California Catholic Daily Exclusive.
On Saturday, September 9, St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park hosted its 10th annual Four Pillars Gala. The event is the school’s primary yearly fundraiser. The seminary serves a number of dioceses, and this year is forming seminarians from the diocese of Agana, Guam (3); Honolulu Hawaii (7); Monterey (1), Oakland (1), Sacramento (8), San Francisco (14), Santa Rosa (3), California; and Spokane Washington (3).
This year, over 500 people gathered for Vespers in the seminary chapel, tours of the seminary, and dinner and a silent auction on the seminary’s lawn. In his welcoming remarks the seminary’s new rector, Fr. George Schultze, SJ, said the crowd was the largest in the 10 year history of the gala. The invocation was given by His Excellency Salvatore Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco. His Excellency was joined by Bishop Michael Barber of the Diocese of Oakland, and Bishop Thomas Daly, of the Diocese of Spokane, and former interim rector of the seminary. Bishop Daly also acted as master of ceremonies.
This year, the seminary honored the Walk for Life West Coast, represented by the Walk’s co-chairs and co-founders, Dolores Meehan and Eva Muntean. As dinner was served, the Rev. Mr. Mario S. Rizzo, the student body president, spoke. Deacon Rizzo said, in part: “Before I entered St. Patrick’s Seminary I had never been to the Walk for Life in San Francisco. As I enter into my seventh year at St. Patrick’s I can say that for me, the Walk is one of the most nourishing events that takes place during the academic year…I remember my first experience walking down Market Street surrounded by a sea of people carrying banners of their churches, signs and images of Our Lady while singing and praying the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy…At one moment we feel encouraged…at the next, someone is berating us from the sidewalk…In his encyclical Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II aptly named the likes of this protest the ‘culture of death.’” But, he continued “…what are we being formed into but another Christ, an alter Christus, one who will lay down his life so that others may live.”
Following dinner, both women spoke. The differing styles may provide a clue to the fruitful working relationship that has so contributed to the Walk’s success. Both echoed themes of gratitude for those who have helped make the Walk possible, a determination to continue the fight, and a renewed pledge of fidelity and service to the Church. Ms. Muntean spoke first. After thanking the priests, parishes, and volunteers who make the Walk happen, she continued:
“…The Walk for Life became necessary because abortion was made legal. Abortion was made legal because our country turned away from God. That, and many other issues, will fall into their rightful place if and when our country turns back to God. We at the Walk know that no matter what we do, it must be in service of that final aim. And that’s why we are here tonight.
We are here celebrating one of the most important works of the Church: the forming of these wonderful young men who are giving their lives to Christ and His Church. And let’s not forget their professors who are entrusted with guiding these young men on their journey. As Archbishop Reardon said when he was initially looking to staff St. Patrick’s ‘the work of the priests is the work of the Apostles, and the work of their professors is the work of Jesus Christ because they train the Apostles’.
The presence of the seminarians at the Walk bring us one of our greatest joys. Each year, a majority of St. Patrick’s men attend the Walk. Their very presence builds the Church. The seminarians experience the supportive atmosphere of tens of thousands of people, and the tens of thousands of people are energized and heartened by the presence of these impressive young men of God.”
Dolores Meehan followed. Meehan generally speaks without notes and her speeches are often characterized by a succession of striking images rather than a methodical approach. In this case she shared her recollections of the genesis of the Walk. At one point, she recalled the tremendous opposition to the first Walk in 2005, ginned up by the likes of then-Mayor Gavin Newsom. She said that in thanking those responsible for the success of the Walk we should never forget to thank Newsom, whose efforts brought out such a violent opposition that “we could never have afforded that kind of publicity!” Her observation that Newsom plays the same part in the history of the Walk for Life West Coast that Pontius Pilate does in the Creed, brought laughter from the crowd. She also said that when she tells people she is from San Francisco, they often respond “Bummer!” But she said, as a fourth-generation San Franciscan, it is the place to be, and called the Walk for Lifers “the Navy Seals of the pro life movement!”
The evening closed, as always, with an introduction of the seminarians, who gathered on the wide stairs by the entrance to the seminary. The seminarians then gave a lovely rendition of the Salve Regina.