This homily was given at the Jubilee Opening Mass by Monsignor Michael Mitchell, one of the co-founders of the Diocese in 1981. He was the first employee of the new Diocese of San José.
When Bishop Cantú asked me to be today’s homilist, he said that he wanted someone who was there at the start forty years ago. I think I fit the bill. On January 30, 1981, three days after the Diocese of San José was announced, Archbishop Quinn and Bishop DuMaine agreed that I was to be the new Diocese’s representative in the transition period. So, being the first employee qualifies for being present at the creation. The theme of our anniversary celebration, Journeying Together in Hope, would be as apt in 1981 as it is today.
The announcement of the new Diocese came when the Annual Diocesan Appeal for the Archdiocese had just gotten underway. Santa Clara County parishes had a total goal of $ 1,292,000. That is a number I remember vividly because the first-year budget it was to fund was $ 1,650,000. We began in hope! The next year when the parish goals were raised by 30%, the pastors were not pleased. Our first Vicar General, Monsignor Norman Allen, dealt with the problem in a very direct way: we all wanted a diocese; now we have to pay for it.
One of the greatest, but not often noticed, changes in our diocesan church since 1981 is the change in the presbyterate. Currently, there is only one priest on parish assignment who was on a parish assignment in 1981. In effect, between deaths and retirement, we have replaced all the originals and almost half their replacements. But there is another change that is meaningful. To accomplish that replacement, multiple changes in pastor were made. Except for the parishes that were created over the 40 year period, parishes had four or more changes in pastor. But even more important was the change in demographics. Listen to the names: Dwyer then Hao Dinh now, Farana-Phong Nguyen, Hoffman-Cartagenas, Foster-Nguyen, Laurente-Loi, Fry-Fernandez, Coleman-Vargas, Murray-Terembula, Prendergast-Suarez, Derry-Ovando, Walsh-Pineda, and Tiemey-Kim, to name only a few. The great English saint Cardinal Newman observed: to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.
A journey is, by definition, a succession of changes. This morning’s readings offer us guidance in making the Cardinal’s observation a reality in our own lives and in our community as church. The author of the book of Hebrews observed that Abraham was good as dead at the time God made the promises we heard in the first reading. Nonetheless, at the age of 75, he set off from his ancestral home to wander over the Middle East to do God’s bidding. Whether you are an individual Christian of 82 years or a diocese of 40, you must be open to change. The Lord’s call is constant and insistent; only circumstances change.
The downcast disciples on the road to Emmaus remind us to have no small or limited hope. They had hoped that Jesus would redeem Israel but only in a conventional way. And so, their hope was crushed by the cross. Our challenge is to show others the victory over sin and death was won precisely by the cross of Christ, that a life of hope and joy is possible in a world more given to grief and anxiety.
How will we know whether our efforts and chances are effective as we journey together in hope? As the reading from Acts stated: Every day, the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.