By Joanna Thurmann
“I was told not to smile too much,” joked Bishop Patrick J. McGrath at the beginning of the Mass of Welcome for Diocese of San Jose Coadjutor Bishop Oscar Cantú on September 28, in the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Joseph. His humor set the tone for a joyful celebration that brought him one step closer to retirement when Cantú eventually assumes duties as the third bishop of the Diocese of San Jose. Bishop McGrath recognized the foundations laid by his predecessor, Bishop Pierre DuMaine, who welcomed him similarly into the diocese twenty years ago this month.
The Apostolic Nuncio (Pope Francis’ representative), Archbishop Christophe Pierre, continued the lighthearted humor prior to reading the Apostolic letter of appointment signed by Pope Francis. “Go west,” he quipped. In the letter, Pope Francis acknowledged the many pastoral achievements of Cantú in his previous Diocese of Las Cruces and the skills and qualities that make him perfect for this new mission as guardian of our diocese. “May we understand justice as we think about the pastoral needs of the people of San Jose,” he urged Cantú and his brother priests. Cantú then showed to all the papal bull, written in Latin and appended with a papal seal.
In his response during the homily, Cantú referenced the first reading, Ezekiel 34:11-16. “The Lord says, ‘I look after my sheep.’ Thank goodness the Lord is in charge,” he said. “This is a good reminder to people like myself with big hats and sometimes larger egos,” he continued in jest.
More somberly, however, Cantú recognized the challenges of our times in the wake of the sex abuse scandal. “We must offer the healing balm to those made sick by the sins of some who represent the Church.” He spoke of an imperfect Church that is both human and divine. “Jesus Christ is lead and shepherd of this Church. He is present to victims of abuse. To them, God extends compassionate grace and love,” he said. Cantú also reminded that our patron Saint Joseph is a father from whom we can learn to protect the little ones in our midst. “Perfect love drives out fear,” he added, in connection to the second reading from 1 John 4:11-18.
Cantú then addressed the people of his former diocese. “May the Lord always be present to you and guide you with new wisdom,” he hoped. He jokingly reminded the Apostolic Nuncio that the Diocese of Las Cruces in New Mexico eagerly await the naming of their new bishop.
Turning his attention to the Diocese of San Jose, he acknowledged its diversity and addressed the Filipino, Vietnamese, and Hispanic communities in their native languages. “Everywhere I travel, I encounter Filipinos,” he chuckled. He expressed gratitude for vocations and strong families of faith among the Vietnamese, and he commended the Hispanic community for the many sacrifices that are sure to bear fruit. He stressed that the Church is enriched by the traditions of its many diverse cultures. He encompassed everyone saying, “I look forward to worshipping and walking together with you as missionary disciples.” The multilingual worship aide that accompanied the celebration, as well as music and liturgy, underscored such appreciation for enculturation throughout the diocese.
Finally, Cantú thanked members of his own family. He expressed gratitude for teaching him the most important things; faith, prayer, hard work, trust, humility, and forgiveness. “While I acknowledge my brother priests and bishops, I address someone with more authority than they, my mom,” he joked as he spoke to her in Spanish and thanked her especially for giving him his first experience of faith, hope, and love.
Following the liturgy, Bishop McGrath thanked all those involved in the preparations of both the Mass of Welcome and the Celebration of Vespers at Mission Santa Clara, which took place the previous evening.
Those in attendance at the Mass of Welcome were Cardinal Roger Michael Mahony and Cardinal William Joseph Levada, Archbishop Salvatore Joseph Cordileone of San Francisco, bishops, priests and deacons from the diocese and beyond, representatives of diverse ecumenical communities including Rabbi Dana Magat, the Chief of Police, political leaders such as Supervisors Cindy Chavez and Dave Cortese, Mayor Sam Liccardo, cathedral, chancery, parish and Catholic school staff, and the laity. Special recognition was extended to members of the Cantú family, including his mother, a nephew who is a priest and another who is a seminarian.
The welcome event was followed by a reception at the San Jose Museum of Art where Bishop Cantú warmly welcomed conversation and photographs. The Mass of Welcome was also projected via livestream for those unable to attend due to distance or limited seating capacity.
The event marked a festive beginning for Bishop Oscar Cantú in a Diocese that warmly anticipated his arrival and hopes for continued work for peace and justice, especially on behalf of Many gathered for a Mass to welcome Bishop Oscar Cantú to the DIocese of San Jose at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Joseph on September 28. Photo by Clarisse Balistrerithose most marginalized.
For more event photos please visit our website at www.dsj.org.
To view the recorded Mass visit, https://youtu.be/7f328VPWUNM.