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Faith and generosity will overcome our challenges

August 11, 2014

Via Bishop's Column, The Catholic Voice

When I was a kid, once a year our pastor would get up in the pulpit and "talk about money." He'd give a financial report to the parish, and usually end his homily by asking us to be generous.

As we left Mass that morning, I'd hear parishioners grumble, "All they ever talk about is money." Yet it was only once a year. Our parish had a beautiful brand new church (it even "smelled new"), and the pastor was trying to pay it off. Be that as it may, after hearing the grumbling I resolved that if ever I became a priest I would never ask people for money.

I've kept that promise for 41 years as a Jesuit and 29 years as a priest. Which means that for that long someone else asked for money on my behalf.

Funds to pay for my seminary education, funds to construct the schools where I taught, and the churches in which I have offered Mass. But now that Good Pope Francis has asked me to come to Oakland, I need to ask for your help. We have serious financial challenges in our diocese.

But we also have lots of people with generous hearts and strong faith. I am convinced our faith and generosity are stronger than our challenges. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" says St. Paul in Philippians.

I visited St. Agnes School on March 19, Feast of St. Joseph. I told the kids about the Carmelite nuns at Cristo Rey monastery in San Francisco who needed a new roof. The nuns thought, "Who knows how to fix roofs?" St. Joseph! So they made a novena to St. Joseph, asking for his help. On the ninth and last day of the novena, a man rang their doorbell and gave them a check for the exact amount they needed to fix the roof.

I asked the St. Agnes pupils if they would join me in making a novena to St. Joseph for the success of our Capital Campaign. They all put their hands up and said, "Yes!" So we started the novena and prayed to St. Joseph right then and there.

A week later I was back in my office and the teacher rang up. The students were all asking her "Did he get it?" "Did he get it?"

"Get what?" I said. "The $100 million he needs for the diocese?" That is faith. Jesus said that unless we have faith like a little child we shall not enter the Kingdom of God.

It may take us longer than nine days, but I believe we have enough faith — and generosity — in our diocese to make our $65 million campaign goal.

We have so much generosity in our diocese. Generosity is sacrifice given out of love. The Lord is THE most generous. He has given us our lives, families, health, education, jobs and careers, friends, a beautiful country to live in. He has given us EVERYTHING.

Can't we give Him something back in return? If all of us, disciples of Jesus Christ, make a sacrifice out of love, we will not only meet, but exceed our goals. We all make up the Body of Christ, the Church, in our diocese. Every person is important. Every gift is important. No gift is too small. Remember the widow's mite.

As your bishop, I promise to use your sacrificial gifts for the building up of the Church: for the merciful work of Catholic Charities; tuition assistance for Catholic School children; for our retired priests' subsistence; for parish support; for the spiritual mercies poured out through our new cathedral.

Christ led by example. We priests who follow Him must lead by example as well. My salary as bishop is $33,000 a year before taxes and Social Security.

I am going to tithe (as it says in the Bible) and give 10 percent of my earnings to the Church. Bishops Vigneron and Cordileone will be coming to the diocese in November and will join me in presenting their gifts to the Campaign as well.

We have over 500,000 Catholics in our diocese. If we all, young and old, rich and poor, participate in this sacrificial campaign, we will make our goal.

The magnificent St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York was built with the pennies of Irish and Italian laborers and maids. Everyone helped. For the greater glory of God. For the handing on of the Faith to their children and grandchildren.

Thank you for your generous hearts. May God repay you a hundredfold.