, Elaine Meyer, Anne Marie Gallagher, Indira Pethebridge, Theresa Ard, Gritty Thomas, Nancy Masucci, Sandra Pastor, Caitlin Coblenz and Kate Chase. Then there is the Hall. To see St. Augustine Hall transformed into a cave was a “WOW” moment -- Lorraine and Scott Hamlin and their decorating committee worked countless hours and deserve great thanks. Our middle school and high school coordinators, Nancy Schlachte and Nicole Browne, trained and organized over 100 teen volunteers. Sharon Hanson organized almost 250 children from preschool through 5th grade into their small groups. The Knights of Columbus sold snow cones each day to support VBS and raise money for our outreach. What makes our community run well? Each and every member sharing himself or herself to build up Jesus’ family here and now!!!
Each year VBS selects a charitable organization to support. To model charitable giving, VBS discerned support for both global and local needs. This year, we supported three charitable organizations. First, Catholic Relief Service (CRS), which is the United States Catholic Bishops’ outreach arm. The aim of CRS is to preach in action the Gospel of Jesus Christ -- to cherish, preserve and uphold the sacredness and dignity of all human life, foster charity and justice, and embody Catholic social and moral teaching. Practically, CRS provides hands-on assistance to people in dire situations throughout the world. Second, we supported our co-sponsored refugee family, who arrived from Afghanistan a few weeks ago -- a dad, mom and baby boy. Finally, we are assisting a church that does not have resources to send their youth to Young Neighbors in Action in San Francisco. As we are well aware, our youth have been engaged in this opportunity to exercise justice and charity to our brothers and sisters who have real and immediate needs. How wonderful to see our youth desiring to provide that justice and charity to their peers in order for all of them to learn about the Church’s Catholic social teaching put into action. We appreciate the generosity of all our participants who are supporting these charities.
Finally, we are in the last phase of hiring the new Director of Life-Long Learning and Elementary Coordinator. The interview team has narrowed the field to a couple of candidates to be interviewed by the faith formation leadership and by me. The new leaders in our parish will be in place shortly. We are blessed with opportunities before us and continue to ask the Spirit of Wisdom to guide us as we look to the future of the Catholic Community of Pleasanton.
Summer is here!!!
June 19th, 2016
My brothers and sisters,
This weekend we welcome Fr. Solomon Farinto and Fr. Philip Sosumobee. They are representing the Diocese of Ilorin, Nigeria. The Diocese has just over 20 parishes and is also responsible for a broad range of education and clinics to provide health care. They are committed especially to providing a brighter future for the youth of the Diocese. These two men will be in Pleasanton to preach and share their stories as witnesses. First, they are looking for our prayerful support. Thus it is important that they come to us when we are gathered as parish – when we are at worship. They will have far more to say this weekend.
Second, I wanted to share that bit of background as we have our annual second collection taken up for the missionary cooperative appeal. Our generosity joins that of parishioners from the other parishes in the Diocese of Oakland – Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. The monies generated from all our parish communities are then divided evenly between the various missionary groups invited to the diocese. No funds are solicited directly from us and given to them. The Propagation of the Faith Oﬃce at the Diocese allocates to each group once it receives the total plate collection from all the parishes.
An update on the co-sponsorship of our refugee family – the outpouring of support has been tremendous. Representatives of the parish have spent me with them and assisted them in the gradual acculturation process. Why? Your kindness and generosity has raised close to $15,000 for them to start a new life in the United States such as assistance with their 3 month old baby, furnishing an apartment, and some adjustment costs. The history of social outreach, charity and justice has been a hallmark of the Catholic Community of Pleasanton and continues.
Finally, don’t forget next Sunday (June 26) we say bon voyage to Fr. Leonard and Liz Rogers. Mass is at 11:00 AM at St. Elizabeth Seton with a reception for them immediately following at the St. John Paul II Activity Center adjacent to the church.
Finally, to all of you dads, I want to wish you a Happy Father’s Day. Thank you for the myriad blessings that you provide. And for those dads who have passed from this world to the Father’s house, we pray for you and please pray for us. God bless all of you!
June 12th, 2016
Brothers and sisters, As we move into summer and plan for goodbyes and hellos, let’s take stock of where we find ourselves. We have great leadership in the parish. Both the paid staff and all of those who exercise the sharing of talent and time in particular provide us with abundant blessings. And oftentimes the leaders go unnoticed. The amount of work they do is tremendous. I would like to take a moment to thank them. I’d also like to take the opportunity to share with you how it is we hire these competent men and women.
First, let me share how it is that clergy are assigned to the Catholic Community of Pleasanton. The Bishop of Oakland assigns the clergy to Pleasanton. He consults with me and asks about the needs and concerns of the parish. I’ve always appreciated the Bishop’s concern for us. Then, we are also asked to consider how we can be a school of formation for the clergy. How can priests and deacons benefit from Pleasanton? What makes me grateful is that the Catholic Community of Pleasanton has had and has a good core of priests and deacons.
Then there are the other members of the team that I am entrusted to hire. I don’t take that lightly. I work with a tremendous team of incredibly competent women and men. The team does the heavy lifting day in and day out. In the arenas of liturgy, learning and living, the team is just tremendous. We are blessed. And as members of the team are sent forth from us, we also have the opportunity to welcome new persons with tremendous gifts. Here’s how I hire.
I have brought together women and men in our parish who will be interviewing our candidates for the Director of Life Long Learning and the Elementary Faith Formation Coordinator. Some are staff and others are sitting next to you in the pew. We met last Saturday to begin forming the questions that need to asked of each of the candidates. I am more concerned about the right questions, not the applicants per se. So that you know, I have not seen the resumes of the applicants. I’m trusting that to those doing the interviews who have been embedded in faith formation for some time and reflect well where we have been and where we are going. And they are charitable and critical. I trust their ability to discern.
I will only meet with the two final candidates for the Director position and the Coordinator position. The interview team will have provided me with their thoughts before I meet with them. The finalists will also meet with the Faith Formation staff and the Director of RCIA. With all of this data and considerations, the new members of the pastoral team will be chosen. My concern for the new members of the team is a threefold consideration. First, they need to have the basic competency to run a very sizeable program. Second, they need to gel well with the members of the Pastoral Team. Third, they need to be able to implement the parish plan that is generated by the members of the Pastoral and Finance Councils.
And as we well know, the Catholic Community of Pleasanton is a complex parish. That complexity is not something that needs to be complicated further. Rather, my desire is to coordinate and streamline the community as we continue to grow.
Finally, let’s pray for those who will be going through interviews. We look forward to welcoming new members to our Pastoral Team.
June 5th, 2016
Brothers and sisters,
We all know that we are in the season of commencement exercises. Last weekend, my high school alma mater – Moreau Catholic – celebrated at the Paramount in Oakland. That’s the same stage I walked to receive my diploma “back in the day.” Village, Amador Valley, Foothill and other surrounding high schools have celebrations in the coming week. In particular, and along with all graduates, we want to congratulate our high school seniors on this threshold that they cross. When we cross thresholds, we are given opportunities to look up and out at the horizon before us. So, I want to invite our seniors to consider not what they accomplished, but instead to look forward. As a new day is dawning, ask yourself “who” or maybe more accurately “what” do you admire and why?
Admiration! Why is this something that is so embarrassing? It’s as if to admire or compliment another casts a shadow over us. On the other hand, we can judge with great fervor or find it far too easy to criticize. But do we know how to admire? Do we afford others a gaze of REAL admiration? Or even better, how about a word of affirmation. Oftentimes, judgment or criticism is viewed as the more “informed” or astute approach to life. “Well, s/he was wrong and need to be corrected. And as we know, to correct or to frame others judgmentally is more often than not a projection of our own lack of self-worth. If we need to tear down another to build ourselves up, then the so-called criticism or correction is flawed from the outset.
St. Thomas Aquinas once said that to withhold a compliment from someone is a sin because we are withholding food that this person needs to live. That’s a challenging statement, but the challenge is more than that of providing food for others to live on. Admiring others, complimenting others also provides us with the food we ourselves need. When we admire or compliment others, name and recognition is given to gifts given by God to others. God has given each of us gifts that need naming and recognition as we feed others. That should be shared with us, too. We need to start building each other up rather than viewing each other as a threat. Admiration and the compliment is about God, period.
Hugo of St. Victor had an axiom which said: “Love is the eye!” Only when we see through the prism of love do we see correctly. Admiration is part of that. And my brothers and sisters, here is where we might pause. Is it possible that what’s at stake is not “who” but “what” should be admired? To reflect upon that speaks volumes. The Scripture is clear – patience and kindness, simplicity and generosity, humility and humor, justice and charity are our values. Maybe these qualities or values that are of the upmost importance and to be admired. This might mean that we spend too much time fixated on comparing college applications, acceptance letters and job opportunities. We might spend too much time placing value and purpose on things that in the end will not bring value and purpose. In my own life, after I consider “what” should be admired, I look at those whose lives MIGHT be full and busy, but not necessarily. I MIGHT admire the seemingly and popular “uber-talented” but not necessarily. But “what” I really admire is not that fullness and busyness. I admire those who live simply in the midst of busyness. That’s what the Scripture says to your pastor, Fr. Paul Minnihan. That’s what I want to share with our graduates. Let us ground our lives in things that are simple and ultimately eternal. When we do that, we live well. This is so essential in our world of acceleration and accelerated sound-bytes where we cannot stay focused upon anyone or anything for any length of time. When we live the values of scripture we encounter Jesus “who” is the embodiment of our faith put into action. To admire someone for living in this way is for us to say, thank you for teaching me to live well. And because of your gifts, I admire you!
Blessings on our graduates at this milestone.
May 29th, 2016
Brothers and sisters,
During Lent, I was sharing a meal at another parish with priests prior to a communal reconciliation liturgy. As we ate, I began to speak with one particular priest on culture and cross cultural communication. We explored culture from different demographics – ethnicity, generation and socio-economics. It turns out that we have a few mutual friends. Needless to say, we enjoyed the dialogue very much.
About a month later, I received a phone call from the Diocese of Oakland asking me to consider taking THIS priest as our new parochial vicar (associate pastor). Stunned with the request, I called back the priest personnel office the next day and agreed enthusiastically. Now with his letter of appointment in hand, I want to share the good news. He comes to us ready to immerse himself in a large and busy parish. A very talented man who is outgoing and bright, he will be a joy for our community. I’d like to introduce you to him – Fr. Kwame Assenyoh. He will begin his ministry with us on 1 July. Here’s Kwame:
Born and raised in Ghana, West Africa, Kwame joined the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) and was ordained in 1998. He began his missionary assignment in the USA. Kwame served as associate pastor of Notre Dame Church in Saint Martinville, Louisiana, and from 1999 to 2006, he was pastor of Saint Paul the Apostle Church in New Orleans, Louisiana. Concurrent with his pastoral work, Kwame also served in the following positions: SVD New Orleans District Superior from 2000 to 2003; Priests Council Member of New Orleans Archdiocese from 2001 to 2005; SVDUSA Southern Provincial Council Member from 2002 to 2006.
Kwame holds a Master of Arts degree in Theology and Religious Studies from Loyola University at New Orleans, and a Licentiate in Sacred Theology degree from Boston College. He is completing his dissertation for a PhD at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He has also preached parish missions and delivered keynote speeches at parish and diocesan gatherings across the United States. Kwame is also a lecturer in African studies, lang uages and literature at Stanford University. Between 2010 and 2013 he co-directed workshops on cross-cultural orientation for International priests at Loyola University Marymount in Los Angeles, and he was an adjunct faculty in religious studies for a year at Holy Names University. He has provided sacramental assistance in a number of parishes in our diocese (Alameda and Contra Costa Counties) and comes to us most recently from St. Columba in Oakland.
In his free time he rides motorcycles and is looking for the best barbeque in town.
