Recently, our Lord told Julie Green, and transmitted on Rumble, that what the world needs now is a revival. That is what we had at Our Lady of Grace parish in Castro Valley, California, this past weekend, September 17-18, 2022, in remembrance of our 75th anniversary. Praised be Jesus! Growning up on a farm in Iowa as a young Protestant, I heard the word, preaching. That is what we had on Sunday. We had REAL preaching by Monsignor Antonio Valdivia, one of the former priests at Our Lady of Grace. In my 82 years as a Protestant, Sufi, and Roman Catholic convert, I had never heard such preaching. It surprises me not that when Monsignor Antonio preached when he was a priest at Our Lady of Grace, there was standing room only in the church!
Some years ago, while in the Alsace Region of France, I was shown by an elderly long-time parishioner of the St. Anthony parish in Hohengoeft, photographs of the parish in its hay day with the church packed with people and filled with beautiful banners hanging from both the side walls. Today, the church is locked except for Thursdays nights when a priest says mass. This is not his fault. He, the one priest, is in charge of multiple parishes all throughout the region. The former pastor I knew was so overworked that he died at a young age of a heart attack. God rest his soul. Yes, they need a revival in France also!
Yes, what the world needs now. as Our Lord told Julie, is a rivival. Thanks be to God, we had a true revival. Thanks to the early planning by Fr. Thomas Czeck, OFM Conv, initiated before he was transferred to Pismo Beach, a very capable committe was formed to begin organizing the 75th anniversary of the parish, now under the direction of the Franciscans. The celebration began with a very interesting and informative talk by Mark Vaz, outlining a bit of the parish history. His research will soon be available in book form. He spoke of the nine Carmelite nuns who came from Madrid to become teachers in the new school. Fr. Stack made sure that a school was built BEFORE a church building. Mark said that when Fr. Stack walked into a room, it felt like the Pope had just walked into the room.
The talk was followed by a mass in Our Lady of Grace church at 5:00 p.m. Fr. Kevin Mullins, OSA, a long-time pastor of Our Lady of Grace, said the mass and gave the homily. Then, he, his two sisters, and many parishioners, priests, and Franciscan brothers enjoyed an Italian dinner prepared by the Italian Catholic Federation after a film high-lighting the history of the parish. The next day, September 19, 2022, Bishop Michael Barber, s.j. said mass at noon. Many priests attended the mass including Fr. Victor Abegg, OFM Conv., Fr. Tom Czeck, OFM Conv., Fr. Ray Mallett, OFM Conv., Fr. Francisco Nahoe, OFM Conv., Fr. Greg Heidenblut, OSA, Br. Chris Garcia, OFM Conv., and Br. Chris Saindom, OFM Conv. Bonnie played the organ and the fabulous Hispanic choir and musicians offered their music.
The star of the show was Jesus and the Holy Spirit that anointed us all, but on another level, it was Monsignor Antonio Valdivia who stole the show. As Jesus told St. Catherine of Sienna, I am God; you are not. Fr. Antonio seemed to be alive with a walking presence of his kinship with God the Father, His son, Jesus Christ, anointed by the Holy Spirit, and in strong friendship with the saints. Having been a member of o.c.d.s. (Carmelite), for twenty years, Fr. Antonio’s passing reference to Mother Teresa of Jesus, (of Avila), ignited a special blessing for me, as he referred to the nine Carmelite nuns from Madrid who came from Spain to teach at our school. He scrolled through the time in history we were celebrating. In 1947, the Bishop announced that a Church was to be built in Castro Valley, California, [ the same year the Little Daughter of the Divine Will, Luisa Piccarreta died]. Monsignor Antonio referred to Bob Dylan’s son, “The Times They Are Changing”, and the death of President John F. