This letter is addressed to all of you who call San Carlos your spiritual home. I pray that my letter finds you and your loved ones well and healthy.
It has been a while since I wrote you my first Open Letter entitled First Impressions dated November 3, 2016. It is hard to believe that already we have celebrated Christmas and Easter and now, we just finished celebrating so many First Communions and Confirmations.
In my financial letter and bulletin articles I mentioned how thankful and proud San Carlos community should be as, together with the former pastor Fr. Peter Crivello, this parish completed an eight million dollar conservation and retrofitting project! In addition, our cathedral is among few diocesan parishes without debt! That’s quite a feat and I thank each one of you for your help and contribution.
ONGOING MAINTENANCE & PRESERVATION
The title of my letter may be confusing. We will never ignore the maintenance of our historical church but we also need to focus on the parish family!
Each first weekend of the month we take a second collection for the maintenance and preservation projects. There are always things to fix and repair. For example, we just completed restoration of the Our Lady of Bethlehem statue which was vandalized.
Some of the projects already on my radar include:
- Installing a new cathedral security system (interior/exterior); ideally every historical artifact inside the church should be connected to the security
- Cleaning and repairing the facade of our cathedral
- Cleaning and re-writing the memorial plaques in our Memory Garden (east side of the cathedral);
- Installing new candle stands and new candles; a current candle burns for 6-7 days but these candles create too much soot/smoke. Changing the candles may reduce the maintenance/cleaning for the surrounding walls which were cleaned at least 5 times since the church was painted!
- Future planning for church office structure – I foresee it as a major project in the next 8-10
These are just few projects as there are many others related to the school and the hall. We will tackle one issue at the time; being the oldest church structure in California certainly comes with a price.
FROM STONES TO SOULS
For years, our parish has been immersed in fund-raisings and focusing our efforts on repairing the church. This is very good but not enough…
It brings to mind the story of St. Francis of Assisi. One day he was praying in an abandoned church and heard the voice of God saying, “Francis, go and repair my church.” He thought that God wanted him to repair the abandoned and dilapidated church of San Damiano and pursued purchasing stones to fix the walls… But God continued to urge him to “repair my church” until one day Francis realized that God wanted him to go and “repair the Church” spiritually speaking.
As a parish family there is much work ahead of us to repair God’s Church. However, our attention cannot exclusively remain on our church building and facilities. My interest is to maintain the structures but at the same time enhance and grow our community.
Investing in our community must be a priority as it is you, our parishioners, who make this church alive and well.
There are important pillars/factors which can help us focus on the souls and the people of our spiritual family. Nothing is more important than welcoming people – everyone – around the altar of the Lord.
As previously specified in the parish bulletins we open the doors of our cathedral and the doors of our hearts to all those who want to celebrate here. Policies are already on our website and more updates will be posted in the next few days:
- Baptisms: we make it easy to baptize any child as long as there is a hope the child will be raised
- Weddings: anyone willing to marry is able to celebrate the sacrament of matrimony in our beautiful cathedral
- Quinceaneras: our cathedral is open to everyone, parishioners as well as non-parishioners.
- Funerals: This is a very sensitive and important ministry to be there for people who have lost their loved ones. Our simple policy and biblical readings are already on the website. Yesterday I met with local mortuary and told everyone that we simplified fees and, if a family encounters financial difficulties we will do the funerals for free.
It is all about being pastoral, focusing on the people, on their hearts and souls. Welcoming and ministering to people during the most important moments in life is a sacred duty.
OF FEEDING THE POOR…
As I write this letter I was informed by the Diocese that we have to move our Food Pantry which is located in the Diocesan Archives office. We have over 60 volunteers who are feeding the poor on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays from 1:30-3pm.
We have to find a new location for this: either the “stone house” or placing a big shed by the old parish hall. In fact, this is an opportunity for us to expand our outreach ministry: we can install a commercial refrigerator and offer fruits, salad and even meats for those who have a kitchen. Taking care of our brothers and sisters in need, homeless or not, is something we should continue to do. We will expand this ministry of service and thank you to all who are volunteering! This ministry improves the lives of so many and it is the right thing to do! This ministry focuses on the souls and bodies of so many!
Each time there is a school Mass it brings me so much joy. I truly love celebrating the Mass with our students. As of January 2017 we resumed taking second collections to support our school and our students. Half of the collection goes straight to the school and half into a designated account for scholarships. A short term goal is to develop more events that bring the school and the parish together. Currently, besides school Masses, there are no parish-school events and this needs to change.
OF FAMILY BUILDING…
Those of you who are married know that it takes effort, dedication and sacrifices to build a loving and steadfast family. Same with the spiritual family, the church…
While “the buck stops with me” and I am the ultimate leader in the parish, I need more than our parish employees. I need a parish council. I would love to have dedicated parishioners with different views and gifts to enrich our parish. The longer I am with you the more I am aware that we need a parish council which will advise me on major projects. Putting our heads and hearts together will only benefit our local church! It is about time that we initiate such an important committee!!!
Hospitality is another key factor in parish life. While we meet in the church, around God’s altar, we also meet outside and in the cathedral hall. Currently we have organizations serving coffee and donuts but it is not every Sunday. Why not add more volunteers and have this important ministry every single Sunday? Once a month we can have a Cheese & Wine after the 4pm Saturday Vigil!
Other plans include starting new ministries targeting newly initiated adults (Waking Up Catholic), welcoming our new parishioners, and thanking parishioners who are moving especially our fantastic military families.
Part of hospitality is our docent program. I started this ministry 13 years ago when we created the Heritage Center. We should strive to increase this ministry; welcome all pilgrims and visitors to our parish; share with them the richness of our history.
Also, part of hospitality is our ushering ministry. We need more ushers in the church to welcome people and to make sure that everyone stepping into our church will be welcome and well served. My goal is to have at least four ushers at each Mass even when some dedicated parishioners are on vacation.
Parish events bring people together! For example I have been promoting the idea of hosting a parish BBQ on June 3, the birthday of San Carlos and the city of Monterey. I intend to keep pushing to make this a permanent parish celebration. Right now I have only 9 people who offered to help. Even Jesus needed 12 people! We need a committed group who will help establish this as an annual event. It is more than eating, drinking and having fun. It is bringing school, children, parishioners and strangers together, forging friendships as we share a meal and have a drink. Do you wonder why Jesus repeatedly went to dine in the Scriptures???
La Dolce Vita Dinners – We are blessed to have in our parish various nationalities. Why not ask some parishioners of different nationalities to prepare a specific native meal and invite everyone to participate? We can have a Hispanic, Italian, German, Filipino and maybe even a Romanian Dinner!!! Everyone will be invited to enjoy a delicious dinner and taste the traditional cuisine and dishes! Let me know if you are interested in coordinating these dinners.
There are many ways we can build our parish family. There are many other things to be discussed. I can barely wait to meet with you as a parish during our first town hall meeting. Please read the parish bulletins since they are our weekly “love letters.” Let’s treasure our cathedral and love the souls – the living stones – which God entrusted to us. May God bless us and everything we do here at San Carlos Cathedral.
In Christ’s love and with prayers for you and your loved ones,
Fr. Emil Robu, Pastor