As we welcome him, we will bid adieu to Fr. Rafal at the end of May. New opportunities are on the horizon for him and we wish him well as he continues to respond to the call of the Lord. Also, please mark your calendars for Fr. Leonard, Liz Rogers and Pat Morgan’s celebration as we send them forward to continue their respective ministries – Sunday, 26 June beginning with Mass at 11:00 a.m. at Saint Elizabeth Seton followed by a reception in St. John Paul II Activity Center.
Once again … Welcome Fr. Kwame and we will see him in July!
May 22nd, 2016
My brothers and sisters, As part of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis invited parishes and families across the Catholic world to consider adopting a refugee family. On Christmas Eve this past year, the Bishop of Oakland, our bishop, invited the parishes in our diocese to consider cosponsoring a family with Catholic Charities of the East Bay. Catholic Charities of the East Bay already sponsors more than 200 refugees a year in the East Bay, in full cooperation with the U.S. Department of State.
Given the desperate situation, over 350,000 people have fled war, violence and unrest in the Middle East and northern Africa. Many have attempted the move to Europe alone in overcrowded boats and vessels not fit for any trip. This has led to innumerable deaths. In addition the reality of drowning and starvation has exponentially increased the number of deaths. These refugees need to find a home.
In that Christmas Eve homily, Bishop Barber invited you and me to provide concrete Gospel assistance:
Let’s do this together in the same spirit in which we would welcome Mary and Joseph as they looked for a place at the inn,' he said. 'If we would welcome the Holy Family to our parish and provide a place where Mary could give birth to the Christ child, shouldn’t we do the same in the name of Jesus to those who come to us for help? 'For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.' (Matt 25:35).
The Bishop went further…
Whatever your parish is able to provide: whether it’s furnishing a small apartment, providing clothes, cooking a meal, meeting the family at the airport, providing rent, etc. will be welcomed and be considered co-sponsorship.
In that spirit, the Ministry of Christian Living in our parish (One of the Three L’s – liturgy, learning and living) has taken the baton for the Catholic Community of Pleasanton to cosponsor a family. In response to the Bishop’s request, we can provide. From Afghanistan, the family will arrive this Tuesday May 24th. There is much to be done to be brother and sister to this father and mother and child. And we will need the help of the whole parish – first and foremost to pray for our new family, members of the extended family of the Catholic Community of Pleasanton. We need to pray for all refugees fleeing horrific circumstances. Let’s also pray that each of us will consider a generous response to support our new family. We need to be very concrete about the Gospel – what you did for the least of these, you did for me.
There is contact information to be found in the bulletin if you wish to be of assistance. More information can be found on the parish website. In advance, thank you for your cooperation in this act of charity and justice. Where charity and justice are found, there is an act of Mercy.
We welcome the newest members of our extended family at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton.
May 15th, 2016
My brothers and sisters, Happy Pentecost!!!
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are ours. Enlivened and emboldened by those gifts, we are sent… but to do what? There’s a lot of talk today about New Evangelization. What is New Evangelization? It is taking a fresh look at the same gifts of the Holy Spirit that have been born in every age.
Millions of people are Christian in name, come from Christian backgrounds, are familiar with Christianity, believe that they know and understand Christianity, but no longer practice that faith in a meaningful way. They’ve heard of Christ and the Gospel, even though they may not actually know and understand as much as they think they do. No matter. Whatever their lack of an understanding of a faith they no longer practice, they believe that they’ve already been evangelized and that their nonpractice is an examined decision.
It is incumbent upon us to ask this gem of a question – How do we try to Christianize someone who is already Christian? How do we make the Gospel fresh for those for whom it has become stale? How do we help people to look at the familiar until it looks unfamiliar again?
There are no simple answers. It’s not as if we haven’t already been trying to do that for more than a generation. Life seems to get busier and busier, creating anxiety around faith. Not sure what to do, we might be wringing our hands. Anxious parents have been trying to share faith with their children. Anxious parish leaders have been trying to do that with fellow parishioners. I ponder this question regularly as your Pastor. What more might we be doing?
At the Catholic Community of Pleasanton, each and every one of us should reflect on how we attract others to the faith. Because of Pentecost, we are sent out with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Faith can no longer be a private affair. At the parish, we will be launching our new ministry later in the year to gather those who want to mature in their faith development. It is intended, in part, for the seekers and the uncertain. In addition, we will be looking at the current ways in which we evangelize, such as small Christian Communities and Returning Catholics. Adult education will also take on new life as we look at expanding opportunities in 2017.
For now, as we celebrate Pentecost, let us use the gifts of the Holy Spirit toward the following: First, we are sent. Go out to the whole world and make disciples. Second, we need to preach in action and words. Third, we need to live joy and sacrifice, not convenience. Fourth, we need to witness respect, charity, graciousness and - - most notably today - - mercy. This might seem to be a tall order and if left to our own designs, this would be impossible. But remember… the same Spirit and the same Lord is inspiring you and me to do this. Because of Pentecost, we can engage in a new evangelization.
Blessings in the Spirit,
May 8th, 2016
My dear brothers and sisters,
As many of you are by now well aware, we will be going through some notable transitions on our pastoral team at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton this Summer. Fr. Leonard is headed to Assumption Parish in San Leandro; Liz Rogers is headed to Walnut Creek, a dreaded six minutes from her home; and Pat Morgan and her husband Tom are moving to the East Coast to be close to family and friends.
As I mentioned to our pastoral team and to so many involved in His ministry at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton, the loss presents us all with different opportunities. Leonard, Liz and Pat have new opportunities in faith and ministry before them and so do we.
In our learning ministries, we have tried over the course of many years to give further and deliberate shape to adult faith formation. Despite RCIA, Returning Catholics, Bible Study, the January Adult Formation Series and assorted other events, we have not been able to develop a real full-bodied program. Now, we have an opportunity to make this shift. Taking the recommendation of the job position description committee who poured over Liz’s position, the Director of Faith Formation is now titled The Director of Life Long Learning. This position on the pastoral team will have oversight of all formation from childhood through adulthood and will also sit on the pastoral leadership team. This newly-formed position allows us to combine the position of elementary coordination with sacramental preparation into the position Coordinator of Elementary Formation and Sacramental Preparation.
At present, the job search has begun. Postings have been placed in the Diocese of Oakland and San Jose and the Archdiocese of San Francisco. In addition, the job has been posted at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, the Jesuit School at Santa Clara University, the Graduate Theological Union and assorted other local and national agencies. If you would like to see the job postings, you can go to our website. Resumes will be accepted until June 15, 2016.
During this time of transitions, we pray for Leonard, Liz and Pat. We are so very grateful for the gifts they shared with the Catholic Community of Pleasanton. We pray that the communities where they are missioned receive them with open arms and that our welcoming community will embrace our new ministers with the Lord’s spirit of hospitality and joy.
Mark your calendars… Please join us for a reception on June 26, 2016 at St. John Paul II Activity Center following the 11:00 AM Mass to say goodbye to Leonard, Liz and Pat…
May 1st, 2016
Thank you to everyone who has turned in their pledge cards for our capital campaign. We are pleased to announce that more than $3 million has been pledged to date. It's a great start, but we have a long way to go to reach our $10 million goal.
If you haven't turned in a pledge card yet, please do so as soon as possible. These pledge cards serve as collateral to begin our building process. Every pledge counts!
If you want to pay your pledge electronically, you can Pledge Now on our website. You can find more information on the Arise and Build website or request a phone call from a campaign volunteer.
We are off to a strong start, but we need the support of 100% of our Pleasanton community. Participation of 1000 more families would help us reach our goal!
We need to ramp up our community participation and that begins with your Pledge Now!
In His Light,
April 24th, 2016
My brothers and sisters,
Easter is about newness, hope and life. The light of Christ illuminates you and me! We look into the reality of life and bring the freshness that is Him. To celebrate Easter, we need to remember that dying leads to rising and oftentimes this involves change. This Easter Season, we have been about that.
Along with Liz Rogers’ departure as Director of Faith Formation, we are going to be saying goodbye to Pat Morgan as Director of Sacrament Formation and the Rite of Christian Initiation for Children and teens. Pat and her husband Tom are moving to North Carolina to be with family. It’s a very hard hit. I am looking at the loss. It hurts us; it hurts me as your pastor. They will be missed. But I know that lived experience creates opportunity – opportunity for Pat and Liz and all of us at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton.
We have a great team in Faith Formation. Liz and Pat have built an incredible ministry that we will continue to foster and grow. We all are very appreciative of Nicole Browne and Nancy Schlachte, heads of High School and Middle School Youth Ministry. They will be rudders as faith formation goes into unfamiliar waters.
As we forge our way forward, we need to keep in mind that dying brings rising. We have a wonderful opportunity to grow. As we hire new personnel, I have been meeting with a cross section of the parish and we want to move Pleasanton forward! The new position will be named “Director of Life Long Learning”. That’s not rhetoric. In fact, I was hesitant to use this language. The committee pressed me and they
were right and I was not. Historically, we have not had a solid formation track for adults. We have had our January series and parish mission. Fr. Chris has provided awesome reflections for those in ministry during Advent and Lent. Now, it’s time
for something more consistent and solid for our future. The new director will ensure this happens.
To afford this, we intend to combine Elementary Faith Formation with Sacrament Formation and the Rite of Christian Initiation for Children and Teens (RCIC/T). That means First Communion and all the sacraments for our kids will be the responsibility of the Elementary Coordinator. I also want to make clear that sacrament preparation is not replacing early faith formation for our kids, quite the opposite. As we position
ourselves for lifelong learning, it’s imperative that we understand that preparation for sacraments is about readiness. We cannot just go through the motions. Does that put more responsibility on moms and dads? Sure does! Remember, moms
and dads: you are the first teachers of the faith. What we provide supplements you.
I know many parents who are daunted at the prospect of sharing their faith with their children. In a very telling conversation, a dad said to me “Paul, I don’t know how”. How honest and how true! My brothers and sisters, we need to develop
our own adult faith so that we can share our faith with our kids. Does this require work and effort? Definitely. Easy? Nope! They need to know what we maybe did not get. We cannot stop our own formation with a teenage understanding of God. And that’s what many of us have done!!! We need to build our own faith as adults before we can pass it on to our children.
Let’s let go of what was. Let’s die to ignorance and rise to our faith in Jesus, Easter life!!!
April 17th, 2016
My brothers and sisters,
As most of you are well aware, Pope Francis issued his reflections on the gathering of the Synod of Bishops regarding family life. It is technically called a postsynodal exhortation. Ever since this organization was formed after the Second Vatican Council (1960’s), most popes have written reflections on whatever subject was covered by a gathering of this body. It is important to note that these reflections are just that – reflections. The content is not a declaration or intended to shift church teaching on any matter. Oftentimes, popes have indicated how we might approach matters of faith and morals more sensitively to the times in which we live.
Since his appointment as Bishop of Rome who is the first among equals in the College of Bishops, Pope Francis has made the matter of family his focus. His exhortation, titled On Love in the Family is a lengthy and comprehensive reflection on the reality of family life. I would like to draw attention to two topics from the exhortation. The first is what I will call a pastoral method and the second is a pastoral issue very much alive in Pleasanton and is a personal concern of mine.
Francis uses the expression “accompaniment” repeatedly in his writings and teachings. By that, he refers to the importance of the Church as a communion of believers, of persons, journeying together with gifts and challenges that enhance and
challenge our oneness. Held together by Christ Jesus to announce Christ Jesus, we are to support one another in this journey that at times is filled with radiant lights and at other times weighed down in the cold shadows.
