Based on a total reliance on Christ, and listening to parishioners, priests and the larger Oakland/Alameda/Contra Costa community for the past three years, I would like to offer my vision and goals for our Diocese of Oakland.
1. We need to pay way more attention to “The Sunday Experience.” Sunday Mass, and everything associated with it: an intelligent and inspirational homily, sacred music that communicates the presence of God, friendly and warm hospitality. Some of our parishes do a good job of “building community” — but so does a Raiders game.
We do the “horizontal church” well, and that is important — but what about the “vertical” dimension of worship? Celebration of the Sunday liturgy should be a personal and communal encounter with Jesus Christ.
Pope Francis said that every Mass should be like the experience Peter, James and John had at the Transfiguration. They were so overwhelmed at the beauty, mystery and transcendence of Jesus, they exclaimed, “It is good for us to be here!”
How many of our parishioners can say that on Sunday? Many young people say “I’m spiritual, but not religious.” Is their spiritual thirst being satiated through our Sunday worship experience?
2. We need to continue to emphasize the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. The “Year of Mercy” has been a big success in our diocese, from people coming back to Confession to be reconciled with God after many years, to students and young people who have discovered the joy of helping the poor and destitute.
The Catholic Church is always having a “Year of Mercy.” It is what we are and what we do. If you feel dry in your faith, or feel God is hiding Himself from you, go down to Catholic Charities or St. Vincent de Paul and help at the soup kitchen. Or come on Sunday mornings to People’s Park in Berkeley and help serve breakfast to the homeless with the Catholic Worker volunteers.
3. We need to form our people as Missionary Disciples. It is not enough just to practice our faith on our own. The Catholic parish is not just the place where we receive our own spiritual nourishment.
If we only attend for our own benefit, then after a few years, we may be the only one left in the pews. Look at the number of parishes that have closed across the United States in the past 20 years!
We need to spread our faith. We do that by sharing it — by communicating the joy and consolation we have received from Jesus with others. Our parishes have to move “from maintenance to mission.”