The following comes from an Oct. 4 posting on Aleteia.org.

The names of California’s cities reflect the heritage of the Spanish missionaries: places named in honor of Our Lady of the Angels, the Blessed Sacrament, and, of course, St. Francis of Assisi. Today, the names of those locales tend to remind people more of the City of Man than the Kingdom of God; we associate Los Angeles with Hollywood and its sleaze, Sacramento with liberal politics, and San Francisco with the attempt to redefine marriage.

The failure of Proposition 8, a voter-approved constitutional amendment to defend marriage against any redefinition, and the passage of a law allowing non-physicians to perform abortions are just two of the most recent developments that cement California’s image in the rest of the nation’s consciousness as the Left Coast.

But some active Catholics are encouraged by the changing leadership of local churches up and down the West Coast, not just in California. High on the list of a new generation of orthodox bishops is Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who marks his first anniversary as archbishop of San Francisco this Friday, Oct. 4.

“If you look at the appointments over the past few years, from Seattle down to San Diego, the whole landscape has changed,” said Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio, founder of Ignatius Press, which is based in San Francisco. He cited Archbishops José Gomez of Los Angeles, Peter Sartain of Seattle, Alexander Sample of Portland, and Bishops Robert Vasa of Santa Rosa, Michael Barber of Oakland, and Kevin Vann of Orange. “In my old age, I’m saying ‘Nunc Dimittis.’ We have a generation of good strong bishops on the West Coast. … I think it will help Archbishop Cordileone have the support of his fellow bishops to do the things he wants to do.”

Several people Aleteia spoke with, including Father Fessio, characterized Archbishop Cordileone as a person who stands by Catholic principles but presents them in gentle ways. One would hope that that helps him in San Francisco, which is often called the “gay capital of America.” He is considered the “Godfather of Prop. 8,” and chairs the United States bishops’ conference’s subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

“He stresses not what the Church is against but what the Church is for,” said Father Fessio, a former doctoral student of Pope Benedict XVI. “He says the consequences of being for strong family life and strong marriages and children having a right to a mother and a father means we are opposed to those things that obstruct that. I think he’s become more appreciated by his priests, who see him as a good and reasonable person, but of course he’s going to be in a surrounding society that’s hostile to the Church’s teaching.”

Father Juan Velez, a priest of the Personal Prelature of Opus Dei and author of Passion for Truth: The Life of John Henry Newman, said he was struck by Archbishop Cordileone’s personal piety. “He’s a man of prayer,” Father Velez said. “When they were trying to pass Prop. 8, he was fasting for that. … He knows that problems in society and the Church are long-term things; that you need a supernatural approach and you need prayer.”

….Archbishop Cordileone’s tenure got off to a rough start, in part because of a DUI incident in late August 2012, a month after his appointment to San Francisco had been announced and while he was still serving as bishop of Oakland. Following dinner with friends and family in San Diego, he was stopped at a DUI checkpoint near San Diego State University and was found to be over the California legal blood-alcohol level.

“I apologize for my error in judgment and feel shame for the disgrace I have brought upon the Church and myself,” he said in a statement the following day. “I will repay my debt to society and I ask forgiveness from my family and my friends and co-workers at the diocese of Oakland and the archdiocese of San Francisco. I pray that God, in His inscrutable wisdom, will bring some good out of this.”

He referred to the incident during his homily at his installation Mass, using it as an example of his own need for constant personal renewal. God’s command to St. Francis to “rebuild my Church” goes far beyond the physical – right down to the pursuit of holiness on the part of each Christian, he said.

The DUI incident wasn’t the only thing that made for a difficult beginning. According to a study of the 2010 U.S. Census at UCLA, San Francisco ranked number one on a list of large American cities having the most same-sex couples per 1,000 households. Archbishop Cordileone’s reputation as one of the leading Catholic voices for marriage preceded him; he was the driving force behind Prop. 8, going back to 2007, before an earlier pro-marriage act, California Prop. 22, was struck down.

“When he first came, he received threats on his person from various critics who were not pleased,” said Deacon Christoph Sandoval, who serves Archbishop Cordileone’s Sunday Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral. “He understood that when he took the job, this would require that he stand and deliver the Gospel irrespective of whatever comes to him.”