In order to dwell together in unity, we must be willing to support each other rather than judging too simplistically and listen to one another before speaking too quickly. Or, as I often say, if I have begun to formulate a response while someone is speaking to me about something meaningful, I am not listening. To accompany means to offr mercy. I can only be an agent of mercy if I have the ears to listen, eyes to see and a heart to understand. So often, mercy is viewed as “loosey goosey” or lacking “teeth.” Real mercy is when we actually walk with someone, verses judge from a safe distance. Real mercy is when we see the cold shadow in which someone lives and desire to draw them to warm light. Real mercy is when someone has the courage to approach us needing accompaniment and we say YES! Such a pastoral approach is based upon where we find ourselves and not upon using church doctrine as the whip to those who seemingly need a flogging. Before I can model church teaching in
my living, I need to know where others live. This is Pope Francis’ concern. The media bytes claim he on the one hand “He did not go far enough.” Others claim he’s trying to “Change Church teaching”. Both bytes miss the mark entirely. Francis is trying to genuinely name where families find themselves so that the Church can accompany them into a deeper encounter with the living Jesus Christ.
The second point of particular value to Pleasanton can be found in #33 of the exhortation. There, the pope addresses individualism. He writes:
The tensions created by an overly individualistic culture, caught up with possessions and pleasures, leads to intolerance and hostility in families. Here I would also include today’s fast pace of life, stress and the organization of society and labor, since all these are cultural factors which militate against permanent decisions. We also encounter widespread uncertainty and ambiguity. For example, we rightly value a
personalism that opts for authenticity as opposed to mere conformity. While this can favor spontaneity and a better use of people’s talents, if misdirected it can foster attitudes of constant suspicion, fear of commitment, self-centeredness and arrogance.
The challenge I experience over and over again in the Tri-Valley is the crazy pace which so many of us live by. All too often, I want to make the “best” use of my time
and yet the criteria for planning a good use of time is often based upon what is not healthy. One example, “Well, I have an open hour.” Or, with friends over dinner, the discussion comes up about Church as a “waste of time.” After all, it does not make a REAL differrence. Hmmmm. By what standards do we measure a good use of time? So Francis goes on to speak about what is meaningful and what is not. Sometimes, my need to be really myself might be a call for some accompaniment. For Francis, accompaniment in the context of community is not an invitation to conform, but an invitation to be free and find what is meaningful. That is not an activity done in isolation and it is not an activity that is only measured by pleasure or rugged individualism. To slow down and walk together and worship together in Pleasanton might be a good thing. And going full circle…I am not sitting in a seat of judgment on this matter. I am in need of mercy and accompaniment here, too. Maybe this is something that we must do together.
Some first thoughts on Francis’ latest writing. Its Easter… It’s good to be alive.
April 10th, 2016
My brothers and sisters:
At the Masses where I was principal celebrant on Divine Mercy Weekend (2nd Sunday of Easter), I mentioned that one clear sign of Easter life is the abundance of Sacramental celebrations taking place at The Catholic Community of Pleasanton. And there are many in number and kind. At the Great Vigil of Easter (Holy Saturday Night) a great number of individuals were baptized, confirmed and received Eucharist for the first time. The journey that they walked culminated at the celebration of the Triduum – the great 3-day experience of the Church’s one solemn festival. Always a tremendous experience…
Just last weekend, we had the opportunity to celebrate the first reception of the Eucharist (First Communion) for 20 of our younger brothers and sisters. There are nine more celebrations of first reception of the Eucharist during the Easter Season. That is fantastic… It is important for them to receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the context of the Sunday celebration of Mass – why? Here are a few reasons. First, our daughters and sons should be celebrating with of the community of Faith where
they will grow and that’s The Catholic Community of Pleasanton. Second, this is a celebration for the whole Christian community as well as for the families of the individual members. We should be happy to celebrate with those who will receive the Eucharist for the first time. Third, their first and primary experience of Mass will be on Sundays. We are modeling what will be their ongoing practice. I’m very pleased to be able to be the principal celebrant of these liturgies. Our kids are wonderful and we should celebrate with them.
Still yet another sign is the Celebration of Confirmation that is to take place in May. The Bishop of Oakland, Michael Barber, SJ., will join us to confirm our high school brothers and sisters. The celebration of Confirmation seals what was begun in Baptism. In addition, there are a number of weddings that are forthcoming. This is another sign of Easter Life. Husbands and wives show forth the abundance of life that is ours because of Jesus’ choice to share His life as the foundation of our living. Their commitment is grounded in Baptism. And speaking of baptisms, there is always a host of infants entering the waters of rebirth and life. Another sign that Easter is alive and well.
On the last Sunday of January, we invited everyone to deepen their Lenten experience by joining a Small Christian Community. We are delighted to share that we formed eight new SCCs and added new members to existing groups. These are fellow parishioners meeting in their homes to explore their faith, support one another and pray. This is another sign of Easter life. To try this for yourself, you can find information on Small Christian Communities at our Website
And there is so much more happening that show forth life in Christ. The Risen Jesus wants to encounter us and He will continue to pursue us and call us. We need to answer and trust that in our experience of Him in the sacramental life of the Church His love will wrap us and strengthen us for living out His abundance at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton and beyond.
We are His people and Easter is His gift to us.
April 3rd, 2016
My brothers and sisters, Upon returning home from Cuba, I had a thoughtful and reflective meeting with Liz Rogers, the Catholic Community of Pleasanton Pastoral Associate and Director of Faith Formation. After a tremendous eight years of giving body to Jesus’ ministry in the Parish, she has made the prayerful decision to resign and take a position at St. John Vianney. To celebrate what Jesus did in His body, we made the deliberate choice to wait untill after Holy Week to announce this to the Parish at large. Liz and I believe that we did not need this to be part of our parish’s focus until after Triduum (Easter). Now, we will begin a national search to locate the person best suited for the position. The details of the process will be available by contacting the offce or going to our website catholicsofpleasanton.org.
Over the course of her eight years of giving body to Jesus’ ministry, Liz has commuted day in and day out from Concord to Pleasanton and back. That’s 90 minutes in the car. She did this gratefully and graciously, but she has also been considering the cost of this great commute on family life and other relationships. Her love for The Catholic Community of Pleasanton is obvious and the departure is not easy. However, her new position at St. John Vianney Parish in Walnut Creek is all of a 6 minute drive from her home. She is working with one of her close friends who is also on staf and Fr. William, one of the former associates in Pleasanton, is the administrator. Most importantly, she will benefit from more time with her husband Mike. As I listened to her share this with me, I realized that this is a perfect fit and therefore the perfect time. While I am saddened that she is moving on, I am happy for her and her family. The pinch of loss is real and felt; the opportunity before us is equally real and exciting. We commend a tremendous woman to St. John Vianney Parish with gratitude to God for her presence among us.
This is all about Easter and life and life in abundance…
March 27th, 2016
My brothers and sisters,
Today we hear the triumphant chorus of Alleluias. Let the trumpet sound. He is risen from the dead. He is risen indeed. On behalf of the entire pastoral team at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton, I want to wish you and your family Happy Easter. The Gospel proclaimed on Easter will be familiar to some of us but not to all. The report is that the stone has been rolled away from the tomb. Peter and the “other” disciple of Jesus are racing for the tomb to see what has happened. And isn’t it interesting that we NEVER know that person by name. It takes Peter a bit longer to get to the tomb than the quick footed “other disciple.” But Peter goes in first followed by the “other” one who is loved.
This Easter, we are all coming to the tomb to experience a mystery and to bask in the beauty that truth is not always meant to be verified objectively but to be lived personally and communally. That is what we do at The Catholic Community of Pleasanton. From all walks of life we race to the tomb together – the deeply devotional believer and the skeptic, the indifferent and the euphoric, the cradle Catholic and the new Catholic, the visitor. From all walks of life, we look into the dark tomb. Questions and concerns abound about the difficulties that face the Tri-Valley. The present political climate and the lack of civil exchange leaves many disgruntled. The economy for some remains a real and felt strain. Issues of college education, retirement and family dynamics can come together and place a tremendous weight upon our shoulders. Are there easy answers? No, but there is hope! Together, let’s race to the tomb where life reigns victorious never forgetting that we aren’t alone – we journey together accompanied by the source of life.
Each of us must gaze into the tomb and when we are ready to do so, like Peter and the “other” disciple, we enter. What is required? Faith. I have faith in those around me who experience something in their faith that I might not in mine. I have faith that the one who is earnestly searching is doing so to make an informed decision to believe and that searcher’s pursuit may help strengthen my faith as well. Ultimately, what is required is faith that God is the One who rolled away the stone. the God of Light is the One who pierces darkness. God is the One who leads us to where life abounds. God is the One who calls us as a community to race toward Him.
On this day and throughout the Easter Season, we will celebrate the God of Light. There are celebrations of Baptism, Confirmation and First Eucharist. There will be Marriages and other rites where we touch the mystery of our faith in one another’s lives. There is the experience of family and friends. These experiences bind us together as a community gathered in His name. Why? He is risen, indeed!
March 20th, 2016
My brothers and sisters,
We enter into Jerusalem with Jesus and the motley crowd that welcomed Him into the city. Some were followers. I imagine that some were bystanders. Still others were just curious to see what this was all about. Some just got trapped in the craziness because they happened to be there. This is not too diffrent from the gathering of the
Church. An important perspective, but that’s for another corner!!!
From the perspective of Jesus, I’m going out on a limb or a palm branch… I imagine that for our Savior, this day He began to taste the triumph and tragedy of Jerusalem. Triumph in the fact that Jesus entered into the city embraced by enthusiastic crowds proclaiming “Hosanna to the Son of David: blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”, and tragedy as the scene turns towards darkness in His suffering and death. On this day, the truth of the covenant between God and God’s people comes into focus. That focus will get sharper and sharper as this week called Holy continues, as Jesus walks step by step toward Calvary and to the mystery of the cross.
As I stand at the entrance to Jerusalem with all of you, with those who have gone before us in faith and those who will follow our footsteps, I am in awe about how deeply Jesus trusted. At the beginning of Lent, one of our parishioners came to see me with some issues around trust. Let’s face it… for many of us, matters of trust are huge. This is especially true when trust takes you to places that are hard to walk toward. Some years ago, I remember journaling and reflecting during one Holy Week on Jesus’ sheer exhaustion. If so exhausted, then was He really just “done” and ready to resign Himself to the inevitable? Was there just no fight left in Him? Well, if Jesus was exhausted and resigned, He would not have struggled to keep walking but like a defeated athlete, He would have “stayed down”. He kept getting up! There is no resignation to everything that seemingly is going wrong, but trust that in the end everything will be right. The depth of His trust in God the Father fueled His exhausted body. His trust gave Him focus on God the Father; to journey into a deep hole of darkness before the cracks of light would penetrate the tomb. As we enter Holy Week, we walk with the God-man Jesus who is spent, pooped and misunderstood. He fulfilled what was proclaimed from Isaiah: “Morning after morning He opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffts and spitting (Isaiah 50: 4-6)”. In this year of Mercy, what God the Father revealed to Jesus was in fact, yes, mercy.
Back to the parishioner who came to see me before I went down to Cuba who struggled with trust issues. On a certain level, we live in a society that is skeptical and not too trusting. Maybe part of what we need to do this Holy Week is begin to create a culture of trust. By that, I am not referring to a trust based upon contracts and guarantees. What Jesus provides for us is a vision of trust that allows us to place our hope in what endures. And to build up a culture of trust, there will be a cost. We will need to begin to place ourselves in vulnerable relationship to each other – to care for each other and to be patient with each other. This Holy Week will be filled with tragedy, but that is not the full story. Because as we know, love endures all things and ultimately triumphs.
I invite you to participate fully and completely in the Paschal Mystery. Worship with us on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM at St. Elizabeth Seton. Each morning, we will gather at 8:30 AM at St. Augustine for Morning prayer. Trust me, there you will experience love, first hand.
