The following comes from a July 13 story in the San Jose Mercury News.
Beginning two weeks ago, thieves crossed one of the last taboos in a struggling part of town. They broke into a storage room at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in East San Jose and stole $25,000 worth of musical instruments and sound equipment.
Actually, they did it three times — on June 27 and then on July 3 and 4 — almost as if a single insult were not enough to a parish that depends on the equipment for its Sunday Mass. It was like robbing someone repeatedly of a voice.
While Our Lady of Guadalupe is not a rich church, it has been touched by eminence.
Cesar Chavez was one of the first parishioners. Bobby Kennedy visited in 1968. One of the church’s first priests, the Rev. Donald McDonnell, brought the gospel of social justice to the neighborhood.
And what happened Thursday night in the wake of the burglaries proved the adage that misfortune can evoke the very best in us.
Under the leadership of the Rev. Jon Pedigo, who has just been assigned to the parish, the church members hit on the idea of a mariachi festival. It would raise money to replace the equipment, which the church’s musicians had bought with hard work and taco sales.
With only four days’ notice, between 400 and 500 people lined up outside the church to pay $10 apiece to hear groups like Mariachi San Jose, led by college kids.
I asked one of the emcees for the event, attorney Fernando Zazueta, why the thefts had such resonance.
“The thieves violated sacred ground,” said Zazueta, who grew up nearby at 31st and San Antonio streets. “We knew they had no respect for property. But they violated the community directly. No one wants to see a church desecrated that way.”
Zazueta couldn’t help but add another reason for the big turnout: “We told people it was going to be mariachis.”
And there were more people than just mariachi fans helping out. Last Wednesday, Zazueta stood up before the downtown San Jose Rotary Club and told them about the church’s plight.
One of his listeners was Greg Nelson, a San Jose City College administrator who offered to help. SJCC no longer has a marching band, but the school has unused instruments and equipment he was willing to donate….
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