Victoria Evans, the archdiocese’s pro-life coordinator, said that when Archbishop Cordileone was named to the archdiocese, there was picketing outside the cathedral and the archdiocesan headquarters. “They saw this as a slap in the face to San Francisco because of the large gay population,” she said. “It’s really mission territory; the gay lobby is pretty strong.”

….Cleve Jones, a prominent gay activist in San Francisco, said in an email, “Generally, I would say [Archbishop Cordileone] is viewed with contempt by most LGBT San Franciscans.”

Father Brian Costello is the pastor of Most Holy Redeemer Parish in the heavily gay Castro District. The parish website makes a point that gays and lesbians are as welcome there as anyone. Father Costello reported that Archbishop Cordileone visited the church for the first time on Sept. 18, not overtly to reach out to the gay community but to help serve dinner at a regular Wednesday night supper for the poor and homeless.

“The archbishop served a table full of people and everyone was delighted that he took time out of his busy schedule to be with them,” Father Costello said. “He promised he would be back.”

On Sept. 6, Aleteia interviewed the rector and president of St. Patrick’s Seminary and University, which is run by the Society of Saint-Sulpice for San Francisco and 14 other dioceses.

“It’s a wonderful thing to have an archbishop who is so collaborative and supportive,” Sulpician Father James McKearney said of Archbishop Cordileone. Ten days later, the archbishop announced a “change in leadership” there, with San José Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Daly becoming interim rector and president, effective Oct. 1.

“Bishop Daly is expected to hold the position for up to a year while the Society of Saint-Sulpice, the traditional administrators of the seminary, work with the seminary board of trustees to search for a permanent president and rector,” reported Catholic San Francisco, the newspaper of the archdiocese, quoting unnamed officials….

It was unclear why Father McKearney left, and efforts to reach him and his provincial were unsuccessful. The Sept. 16 press release said only that Father McKearney would “continue to serve in ministry” with his community….

Also announced Sept. 16 was the appointment of Jesuit Father John Piderit, former president of Loyola University in Chicago, as St. Patrick’s vice president for administration. “Father Piderit is a major voice for restoring Catholic identity in Catholic education as president of the Catholic Education Institute,” the press release stated, noting that he will continue in another position he’s held at the seminary since late 2012, vicar for finance.

Father Fessio noted that the seminary had already been improving under the previous two archbishops, Cardinal William Levada and Archbishop George Niederauer. “It’s got a very fine faculty,” he said. “I think it’s basically strong. Many of the professors there who are faithful to the Church are feeling well supported now that Cordileone is archbishop.”

….Bishop Daly, the interim rector, also is focused on vocations. “You can’t build a vocation culture unless you have a culture of prayer,” then-Father Daly said in a 2011 interview with Catholic San Francisco. But he cautioned against engaging in a “numbers game… because one crazy, weird seminary candidate will chase away five normal guys….”

If prayer and personal holiness are important for priests, in Archbishop Cordileone’s view, it’s also important for the laity, and a major source for their spiritual formation is the Mass. With that in mind, the archbishop wants better liturgies, and a liturgical institute based at the seminary will help form laity and clergy “in the ars celebrandi and proper understanding of Church music,” said Father Fessio.

“There will be workshops on reciting liturgies and chanting,” said Father Raymund Reyes, pastor of St. Anne of the Sunset Church in San Francisco. “I just sense that the liturgy is important for him, creating a culture of prayer and worship. Maybe he believes that through that effort of creating a culture of prayer, they change the structure of everything else in their lives of the faithful in the archdiocese.”

Benedictine Father Samuel Weber, a visiting faculty member teaching sacramental theology at St. Patrick’s Seminary, is assisting in setting up the institute. St. Patrick’s Morey called him “one of the world’s experts in Gregorian chant.”

“For me personally, this is coming at the right time,” said Father Reyes. The new Roman Missal translation had been met with resistance by a Catholic population that had become accustomed to the old one, he said. A focus on liturgical renewal in San Francisco is “kind of a continuation” of that.

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