March 13th, 2016
My brothers and sisters…
We are fast approaching Palm Sunday (next weekend)… gulp! We have been engaged in our Lenten discipline which has helped us. Keep in mind what is essential to living and what is secondary. From Ash Wednesday forward, we have been focused upon praying (more deliberate encounters and conversations with God), fasting (giving up some excess) and almsgiving (sharing not our excess but who we are with those on the periphery of life). If we look at the three legs of the Lenten discipline, we would see what is essential…and what is essential, my friends, are relationships. To pray is to enter into a deeper and richer relationship with Jesus. To fast is to have a healthier relationship with self in body, mind and spirit. To give alms is to build up right relationships with others. What is a discipline for the Season of Lent can and should become a hallmark of the growth and vitality of our shared life as Christians.
This was very much on my mind these past few weeks as I walked the streets of “La Habana.” Many of you have been asking me to share my experiences in Cuba via my homilies. I intend to do so when the experiences build of of the Scripture on the given weekend. I must also say that the experiences are sooooooo layered in meaning that I am still trying to sort through them. I kept a journal so that the raw experiences are recorded as they happened. When I share them with my family and close friends, it seems to be a verbal stream of consciousness. I need to give it some contour. But for now, I will say this, the time in Cuba underscored the three parts of relationships that we have focused upon this Lent. Cuba drew me into a greater awareness of my relationship with Jesus. Cuba made me far more aware of a need for a healthier self in body, mind and spirit. Cuba made me aware of right relationships with my brothers and sisters who live in difficult if not dire conditions. In short, Cuba made me more notably aware of God, self and others. Lent came alive for me in Cuba.
I pray that Lent is alive for you as together we draw ever closer to the gates of Jerusalem as we celebrate Palm Sunday next weekend.
I want to thank Liz Rogers, our Pastoral Associate and Director of Faith Formation, for her video reflections over the past few weeks while I was away on vacation. They were uploaded to the Catholic Community of Pleasanton website (catholicsofpleasanton.org). If you have not been to our new website, take a moment in the midst of the busyness and check it out. Also, I want to thank Fr. Leonard for his reflections on the front of the bulletin over the same weeks. It’s good to hear from others and I am reminded of the great gifts God has given members of our pastoral team. I’m very appreciative for how they share and steward the gifts God has given them in abundance.
March 6th, 2016
Brothers and Sisters,
When I was kid my brothers and I would often ask Dad, “Who is your favorite?” And his reply was always the same, “You’re one of my five favorite sons.” In other words, we were all his favorite. We were all equal in our Dad’s eyes. He held no distinction between my brothers and myself. He simply loved us, with all our flaws and mishaps, as only a parent can.
In last week’s Gospel Jesus sits with the Samaritan woman asking her for water. Jesus makes no distinction between Jew and Gentile. He’s on a mission and that mission is to save souls and to repair the damage our original parents (Adam and Eve) created between ourselves and God.
A few weeks ago I suggested that rather than just “giving something up” for Lent we instead replace that “something” with something meaningful. I suggested we increase our prayer time, read more spiritual books or seek a devotion that is meaningful. As part of my Lenten journey I continue to struggle with the sacrifice I am making. I have failed to pray my Office of Prayers everyday. Do I lament this and stop trying or do a I make a concerted effort to begin again? I think the latter is preferable to the former. It is better to struggle and try again than just give up. We are by no means “perfect”; only God is perfect. Like my own father, God loves us just the way we are with all our flaws and imperfections. We cannot beat ourselves up when we fail to make our Lenten journey perfectly. God merely asks us to try again. Jesus was accepting of who the Samaritan woman was and her station in life. He did not make any distinctions, nor did He care. His only concern was her welfare. Later in the story, the apostles are amazed at Jesus for interacting with this woman by the well. What the apostles failed to understand is that Jesus, God, wants all of us to be saved. There are no distinctions amongst the sheep.
Just as we are all equal in the eyes of God love by Him no matter our failings - called as a community of believers to do the same. We cannot make distinctions about our brothers and sisters. We do not know what their stories are and what troubles may be happening their lives.
We need to be kinder to ourselves as well. If God loves and accepts us just the way we are (even if we do not keep our Lenten practices perfectly), shouldn’t we do the same? One thing I have noticed about myself is I have come to the realization of who I am. I am very comfortable in my own skin. But that comfort took effort to achieve. It took years of trials and tribulations and prayer.
During this season of preparation for Christ’ resurrection, let us all be aware of our faults and that God makes no distinctions among His sons and daughters. We are all equal in the eyes of God
February 28th, 2016
My brothers and sisters,
This weekend marks the third week in our Lenten journey and as I was thinking about what to write in this week’s “Pastor’s Corner”, I started thinking about preparing for my future plans.
As you all know our bishop has given me a new assignment which involves new responsibilities and opportunities. And as such, I began to prepare for what I needed to accomplish before beginning this new assignment.
However, before taking on this new adventure in my life, I thought to myself, I also need to make plans for my upcoming vacation. Where am I going? How will I get there? How much is this going to cost me? And what things I shall do when I arrive at my destination.
Planning, planning and more planning. And then I realized something very important.
In all this frantic and hectic period I hadn’t yet prepared myself for my own Lenten sacrifice. We as a people tend to make lots of plans and preparing ourselves for things that are most important to us. Yet, when it comes to our spiritual journey we tend to push that aside. We forget that our spiritual journey is just as important to our well being as any vacation or other important event. Faith and spirituality sometimes takes a backseat in our life when it should be the center from which all plans come.
As we travel through these next few weeks until Easter, let us remember to look at what this time in the church calendar is really about? A reflecting on things we have done in the past year. Did we treat others with respect and kindness? Did we remember to attend Mass regularly? Did we give to charities or help in some way those brothers and sisters less fortunate than we?
This is also a time for conversion. Conversion, in addition to the above, is essential to our Lenten journey. It allows us to avoid sin and move forward. We have the opportunity to convert and to accept our weaknesses and faults, knowing that God is forgiving and merciful to those who are truly sorry for their sins.
As we approach the Pascal Mystery, it is not too late to make preparations for Christ’s coming and His resurrection. This week I will make my plans and prepare
myself for Christ’s Passion and glorious resurrection. And this is a time for all of us to do the same. Let us together welcome Christ into our lives.
February 21st, 2016
My brothers and sisters,
As we continue our Lenten journey I am reminded of some wonderful memories from my childhood. I am a product of a generation of children brought up in the 1960s and 1970s. Even though this was a period of great change for both the church and our country, what I remember most during this time are my parents and the seriousness they both shared with us regarding sacrifice of material things.
Some things from my childhood remained the same, especially during Lent. I get nostalgic thinking about the meals Mom and Dad cooked during Lent. For example: one Friday Mom would make homemade pizza. Another Friday, she would cook Mrs. Paul’s Fish Stix and Tater Tots (do they still make these?). And yet another Friday, it would be grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, a Catholic school favorite. And finally, pancakes with strawberries and whipped cream; Dad loved this the most. He also used to make his “famous Captain’s platter” which consisted of numerous species of shell fish and a variety of vegetables all of which were dipped in a beer batter and deep fried.
As part of our Lenten sacrifice we are encouraged to abstain from all meat as it is considered expensive and the money we save abstaining from these products can go to the poor (have you seen the prices of seafood lately?). But why do we abstain from these foods? The idea of fasting is recorded throughout the Gospels where Christ Himself is led by the Holy Spirit to the desert to fast, and in doing so is tempted by the Evil One. However, this idea of fasting is not just about denying oneself the luxury of eating meat, it is really about our conversion.
Conversion from sin is what we hope to achieve during these forty days. It is a period in our spiritual life that guides us to leave sin behind and begin anew. And sometimes we will stumble and return to the sin which we are diligently trying to leave behind. But since we are human we will fall again and again. Do we give up or, as I tell the penitent in the confessional, pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and start anew? I am a great believer that God is merciful and forgiving. He knows the sorrows and tribulations each one of us endures in our lives. He knows by looking into our hearts and minds the anguish we all go through and He knows the moment we are sorry for our sins and offenses
As we begin our second week of Lent let us consider looking deeper into our needs for real conversion. If we are going to “give something up”, then let’s really give something up that will be long-lasting and not just end when Easter begins.
February 14th, 2016
My brothers and sisters,
Lent starts out with the great encounter that reminds us that Jesus experiences what we experience – namely, temptations. Proclaimed in our hearing was the earth shaking encounter between the devil and Jesus. As I ponder and pray that Scripture passage (Luke 4:1-13), I envision everything just stopping as God’s embodied goodness on earth meets face to face with darkness. The passage also disturbs me. The devil seems to be dragging Jesus around like an object or a thing. Maybe that’s something for us to consider. The devil didn’t view Jesus for who He was, but as an object of manipulation to be at the service of the tempter’s self-serving needs. I tend to think that when we fall to temptations that are dark and do not build up our humanity, we become objects too and lose our very human-ness. Perhaps it would do us well, to look at the three temptations brought before Jesus:
In the first temptation in the desert, the devil challenges Jesus to change stone to bread. When Jesus pushes back, He is not suggesting that food is unimportant – that sustenance to live should be sacrificed. Instead, Jesus is saying that in the context of the human journey or pilgrimage that we all make to “Jerusalem,” dependence upon material things or even persons is not healthy. Dependence or addiction unchecked can be a source of great temptation and sin.
The second temptation deals with the idolatry and adoration of the devil rather than God. We all experience temptation to make gods of people and kingdom of things. When Jesus sees what could be His, He reminds the evil one that God is in control. He does not want to idolize or become the idol. This is important for us to hear and believe. It is God who is ultimately in charge of our destiny.
In the third temptation, the devil looks squarely at Jesus and wants “proof” that God has shown His favour upon Jesus. So jump. The Lord God will catch Jesus whom He loves. Jesus answers the evil one by saying that He doesn’t have to prove to anyone that God loves Him. We don’t need to prove to anyone that as individuals and as a community of faith, we are his beloved disciples. When someone is trying not to understand your belief but to disprove your belief, then that is not a conversation worth having. To strive and understand is golden; what the devil did is the tarnish of temptation that is meant to destroy.
As we begin this first week of the Season of Lent, let’s resolve to understand that sustenance is realized in humble living, that God is ultimately in charge even when we believe that we are and that someone’s belief and relationships is an opportunity for understanding and not a basis for suspicion. Resisting the temptations, Jesus draws out the best in our shared humanity. To act humbly, to let God be God and to strive for relationships of understanding might prove to be a good Lenten discipline…
Let’s pray for each other to resist temptation and be what God formed us to be and live…
February 7th, 2016
My brothers and sisters,
If you blinked once or twice, you might have missed that the Season of Lent begins this week with the celebration of Ash Wednesday – only four short weeks after the Christmas Season ended! The term “Lent” comes to us from old English. It means
springtime. If you go back to the Latin term “Lente”, the word means slowly… SLOWLY!!!
For the 40 days of Lent, we need to ask ourselves to slow down as individuals and as a community. It’s time for Spring cleaning and to take inventory of what is essential in our everyday living secondary and what is truly peripheral. All too often, the priorities get all twisted around – the peripheral becomes essential, what’s essential becomes peripheral and so on.
As a Parish, the Catholic Community of Pleasanton can get busy about Lenten activities – Stations of the Cross, Rice Bowl, Oasis of Hope, the meditation booklets to name a few, please check the back page of the bulletin for a complete list. We are not engaged in these activities to pack more into the calendar. Instead, maybe engagement in these activities can cause us to “Lent” our lives… to change our lives slowly, or even “springtime” some change and bud new life.
One new life-giving opportunity is the variety of Small Christian Communities (SCC’s) that we are forming. In a Parish our size, it is so easy to get lost, remain anonymous and not connect with your neighbor. In the age of social media, person to person contact is all the more important. Because our faith cannot be reduced to electronic transmission, we must use our bodies, minds and souls as we journey as Jesus’ body during the 40 days that lead us to Lent. So in conjunction with the Sunday Mass experience, consider a Small Christian Community. Please contact Deacon Joe Gourley for further information or go to the website.
