Home Community 50th Anniversary for Parish that Punches above its Weight

50th Anniversary for Parish that Punches above its Weight

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By Kathy Mattingly
Saint Thomas of Canterbury Parishioner

In 1967, Saint Thomas of Canterbury Parish began its tenure on the border of Campbell and West San Jose with an empty stretch of land, an old farmhouse and a small, donated statue of the patron saint. Often referring to themselves as The Family of Saint Thomas, parishioners pitched into the hands-on tasks of painting and fixing up the rectory (farmhouse), including remodeling the porch to include an indoor/outdoor confessional.

We also took on the tasks of planning religious education, selecting textbooks and organizing teachers to conduct classes in the home. There were outdoor Mass celebrations and fundraising picnics where we spread out blankets on the ground. Mass was celebrated in Nordahl Hall and baptisms at Sacred Heart “for Saint Thomas.”

Always we have loved to feed people, whether ourselves at hospitality after Mass and at all kinds of dinners and dances, or strangers at Inn Vision or the rotating shelter when it was housed at another local parish.

Under the leadership of Father Dave Mercer, our parish has continued to display its heart for the poor in recent years, nearly tripling our contribution to Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl Lenten collection and creating a Homeless Support Action Team that provides Blessing Bags, single-portioned laundry soap and sandwiches to homeless individuals and organizations serving the un-housed poor.

A newly arrived parishioner put it this way, “I have found a special gem in a residential part of Campbell, bordering on West San Jose. It’s Saint Thomas of Canterbury Catholic Church and it’s on McCoy Avenue. It has a small town feel to it, it is quaint and unassuming yet has a great big heart in the many ministries that they are doing for the community. I am glad I found it.”

We are a collaborative parish. The “Longest Night” service sponsored by our bereavement team and also our “Senior Lunch Bunch” program reach beyond our borders. Our parishioners partner with other volunteers to serve people who sleep in their cars at Saint Lucy’s Safe Car Park. Father Dave, our pastor, attracts both parishioners and visitors alike, exploring such topics as “How Pope Francis Is Changing the Church” or “Can a Catholic Be a Democrat/Republican?”

We are so grateful for the encouragement given by wonderful people in the Diocese like Kathy Fanger. “As Catholic Cemeteries Parish Outreach Coordinator, I keep abreast of the weekly diocesan parish bulletins. I am so inspired by the breadth of Social Ministries at Saint Thomas of Canterbury. You are a small yet active, alive community, very connected to one another in worship, fun, and encouragement of youth and young adults and outreach. To think that your parish has one entire page in the bulletin which lists opportunities to reach out to brothers and sisters in the community is amazing!”

We hope that our 50th Anniversary celebration provides encouragement and renewal as we try to live up to our traditions. Over the course of nine days in September, starting with a Parish Appreciation Dinner on September 9, there will be Welcome Home receptions after Sunday Masses, an Inter-Faith Multi-Cultural Prayer Service on Monday, September 11, a Newcomer’s Welcome Dinner, a Family Movie Night, a Meet the Pastor reception and talk, a Friday Night Sock Hop, and a Saturday Night reception and display of arts and crafts loaned by talented parishioners. The week will end with our second Annual Chili Cook-Off and Fun Fest benefit for the Homeless Support Action Team.

The Neighborhood Solidarity Prayer Service and the several receptions are planned as events to which all the neighbors and friends of Saint Thomas of Canterbury Parish are cordially invited.

For more information contact Kathy Mattingly at (408) 378-2355, or kat@kajon.com, Al Smith at (408) 374-4339 or asmith2109@sbcglobal.net, or the parish office at (408) 378-1595.