Last Wednesday, the pastors of Walnut Creek, Concord and Pleasant Hill had a meaningful conversation with the city officials of Walnut Creek, which included the Mayor, City Manager and the Police Captain. Nearly two dozen Pastors from our area held a dialogue, which at times became tense and uncomfortable for many. The meeting ended on a visceral statement from the City Manager rather abruptly, meaning the conversation needed to continue. And it is continuing via email. I was the only Catholic Pastor, which bothers me in terms of our Churches’ engagement on the difficult issues facing our society. There appears to be fear or unwillingness to engage with these difficult issues. Having that tough conversation can lead to the kind of real healing in our communities that is necessary for establishing a strong foundation and taking actions that result in more equitable outcomes.
Recent statements and media scrutiny about our own diocese call for healing here at home including our Bishop Barber, priests of the diocese and our communities of faith especially our African American brothers and sisters.
It’s critically important to have the moral courage to say sorry. I’m sorry for the shared history. I’m sorry for the role my Church has played in the harm that has been caused to our communities of color. I’m sorry for the days when I didn’t have a good day, but I’m going to hold myself accountable for my own actions that have contributed to racism and inequality. As your pastor, I am sorry for the times I have not been the best version of myself, for my silence, and unconstructive demeanor.
I have looked upon Vatican II as a watershed moment in the life of the Catholic similar to what we as a nation are going through right now, opening the doors far and wide to inclusion and outreach. These are two characteristic traits of the historical Jesus as well as the unique experience of the Holy Spirit in the early church, where everyone who listened to the apostles heard the Word of God in their own native language. This unique experience of the Holy Spirit was celebrated as a new Pentecost at Vatican II. In Gaudium et Spes # 60 (Church in the Modern World), the fathers wrote:
It is now possible to remove from most of the human race the curse of ignorance. A duty most appropriate in our times, especially for Christians, is to work untiringly to the end that fundamental economic and political decisions are taken, nationally and internationally, which will ensure the recognition and implementation everywhere of everyone’s right to human and civil culture in harmony with personal dignity, without distinction of race, sex, nation, religion, or social circumstances.
Is it possible to be black and Catholic in the United States? In the words of Rev. Bryan N. Massingale, a priest and scholar of black Catholicism, it’s still an open question. He believes that as long as the Church continues to operate as “a white institution,” full integration of black culture will remain elusive. In remarks to the
Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, in 2016, Massingale said the effort “to bring black cultural expression into the Church is met with anxiety and fear and rejection and hostility that doesn’t surround Irish or German or Polish” Catholicism in the United States. As Gaudium et Spes #29 further states,
“Any kind of social or cultural discrimination in basic personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language or religion, must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design.”
Our First communions are being celebrated on Saturday mornings outdoors with families exhibiting so much patience and understanding, while accompanying their children on their journey of faith. We have 84 candidates for confirmation, and I am aware that some of you will probably move on to college, making it harder for a communal celebration later. Deacon John Ashmore will be working with you to see how we can celebrate confirmation during this summer, once our first communions are complete.
If you feel the need for reconciliation, please email me and I shall schedule a time for confession. Missing mass during this pandemic is not a sin as our Bishop has extended his dispensation from attending mass.
I would like to promote our
Thursday evening 6.00pm mass to our Mother of Perpetual Help. I am happy to see more and more people attending the mass. Our Pope added three new invocations to the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary “Mater misericordiae”, the Latin for “Mother of mercy”; "Mater spei", or
“Mother of hope”; and “Solacium migrantium", or
“Solace of migrants” are the new invocations to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Litany of Loreto, which is often recited at the end of the Rosary. Thank you for your continued support to our church, which helps us to minister in creative ways. Online giving or giving by text has been the main source of our income.
May God bless us, keep us safe and lead us to love one another.