Ash Wednesday serves as a fitting point of departure for Lent. We are called not to be just smudged on our foreheads with ashes but to place ourselves in the ashes of living from where new life will slowly spring over these next forty days.
We will be praying, fasting and giving alms… we will strive to slow down so a new
springtime may come.
We begin the journey…
January 31st, 2016
My brothers & sisters,
This past Tuesday, the Office of the Bishop of Oakland made public a number of clergy appointments including a new assignment for one of our own associate pastors. With my warmest congratulations and heartfelt prayer, I am happy to announce Fr. Leonard’s appointment as Parochial Administrator of the Church of the Assumption in San Leandro.
Since Fr. Leonard arrived at CCOP fresh from his ordination, I have seen him grow in the wisdom and prudence needed to “walk the walk” as a Parish priest. I believe that he approaches his new assignment with realistic eyes. Leonard knows his gifts and, more importantly, his limitations -- which is vital when leading a Parish. His ever growing pastoral attentiveness to CCOP over the years he has been with us further illustrates his readiness to assume this responsibility.
His appointment also affords me the opportunity to reflect upon how our Parish community has cultivated men living priestly life and ministry. There are many of us who were here as associate pastors now serving in a variety of capacities throughout the Diocese of Oakland. The Catholic Community of Pleasanton provides a wonderful “school” for ministerial development. Priests have benefited from our parish! And as you might imagine, when the former associates and pastors of Pleasanton gather, the laughter begins and the stories abound
Although Fr. Leonard will not be leaving us until July, I’ve asked him to share his initial feelings with us about his appointment. Let us pray for Len and support him earnestly as he prepares for his new assignment. May God continue to bless Fr.
Leonard in what he does in Pleasanton and what he will do in San Leandro.
From Fr. Leonard
Just before Christmas Bishop Michael called me into his office to ask me a question. As you know me pretty well you can imagine my reaction – I was nervous and scared thinking that I might have done something wrong. This would be akin to being called into the principal’s office… into which I was called many times!
After getting the typical “how are you” and “are things going well”, the Bishop asked the big question. Actually it was more like an order: “Would you be willing to take on Assumption Parish in San Leandro?”
After the blood stopped rushing to my head, my first reaction was surprise. After all, I have been a priest for only three years. I hesitated and asked the Bishop to repeat himself, as I wasn’t sure I heard him correctly. The Bishop asked again. This time I understood and I said I will do whatever is needed for the betterment of the Diocese.
What an honor it was for me to have our Bishop ask me to take care of a parish community. That our Bishop had enough confidence in me to believe that I could provide spiritual guidance for this community in San Leandro was very humbling.
I look forward to this new assignment not only with both joy and trepidation, but also with a certain sadness. Because that is what I feel when I think about actually having to leave this community which I’ve come to love so dearly. You—CCOP— are my first love and will always remain deeply imbedded in my heart and soul, not matter where I
January 24th, 2016
My brothers & sisters,
This weekend is Commitment Weekend, a critical point in our Arise and Build Campaign. We have only just begun this journey. I cannot underscore enough the urgency of this campaign. St. John Paul II Activity Center needs to be completed. The longer we postpone this phase of construction, the more costly it will be regarding both labor and materials. The capital improvements that need to be done on both St. Augustine and St. Elizabeth Seton are of equal importance. This is a matter of safety and a matter of structural integrity. In particular, St. Augustine is not user friendly for people with a variety of physical challenges or disabilities. To be specific, a wheelchair cannot enter into the public restrooms in either the Church or the Hall. When we speak about being a welcoming parish, the structures do not reflect this. Finally, we need to remember that we part of the larger church and need to support the diocese. Oftentimes, parishes lose that connection, but we must always remember that we are not independent. Thus, we need to support the ministries of the Diocese of Oakland, the Catholic Church in Alameda and Contra Costa County.
Along with these imperatives that make up our campaign, I’d like to share with you a surprising conversation with parishioners over dinner last week. They were under the impression that the diocese subsidizes all parishes including the Catholic Community of Pleasanton. Over the years, the diocese has graciously given us property and loaned us money to build our facilities. And since our parish’s establishment, we have supported the diocese and her ministries. Parishes that receive a subsidy from the diocese are those that are challenged to keep their doors open. These communities struggle to pay overhead costs and utilities. They have a right to gather for worship and they need our support. What I shared with this family over dinner was the importance of stewardship. Supporting our parish is not as much about a specific amount of money as it is about purposeful giving. We all need to support the Catholic Community of Pleasanton deliberately.
As we consider both our regular giving and the Arise and Build Campaign, I’d like to invite you to consider stretching and engaging in sacrificial giving. I want to take this opportunity to thank those of you who have made a pledge to the campaign. I know in my own life when I feel a pinch in giving, the rewards are far greater. When I look at the younger generations in our community, I want to provide for them a place and a space to gather in order to worship; an environment where good liturgy, learning and Christian living take hold. That has been our history and let that be our future. Again, I thank you for your commitment to our parish. We have been blessed. Let us put our hands to the good work. My brothers and sisters, let us Arise and Build. Oh we are blessed…
January 17th, 2016
My brothers and sisters,
Last weekend, I invited six couples to share their discernment and prayer journey toward making a pledge to the Arise and Build Campaign. Great gratitude to John and Marianne Sensiba, Neil and Bev Sweeny, Gregory and Denise Butler, Mark and Theresa Kotch, Mark and Jill Buck, and Michael and Annemarie Gallagher. Each couple agreed to speak about a topic that is not always easy to discuss. When it comes to stewardship, these couples demonstrate that giving back to God by strengthening the facilities of the Catholic Community is something that benefits us in the here and now — and also in the future. More importantly, these couples model not an amount given, but an attitude of giving.
As we undertake this campaign, others in our community have also committed to four-year pledges that demonstrate the importance of sacrificial giving. One of the speakers last weekend discussed his family’s commitment to the parish over a number of decades. In the most succinct and powerful language, he concluded his remarks underscoring: “And besides, it is the right thing to do”. Arise and Build is the right thing to do…
The Campaign Cabinet met last weekend and again during the week. I cannot express my gratitude for the energy and vision they bring to this project. Their focus is wonderfully infectious. In our meetings, different cabinet members repeatedly expressed the “urgency” of this endeavor in stewardship. As we approach Commitment Weekend on January 23rd and 24th, I want to underscore their collective voice. We need facilities renewed and brought up to code and other facilities built and completed in order to have a place and a space to do God’s work in the Tri-Valley
and to be a beacon of hope that illuminates Christ above all else. The work of Christ must be done face-to-face, person-to-person. Christ must be encountered, and not primarily through social media. The technologies of today assist us to do liturgy, engage in learning, and exercise Christian living. However, faith is an encounter between whole persons – body, mind and spirit. We need campuses that are able to receive the People of God of this generation and successive generations. We need to encounter the living Jesus Christ in our gatherings. My brothers and sisters… this is URGENT.
As you continue your prayerful and thought-filled discernment of a pledge, please see the bulletin insert or go to the website -- www.catholicsofpleasanton.org -- to find the Arise and Build pledge card. We need you to consider the total commitment of a four-year pledge. The pledge card is essential to designate the pledge. It demonstrates and documents the total amount pledged by our community. The pledge cards are
collateral for obtaining a loan to finish building St. John Paul II Activity Center. Without the cards, there is no way for us to obtain the loan from the Diocese. Please fill out the pledge card made available to you on Commitment Weekend or call the campaign office at St. Elizabeth Seton (925) 484-5020.
Each speaker last weekend stated from personal experience the need to give back from what has been given to them. That is not an amount; it’s a principle by which to live. The scripture abounds with examples. It’s not about growing weary of campaigns; it’s about fostering opportunities for others to live the faith. So hard pressed are we to
find space to meet that we are compromising the good work that needs to be done. Next weekend, my brothers and sisters, let us Arise and Build and let us put our good hands to the work!
I’m praying with you and I thank you
January 11th, 2016
Brothers and sisters,
As we come to the culmination of the Christmas Season, I want to return to the beginning of the season, Christmas Eve. At the Children’s liturgy on Christmas Eve, the 4:00 PM Mass at St. Elizabeth Seton, I focused my homily not on the reception of gifts but on gifts given. Jesus, Christ the Light, is given to us. Family is also a gift given to us that all too often is taken for granted. At the end of the homily, I invited families to take a “selfie” of themselves celebrating the Eucharist – a gift given. From there, they celebrate each other as family – a gift given. On the back of the bulletin, you will see some of the “selfies” from 4:00 PM Christmas Eve Children’s Mass. In addition, if you go the www.catholicsofpleasanton.com, there is a slide show presentation of the pictures as well. When I asked families to send me their phone pictures, I was inundated. Thank you for that gift given to me.
And how apropos to post these photos on the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord when Jesus emerged from the Jordan River to begin his public ministry. In our Catholic Tradition, the family is not only a vocational “school” to form the members of that family, but also the family is called to public ministry. How does the family unit engage in ministry? While members of any family personally carry out aspects of Jesus’ ministry, while spouses exercise aspects of Jesus’ ministry, how does the family unit as a whole engage in Jesus’ ministry in the here and now? This is a great question to be asked by our Small Christian Communities (SCC), the intergenerational faith communities (IFC), Friday Family Program (FFP) Families engaged in Sacramental Preparation (RCIC/T, RCIA) and all gatherings in the parish that foster family growth and awareness.
As we come to the end of the Christmas Season, I want to take this opportunity to thank many of you who offered gifts to the parish staff. Dumbfounded by the amount of cards, chocolates, cookies, cakes, and other yummies, we are grateful for your love and support. And as we go on our respective diets, we keep you always in our prayers…
To the families of the Catholic Community of Pleasanton, Merry Christmas!
December 27th, 2015
My brothers and sisters,
I will be the first to say it. My mother in Castro Valley might not be too happy with this corner (I’ll hear about this one). It is probably fair to say that my family is just not quite as holy as Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Maybe the Holy Family can at first seem too unreachable even too ideal for my family or perhaps yours. During this season of Christmas, we are most intensely aware of the limitations of our family. Selfishness, stubbornness, independence and sketchy behavior can appear to be so much in the spotlight that we can question the integrity of our family as a family let alone see any real holiness there. How holy can my own family be?
The first thing to consider is to humbly acknowledge the humanity of the family, including my own humanity and that of everyone. We are capable of great things and we are capable of great selfishness. This kind of acknowledgement isn't an acceptance of the behavior or dynamics of my family as good, or that all of what “happens” should be tolerated. Instead, let’s stop the denial. We can't cope with what we don't even admit. Equally important is to acknowledge that each person in the family is seeing things, and responding from his or her own perspective. No one wakes in the morning asking, "How can I be selfish and difficult for everyone today?" We all are choosing something that seems to be good - perhaps good for me and not for you - but the choice is for something seen by the person as a good. This acknowledgement isn't very inspiring, but it can be helpful if it leads us to a growing understanding of what each of us in our family is considering.
I would say that such real understanding can lead to compassion. Maybe someone in the family is a barking dog or a self-absorbed prince or princess or maybe there is the neurotic one or the controlling block of ice. All of these behaviors are rooted in self preservation. We all do this. Once we can see the underlying needs or hurts that seem to be shaping behaviors, we can more easily love those family members. It’s merciful love toward hope that will heal us. Love will make us stronger. Love will lead to greater gratitude. And grateful people can more easily notice the needs of others and love them.
Maybe the Holy Family’s “holiness” was a recognition of the needs of each other. Joseph was aware of Mary’s needs as the Scripture so eloquently testifies. Mary was aware of Joseph needs and they were both aware of Jesus’ needs and so on. There was no self-protectionism at play, but free interaction in charity and kindness, mercy and acceptance, hope and trust. The Holy Family embodies a “School” of love. That’s not an ideal for it is unreachable. It’s quite real and reachable if we are willing to take the time to make our families holy… Can we take the time to work at real love… And that, my brothers and sisters, is no Hallmark Greeting Card.
With love to you and your families,
December 20th, 2015
My brothers and sisters, We are close to the serene and mysterious joy that comes with Christmas. Before we enter this season of beauty, I want to express a litany of gratitude for so much done over the Advent Season. Last week brought about a wonderful energy of activity even in the midst of some much-needed rain turning into downpours. First, to all those involved in the organization of the Giving Tree Outreach Ministry of our parish, the staffing of the Giving Tree, the men and women who gave of their weekend to deliver gifts and to everyone who adopted a family -- thank you for your kindness! While the weather created a bit of a challenge, nothing can stop the good work motivated by God’s desire for us to go about doing what is right and just! Second, to all who donated gifts for the children of those who are detained at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin -- thank you. This is an act of great kindness and Christian charity (acting as a brother and sister), so that children can experience joy in situations that are often difficult and stressful.
Last weekend the Catholic Community of Pleasanton celebrated the American festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe. An evening of keeping vigil and prayers was followed by Mañanitas on early Saturday morning and Mass on early Saturday afternoon. I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the leadership of the Hispanic community for their planning and dutiful presence as we prepared to celebrate the great mestizo revealed in the apparition. Thank you for making the celebration one of “flor y canta”.
In the midst of everything happening last weekend, we were fortunate to have Santa visit the Catholic Community of Pleasanton and have breakfast with our families and take pictures with us as well. Even Fr. Leonard and I took the opportunity to sit on Santa’s lap with our respective wish lists! I want to thank the Knights of Columbus for the tremendous ministry and service they provide the parish. In many wonderful visible and not-so-visible ways, they are a pathway of God’s grace in our midst.
This past week, we celebrated two tremendous experiences of penance and reconciliation (confession). In this Year of Mercy, declared by Pope Francis, I have been overjoyed with the numbers of people who have returned to experience this mercy, have the heavy burdens removed and find direction that is right so to walk with Jesus and encounter Him again on life’s road. In order for these celebrations to happen, there are so very many people behind the scenes who make it happen. To our youth ministry and youth leadership, a big thank you! To the liturgical leadership – it is impossible to express gratitude for so much “behind-the-scenes” work. The majority of our parish community cannot quite imagine the great work you do as a labor of love. We are grateful. The Catholic Community of Pleasanton provides a compass for ways to celebrate this essential Sacrament of God’s mercy.
And this past Friday, the combined choirs gathered for an evening of singing and community building, celebration and joy. The amount of effort and work that goes into this celebration is tremendous. There is so very much happening in music ministry during this Advent Season that most of the preparation goes unnoticed. We see the finished product. On your behalf, I want to thank the leadership of the music ministry for giving from the soul so that our parish can sing joyfully and lyrically.
Finally, with the Filipino community, the parish as a whole celebrated Simbang Gabi at 6:00 on Saturday morning. The Filipino choir sang in great voice. And the ministers of the liturgy brought a prayerful joy to the celebration, even at that early hour of the morning. And of course, there was a bountiful breakfast that followed! To the leadership of the Filipino community and to all who participated in any fashion, thank you for your kindness.
This brings us up to the immediate anticipation of Christmas. I look forward to celebrating Christmas joy with you as we bask in the light of the Savior of the World - He who was born, lives in our midst now and will come again.
Please see the Mass schedule for Christmas on the back cover of the bulletin or click HERE.
He is coming….
December 13th, 2015
My brothers and sisters,
This past week, the Church opened the Holy Year of Mercy with Pope Francis’ invitation to encounter Jesus who is mercy. He is real mercy. The mercy which comes from Him is a gift beyond measure. When we sin or do something wrong, Jesus asks us to be sorrowful. Then, He invites us to get up and walk forward. To walk forward is the gift of penance. Penance is not punishment. It is taking that step in the right direction, which is not always easy.
It is hard to comprehend mercy. For many of us, we hang onto our sins in an unhealthy way, even when they are absolved and our life amended. We hang on to the guilt of what we have done, which is spiritually destructive. It robs us of inner peace, and that is not God’s will for us. God wants us to turn away from sin and rejoice in His mercy. Even if we have committed every sin it is possible to commit, we should still have complete confidence in God’s forgiveness.
As we live our lives each day, to receive mercy we must practice mercy. We can do this by remembering that very few of us are deliberately malicious and wicked. So we are to bear with one another. Yes we point out areas of sin as areas for change and growth in holiness, but we have to remember that we are to hate the sin, never the sinner. This Monday, December 14th, and next Monday, December 21 st , the Catholic Community of Pleasanton will celebrate the gift of mercy with celebrations of reconciliation at St. Augustine Church. A large number of priests will join us for these liturgies to provide opportunities for individual confessions. If you have not been to confession in a long time, consider Pope Francis’ invitation to encounter Jesus in this sacrament. His mercy is offered to us. Let us embrace Jesus during this Advent Season.
December 6th, 2015
My brothers and sisters,
Last Sunday, we blessed our Advent Wreaths at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton. The lighting of the candles which correspond with the four Sundays of Advent should cause us to pause. There is something significant about lighting candles. I have always found that candle light is not so much about mood or ambiance. For all of us who believe and are people of faith, candles are a sign of hope. The Advent Wreath is a sign of hope. So what do I mean by hope? Let me begin by sharing what hope is not…
First of all, hope is not wishful thinking. I can wish for the Oakland Raiders to win. But that wish, all by itself, contains no real power to make it happen. That’s for sure!!! And hope is not natural optimism, an upbeat “glass is half full” temperament. Even if
we always see the bright side of things, that’s not hope. An unwavering optimism about things can sometimes even be helpful, but it's no basis for hope. Finally, hope is not shrewd observation and common sense. It’s nice to have the talent for sorting out the real from the fluff. Useful as this is, it's still not hope. Ultimately, hope doesn't base itself upon a shrewd assessment of empirical or verifiable facts. Hope is belief in a deeper set of realities: God's existence, God's power, God's goodness, God’s love and God’s mercy and the promise that flows from that.
We light Advent candles with just that in mind…we continue to light candles and hope, because the deepest reality of all is that God exists…We light candles of hope because God, who is more real than anything else, has promised to establish a kingdom of love and peace on this earth and is gracious, forgiving, and powerful enough to do it. We are responsible for embodying signs of that hope. The Giving Tree is a concrete sign of hope, supporting families of men and women detained at Santa Rita is a concrete sign of hope. Taking a moment to listen to someone in need is a concrete sign of hope. And in this Year of Mercy that Pope Francis has designated, the ability to show mercy and charity are concrete signs of hope, because the ability to forgive comes from God. We do not do it on our own.
This Tuesday opens the Holy Year of Mercy on the Solemnity of the Immaculate
Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Please see inside the bulletin for a schedule of Masses. The Church has designated this solemnity a holy day of obligation as She is the patroness of the United States of America. I look forward to seeing you on Tuesday. And in this year of Mercy, in this season of Advent, may our wreaths in Church and at home ground us as a people of hope.
November 29, 2015
Happy New Year!!! This weekend we begin a new liturgical year with the First Sunday of Advent. This magical season which prepares us for the celebration of Christmas provides us with a great opportunity to pause and evaluate our lives. I made mention of this in my column last weekend. New beginnings always afford us new chances. I, for one, am fond of new chances. They are a gift to all of us.
The English word Advent comes from the Latin Adventus Domini, meaning the Coming of the Lord. Most of us understand this to mean Jesus’ presence with us at Christmas as we commemorate and celebrate His birth. The full meaning of Adventus Domini, however embraces Jesus’ birth 2000 years ago; His presence with us today as well as His return at the end of time. So, the Season of Advent becomes a time of preparation not only for the celebration of Jesus’ birth 2000 years ago. It also is a time when we become more aware of Jesus’ presence in our lives today. And it is a time during which we prepare for his return.
From the Prophet Jeremiah this weekend, we heard: I will raise up for David a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land. Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure; this is what they shall call her: “The LORD our justice”. How fitting in this day when we feel the pinch of injustice, the insecurity of the land, and the lack of safety that we know where to turn. Jeremiah invites us to watch and wait for the ONE who will come from the generations of the House of David. He is the ONE who brings salvation and upon His life we make real that salvation.
So, in the midst of real and painful threats to freedom in Paris or in Kenya, tangible tensions in the Middle East and poverty and hardship in the Tri-Valley, I need to follow the ONE example. This Advent, I need to ask: “What I am doing to make crooked ways straight?”
Advent is that season when we are invited to dream of that perfect world without violence, death, disease or disasters; a world where all God’s children and all of creation exist together in harmony. Advent is also the season during which we commit ourselves to making this harmonious world a bit more possible. Let’s commit ourselves to the season of preparation in prayer, word and action.
My brothers and sisters… now is the Advent of the Lord.
November 22, 2015
My brothers and sisters,
We come to the close of another liturgical year. This weekend, we celebrate Christ the King of the Universe. This affords us the opportunity to comprehend the breadth and depth of Jesus’ reach. It’s a reach that joins “heaven and earth” together. That goes beyond any and all understanding. Christ stretches Himself to embrace us and invites us to draw ever closer to Him. He is the one who brings us into right relationship with each other and with God.
A gentleman came to see me. He knocked on the door. Exhausted, he was weighed down by harsh life experiences. He could not fathom that Christ’s arms would be opened wide for him. That tender conversation we had was an encounter with the living Jesus. Brought to tears, he said to me, “Jesus wants me to clean my house.” Isn’t that the truth with all of us? I don’t know about you, but I need to get my vacuum out and get busy.
With the end of a liturgical year and the beginning of a new one, let’s set our gaze on a right New Year’s resolution. From the youngest to the oldest, from the devout to the distant believer, let us commit to putting our houses in better order. And if we do not think that our houses need a bit of cleaning, then we have missed the whole point of the faith journey. The journey is the very reason why we are church. Not just on Sunday, but every day, we are Church. Why? Because our relationship with Jesus Christ is not something we just put on and take off! The encounter with Him is always before us.
In the middle of the last century, the Church spoke in a unique and forceful way at a gathering of the entire world’s bishops. That gathering is called an Ecumenical Council. We’ve dubbed it Vatican II. Even today, it has a definitive, unique and humbly powerful teaching authority. The Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Church says, “The Church, in Christ, is a sacrament – a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race”.
Our focus is on Jesus who came to restore and live this unity. That’s what the troubled man who came to see me sought. He was willing to experience restoration and live with Jesus who stretched Himself out for him. Jesus does the same for us. And how fitting as we enter the Year of Mercy and as Bishop Barber opens the Great
Door of Mercy at the Cathedral of Christ the Light. This is what we must be about. Mercy towards others and towards ourselves to experience the Mercy of God.
As the Church’s New Year begins on November 29 with the first week of Advent, I think about all the gifts and talents in the Catholic Community of Pleasanton. We are so blessed. We need to put all of the gifts bestowed upon us to right use. Let that be our focus in the coming year. Let us renew ourselves on the journey once taken by the prophets and with Mary, who was ever faithful to announcing her Son. May each of us desire to “clean house” and bring our gifts, and limitations to the one whose arms of Mercy are opened wide. Let’s enter the door of life.
November 15th, 2015
My brothers and sisters,
As a parish, the Catholic Community of Pleasanton is a great “laboratory” for ministerial development. I have said this with some frequency. And I believe we will continue to say it as the years go by. As I recall my first days as a priest in Pleasanton in 1994, I had no idea into what I was walking. And so it is that this community has left its mark upon me and I have the joy of sharing ministry with you. And so the tradition continues...
...As we welcome Fr. Rafal Duda. Ordained a priest for four years, Rafal has been missioned to us by the Bishop of Oakland, Michael Barber, SJ. He will serve as a parochial vicar (associate pastor). Over the next few months, he will be getting a feeling of parish life in Pleasanton. As I remember when I first arrived, it takes time to settle in. Let’s welcome him, call him to be a part of our parish home and invite him to share his gifts with us and to learn from the great abundance that is our parish. Here’s Rafal….
It is so nice to be here at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton. Let me tell you a little about myself so you can get to know me. You will notice as soon as you hear me speak that I am not “from around here”. In fact, I was born in Mielec, Poland, about 82 miles from Cracow. I come from a large family. I am the oldest (36 years old) of five children, with two brothers and three sisters.
I am very interested in philosophy, theology and especially, liturgy. Besides speaking
Polish and English, I am also fluent in French. I love sports—swimming, tennis and soccer. In fact, two of my brothers are professional soccer players.
I’m sure you are wondering how I ended up in the United States. I began my seminary education in Poland, however, when I learned that the U.S. was experiencing a shortage of priestly vocations, I felt called to finish my education and serve here. Initially I was assigned to Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lake, Michigan, but became interested in the Oakland Diocese when I learned about its diversity and size — and the weather does not hurt either. So I transferred to St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park in order to be close to the Diocese and get to know it better.
Since my ordination, I have served at St. Patrick Parish in Rodeo-Hercules, St. John the Baptist in El Cerrito and St. Margaret Mary in Oakland and now I am joining you at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton. I am very happy to be here and look forward to meeting you all.
November 8th, 2015
My brothers and sisters,
We have launched our new campaign. Let’s raise these words to God:
You create and call your Church
ARISE AND BUILD
Help us build an environment that inspires and welcomes, where we can celebrate, learn, and live the wonders of our faith in the TriValley.
We must “put our good hands to the work.”
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
We will be praying these words in the coming weeks and months. Redundant… perhaps. But isn’t it always important to ask God to govern us and help us by His wisdom? Last weekend, we celebrated All Saints and All Souls and I was very mindful of those in our parish who have put their “good hands to the work” since 1901, when St. Augustine was first built. They are the Saints of our community. And I am very mindful of so many of you who are responding so generously and stretching yourselves to make this commitment to “Arise and Build.” Your response continues to be tremendous. I remain in thankful prayer for your support and good stewardship.
I want to thank John Sensiba, Colleen Davis, Bob Robichaud and Kathleen Hart-Hinek for their leadership in the campaign, the members of our campaign cabinet who provide essential counsel and of course, the numerous volunteers who are on board. You all have my deepest gratitude.
Let us ARISE and BUILD!!!
Blessings and thank you one and all,
November 1st, 2015
My brothers and sisters,
What a Festa we had last weekend! Almost 300 people packed the Hall for an Italian delight. Many thanks to the hard-working Knights of Columbus. And Joe Balistreri’s “gravy” is groovey! It was the talk of a number of people at Sunday Masses. Translation: Word is on the street that he can make great red sauce. In the end, great people, food and energy made for a great evening. Bravissimo!!!
In last Sunday’s announcements, mention was made of two seats that are open on the Parish Pastoral Council. We encourage you to nominate someone who you believe has the gifts to advise me on the pastoral life of the parish, lead and participate in the implementation of the pastoral plan and contribute to the future direction of the plan. You are also free to self-nominate. There will be a discernment process similar to last year’s in order for the group to agree upon the new council members. The process is outlined on the website and you can find out more my clicking HERE. Nomination forms can be found in the vestibule or you can fill out a form on the website.
Last weekend’s public announcement of Arise and Build – the new capital campaign starting in 2016 – generated a great number of emails. I am very appreciative of your comments and your commitment to be stewards of the new campaign. Over 200 individuals signed-up to give of their time and talent as volunteers. If you still wish to volunteer, red cards remain in the vestibule, or drop by the offices at St. Augustine or St. Elizabeth Seton.
We have such innumerable gifts that God has given each and every one in our parish. Some of the gifts are visible and some not yet made visible. Let’s bring the gifts into the open. This campaign provides us with a fresh opportunity to do this by looking at our stewardship. How am I “gifting forward” the gifts God has given me? If I am new to the parish, I need to look carefully at how the previous generations put their hands to the good work to build facilities that grow faith development in the Tri-Valley. That needs to continue. We cannot merely enjoy what has been given to us; the legacy of Pleasanton is to be stewards with one eye on our needs now and the other eye on the generations that are to follow. It’s remarkable to realize that planning at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton is no different than the planning that should occur for any family. We are a family of faith!!! Jesus is the source and summit.
Please join us next Sunday, November 8, for our Arise and Build kick-off celebration at 1:15 PM at St. Augustine Hall. As I mentioned at the Masses, if you have questions and wish to meet with me or a member of the campaign cabinet, stop by the celebration. These opportunities to gather during the campaign provide us with occasions to grow our community stronger, our family of faith richer! Together, let’s Arise and Build.
Thank you one and all,
October 25th, 2015
My brothers and sisters,
To continue with my reflections on family life from last week, below is a speech delivered by Brother Hervé Janson at the Synod of Bishops taking place in Rome. A friend who works at the Vatican and is attending the Synod said to me that the humility of his remarks shouted most loudly. Below is a translation that was sent to me.
My brothers of the Union of Superior Generals told me that they voted for me because, by our vocation, in the imitation of Jesus of Nazareth, we live among the people in their neighborhoods, shoulder to shoulder with very simple families who often struggle as best they can to live and bring up their children. We are witnesses of so many families who, for me, are models of holiness; they are the ones who will receive us into the kingdom! And, sometimes, I suffer from what our mother the church imposes on their backs, burdens which we ourselves would not be able to support, as Jesus said to the Pharisees! … There is an Oriental proverb that says: “Before you judge anyone, put on his sandals!” The paradox of this affair: we are all celibates, for the most part. But can we at least listen to people, listen to their sufferings, their propositions, their thirst for recognition and proximity?
I am thinking of these African Christian women I knew when I lived in Cameroon, spouses of a polygamous Muslim husband. They felt excluded from the church, unaccompanied, very much alone.
Among others, I think of a Belgium family, good friends of mine; one of their daughters has admitted that she has lesbian tendencies, is living with another young woman, and has decided to have a child through artificial insemination. The problem is how the parents should react, precisely as Christian parents. They have showered her with treasures of sensitivity, tenderness, and proximity!
Is the church not also a family and should it not have the same attitudes toward these men, these women, so often helpless, in doubt and in darkness, feeling themselves excluded. What kind of proximity? What kind of accompaniment? What sort of attitude would Jesus have and what would he do in our place, as Father Charles de Foucauld always asked himself? He was filled with compassion when he saw the abandoned crowds.
He restored hope to the Samaritan woman by speaking to her, this foreign heretic in the eyes of the Jews, she who had had five husbands! “If you knew the gift of God!” There are so many men and women—to say nothing of the children who are always the first victims—who have need of tenderness and love, need that someone open their door to them: yes, whether they be divorced and remarried, homosexuals, spouses in polygamist households, they are all brothers and sisters of Jesus, and hence our family! We who are all sinners are invited to love one another and to let ourselves be comforted and healed by Jesus who came not for the healthy but for the sick. The Eucharist is the food of those who are in the process of forming the Body of Christ.
The mercy of God is for everyone. Jesus did not come to judge but to save what was lost. He gave his apostles and their successors a heavy responsibility with regard to his mercy: that of binding it or loosening it. Let us be firmly attached to Jesus and let us loosen through the Spirit which makes us free and links us together to Life.
Our “common home”, as Pope Francis likes to call it, is dear to us and it is together that we have to repair it and maintain it, for we are all responsible for the beauty of each of its rooms; to cultivate, like flowers, kindness and mercy, so that each one of us might rejoice in the liberty of the sons of a same Father who loves us, and witness to the joy of the Gospel.
When the Pharisees reproach the disciples for tearing off grains of wheat to eat on a Sabbath, Jesus looks first of all at the human person who is hungry before any possible disobedience to the Law (Matthew 12:1–8). At this synod, we have to look with compassion at the person who hungers for mercy, proximity, and recognition -- the person who hungers for Jesus who lifts us up, nourishes us, and restores us to life. Will we be the disciples of him “who does not crush the bruised reed, who does not quench the smoldering wick”? (Matthew 12:20). If the church is the family of families, to what revolution of proximity, tenderness, and mercy is She not invited—and expected?
Have a great week…
October 18th, 2015
My brothers and sisters,
As I am sure that most of you are aware that the reason why the Holy Father made a pilgrimage to the United States was to participate in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. Surrounding that meeting are the other events that captivated our interests. Yet, it’s the Philadelphia meeting that brought him to our shores in the first place. That meeting served as a preface to a month long meeting taking place right now in Rome.
From 4-25 October 2015 there is a gathering of bishops, priests, deacons and lay persons with Pope Francis to advise him on the lights and shadows that face family life in today’s world. Titled On the Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World, family life is viewed through our Judeo Christian background, namely the inspired Word of God, the history of Church teaching on family and contemporary contexts. These realities, while not of equal value, must be woven together so to explore how family life is doing today. Here’s the challenge -- although I feel that I have a decent pulse on the issues and complexities facing family life, it by no means should be understood that I know the
next steps for family life. The challenge for us is to try to understand family life in other cultures outside of our own. What are the lights and shadows facing their cultures? What a great opportunity, to learn from each other rather than acting independently of each other.
This serves as a great reminder of the beauty of the universal Church and its challenge. The beauty is that we are one tremendously diverse Church that cannot be reduced into a single culture and yet we gather as one culture of faith. And the challenge, ironically is the same. On this point, I ask myself the following question… Am I really open to the diversity that exists outside of my culture? So how do I learn about family mores and family values from, say, a Kenyan family? What can that Kenyan family learn from an “American” family? What, then, are the tensions I might need to understand from families living in Kenya? How might we explain our tensions to them? How does the Kenyan family embody faith in Jesus Christ? How do we each embody faith in Jesus Christ? First and foremost, the question is openness. Are we open to learning from one another? That is what makes us Catholic and that makes “family” by nature catholic.
As this meeting is taking place in Rome, let’s pray for the participants. The members at this meeting will make recommendations to Pope Francis. It is more than likely that he will write a letter to the whole Church on the family incorporating elements from the month long discussion. And, let’s pray for families. Let’s pray for the great breadth and depth of families who reveal faith in the living Jesus Christ. Let’s ask the Holy Family – Jesus, Mary and Joseph – to watch over us and protect the beauty of family.
October 11, 2015
My brothers and sisters,
The heating ventilation and air conditioning work at St. Elizabeth Seton is complete. I know that this project took longer than anticipated. As we all know, if one subcontractor is running late, then the entire schedule had to adjust accordingly. I’m very appreciative of your patience. A big thank you to Rick Hankins. He does tremendous work for the Catholic Community of Pleasanton and I’m grateful for his project management. That’s the work at St. Elizabeth Seton.
Now, we move on to the St. Augustine campus. Beginning on Monday, we will be doing a mammoth overhaul on the parking lot. We will repair all the cracks, raise the drain intakes and the dips in the parking lot. The entire lot will receive a slurry seal coat and there will be new stripping. We are going to change some of the routes in the lot. There will be a dedicated lane for those members of our parish family who are utilizing wheel chairs and require aid to and from the Church. That same lane will also be available for funerals and weddings. We will also add more spaces for those with special needs to meet expectations of the Adults Disability Act (ADA). This work should not affect the weekend Masses, but during the week there will be some inconveniences. However after this week, we will have a refurbished parking lot. The parking lot has been in need of an overhaul for some time. I appreciate your patience.
Shifting gears, I was very appreciative of the comments received from many on the homily last weekend as well as the website posting I do each weak. Jesus’ hard sayings are just that. You cannot pretend to soften what he says. That being said, it is so important that we are honest with our relationships. And as we celebrate and struggle in relationships, we can do that with the Church. Don’t leave because you feel judged. As I mentioned on the website and at the Masses I celebrated last weekend, please come and speak with us -- in the parish’s leadership, we have a team of qualified men and women who are far from foreign with the struggles in relationships. And if you know someone who has walked away, invite them to enter the doors of mercy at our parish. Together, we make our parish a home.
Have a great week…
October 4, 2015
My brothers and sisters,
We have had quite a busy September at CCOP. The launch of a new logo, new website, new initiatives, and new ministry opportunities. The newness is really a reflection of fresh approaches to ministry in the Tri-Valley. I was sent a note from a longtime parishioner thanking the parish leadership for striving to look at things fresh and new. When that comes from a member of the parish who has been around for almost 35 years, that says a lot. He went on to quote the prophet Isaiah: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Whenever we sit contently, we risk growing stale. Let’s keep it fresh my brothers and sisters. The Gospel must continually find new methods and new expressions in our ministry at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton.
And we have continued great traditions in the parish as well. Faith Formation has begun with great gusto. Ministry signups have proven very successful over a month long opportunity. Remember – ministry is not an option; it’s an imperative because of Baptism – we share Jesus’ public ministry. If you have not signed-up, please contact the parish.
Another great tradition… last weekend’s parish picnic! What a fun-filled afternoon. Along with a great turn out, the weather was beautiful. And then there was the food!!! Indian, Filipino, Mexican and Italian delights were shared. Tremendous gratitude to them all. As has been the case in previous years, the Ethnic groups donate their proceeds to one of four causes or charities: St. John Paul II Activity Center, Open Heart Kitchen, Shepherd’s Gate and Tri Valley Haven. Our relationship with the latter three organizations has remained strong over the years and it keeps growing. We are glad to provide support.
In addition to the ethnic foods, the Knights of Columbus grilled to their heart’s content and ours (solving the world’s problems as guys can do while pulled pork and burgers and dogs were being served). I was not sure if the snow cone machine was overheating. Music and games were enjoyed by all. Information on parish ministries was shared. Pictures of families were taken. All this against a backdrop of children’s voices and laughter! The day was fantastic…
I’ve already mentioned my thanks to Roxanne Rasmussen for her organization of the day. To mention her again is well deserved. Noted too in this corner, is big thanks to the organizers of the ethnic food booths. Now, a big round of thanks to Rachelle Harmon, Maureen and Connor Murphy, who helped with the organization and leading the day's events; Kelly Shamblen and Alda Vargas, who joined their teens to help the whole day entertaining the kids with games. Alina Mateo and her daughter who shared their talents with the young picnic go-ers at the Craft Corner. There’s Barbara Bosse and her teens for running the ever-popular Cake Walk. Chuck Deckert captured the day with photos; Tracy Seeger took photos of many families. Ira Stein, the Teen Choir and Geneva Colcol entertained us with music. Thanks too, goes to David Grubbs who set-up the sound system, the wonderful Confirmation teens who earned service hours by helping to set-up, lead games and tear-down afterward. Kudos to the many committed Ministry Leaders. To the beloved Knights of Columbus who helped with set-up, tear-down as well as serving great food, a never ending thank you.
It was a great September; October will be filled with great activity, too. Glorifying God in our actions is alive in Pleasanton - the mark of a parish in the service of God’s people.
See you in church,
September 27, 2015
Brothers and sisters,
As you read this, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, is leaving the United States. However, I am writing to you on Monday, September 21st. I’m anticipating his arrival. There are members of our parish who are on the east coast to experience the events which I would define as sacred opportunities. The first time I saw a pope was in 1987 when
St. John Paul II came to Candlestick Park (And that stadium no longer exists!). I was a seminarian. Down on the field, I remember well that day. The Archbishop of San Francisco at the time, John R Quinn, said words to the Holy Father that I will never forget: Archbishop Quinn welcomed the Holy Father to San Francisco and quoted St. Ambrose who was Bishop of Milan. And an interesting aside, Ambrose played a major role in the conversion of our beloved St. Augustine.
Here is what Archbishop Quinn said to St. John Paul II, quoting Ambrose: “Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia”, (Where Peter is, there is the Church!).
80,000 disciples of Jesus erupted in applause. We need to keep that in mind as the Holy Father has brought the ministry of Peter to the United States. Following in the footsteps of his recent predecessors, Francis is bringing the living Gospel to our shores inviting us to encounter the living Jesus Christ. And he brings Peter. All of Peter’s gifts and all of Peter’s weaknesses.
So I write before Pope Francis has addressed congress, spoken at open air masses and met with those who hold high office and those on the periphery. I have always respected those who held this pastoral ministry. It’s beyond comprehension. And in my lifetime, I’m looking at Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis. Each of them have affirmed who I am and my ministry. They have and are affirming, you. At the same time, the Holy Father is not a rock star. He’s a shepherd who smells like us. And he may have said things that are not easy to swallow or digest. He challenges me! And I make the choice not to dismiss what the 266th Bishop of Rome says. Because he is proclaiming Christ, I expect him to upset me. Be willing to open yourselves to the hard sayings of Jesus.
Finally… I want to say a tremendous thank you to all who participated in last weekend’s support of those impacted and displaced from the Middletown fires. We were fortunate to have a host of women and men who offered support. That’s done because those families are our brothers and sisters. Thank you for the tremendous outreach. Shovels, rakes, brooms, gloves, masks, buckets and boots were on trucks heading north on Sunday afternoon. Just awesome…
My sisters and brothers, Francis was here and we saw Church… Ubi Petrus, ibi
Ecclesia. We responded to Middletown’s need and we saw Church. Catholic Community of Pleasanton… We ARE Church!!!
September 20th, 2015
My brothers and sisters,
These past weeks have been fueled with a great deal of activity and more is on the horizon. These are signs of the vibrancy of the parish, which comes from the Lord. It’s not us; it’s Him. First some words of gratitude.
Last weekend’s reception for Fr. Lee and Gepaul is the testimony to the collaboration of a number of men and women who are members of different ministries in the parish. Members of the Mass Reception Ministry, led by Kathy Sitzmann, teamed up with the Knights of Columbus, led by Paul Unpingco, and the RCIA team, led by Matt Gray, to create a wonderful environment filled with food and opportunities to deepen our community. There are always others behind the scenes and I am grateful for their “unnoticed” work. Because of all these members of CCOP, we were able to bless forward Fr. Lee and Gepaul. Thank you!!!
We’ve received a number of comments regarding the launch of the new logo and website. Thank you for the feedback. While there was a great deal of work that went into its production, we are fully aware that it is a work in progress. There is more to be done… I would ask for patience. While we will continue to build it gradually, we do not want to just randomly add new things. It is best to be deliberate so that you know what is coming. The two minute homilies that are uploaded each week have been the source of some great conversations that I have had with a number of you. That you are asking questions about the content is GREAT!!! It’s when there is deafening silence that I get concerned. A friend once asked if it is difficult to hear all the voices in a parish our size. My response: Of course it’s difficult, but I’d be more concerned if there was no buzz in a parish our size, which would make my ministry easy!!!
Just a reminder… MINISTRY SIGN-UP is the entire month of September. You can find those ministry sign-up sheets in the entrances to both churches and you can also find them on the website – catholicsofpleasanton.org. As I mentioned in my remarks at all the masses last weekend, it is not IF I want to engage in ministry in the parish, it’s to which ministry am I called to serve. All of us need to engage in ministry in the parish and not just be consumers of the sacraments alone. Jesus knew who He was and acted upon it. At the Catholic Community of Pleasanton, we must do the same!!!
Finally, on Sunday September 27th we have our annual parish picnic. In anticipation, we owe a debt of gratitude to Rox Rasmussen and her team for the “Heavy Lifting.” In connection with MINISTRY SIGN-UP, I invite us to consider who might have those gifts to bring to the leadership of parish special events. Consider giving Rox some assistance and consider membership of the future special events ministry. And as you consider, please come and celebrate our parish’s life and as we gather on the browning grass, we are taking this opportunity to consider how we are environmentally responsible. In some-ways, we have gone brown to go green. See you at the picnic next Sunday from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. on the grass around the grotto. It’s good to have the Virgin Mary watching over us.
Have a great week ahead….
September 13th, 2015
My brothers and sisters,
It has been a great week… We launched everything this past Tuesday. All that we have been working on this summer came to fruition. Start with the new logo. It was born of theological reflection and as you look at the bulletin, it speaks our faith on the universal and particular level. The new website, including the new mini reflection on the scripture (The Bible), moves our parish forward. I am working on twitter. Be patient on this front! We are so fortunate to have a great deal of talented women and men in the parish. So many contribute to make St. Augustine and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton a viable presence in the Tri Valley. Let’s be thankful in prayer.
This month is Ministry Sign-Up. And we know that there are so many in the Tri-Valley who exercise their gifts and make our parish thrive. To all of you who engage in the ministry of Jesus in Pleasanton, thank you. What I also know is this… so many of us come to Mass on Sunday and see who is greeting, who is reading, who is serving. Maybe we should consider sharing in this responsibility. Many people help make the Catholic Community of Pleasanton thrive and we want the new generation of Pleasanton to continue this legacy. So you have heard from me this weekend to serve. Please consider a gift of your time and your talent to make our parish thrive. We are not asking no more of you than serving at the masses that you are currently attending. We have so much to give back from the gifts that God has given us… God looks for a return on what He gives us. Thanks for all you give!!! Look for the sign-up forms in the entrance to each church.
September 6th, 2015
As we celebrate Labor Day weekend, let’s take the time to “rest” from our labors. In the United States, we honor the history of Labor movements, but from the lens of Catholic social thought, we take this opportunity to reflect upon the right to work and the responsibility of the worker. In 1981, Pope John Paul II wrote his letter, Laborem exercens (On Human Work). He states that:
Work is, as has been said, an obligation, that is to say, a duty, on the part of man. Man must work, both because the Creator has commanded it and because of his own humanity, which requires work in order to be maintained and developed. Man must work out of regard for others, especially his own family, but also for the society he belongs to, the country of which he is a child, and the whole human family of which he is a member.
A rest from our labors makes true sense when the obligation to work is met. And as we are fully aware, there are many in the community who seek employment and wish to exercise the right to work and receive just compensation for that work. On this Labor Day weekend, we rest responsibly because we strive to work in the same manner. And we pray for those who seek work and a just compensation.
Next week, we begin the overarching liturgical umbrella that will take us up to December. As I mentioned, the priests and deacons of the parish considered topics and brought these to the liturgy committee. They were in agreement of the choice: living a Christian life means that because Christ initiates all things, once received, we must imitate our brother Jesus who is our Lord and savior. We are fed by Jesus to go out and feed; loved by Him to go out and love; served by Him to serve. The homilies over the next three months till the end of November will directly and indirectly touch on this:
“Fed to feed, loved to love, served to serve.”
In your own faith sharing groups and in your conversations ask yourself if you are fed, loved and served? By whom? Who are you feeding, loving and serving? I think you get the idea… Listen for this in the homilies.
On Tuesday, the new website is launched. The domain is still catholicsofpleasanton.org. Take some time to navigate the space and after next weekend, my first three minute homily video from that weekend will be uploaded. And I’ll be tweeting too!!!
Finally, for those of you who want a fun outing on Labor Day, don’t forget the two hour Cathedral tour in Oakland. Joining me are members of the design architecture team and the principal organist. Experience the Cathedral of Christ the Light come alive!!!
Address: 2121 Harrison St. in Oakland on Lake Merritt. The tour begins at 11:00 AM on the plaza. See you there!!! Bring food to eat on the Lake following the tour. This would make a perfect “rest” from our labor and give thanks to God for the ability to labor!!!
Happy Labor Day
The Catholic Community of Pleasanton
St. Augustine Church
3999 Bernal Avenue
Pleasanton, CA 94566
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church
4001 Stoneridge Drive
Pleasanton, CA 94588
Faith Formation Office
3999 Bernal Avenue
Pleasanton, CA 94566
"To know Christ better,
live as He calls us to live,
and make Him better known."
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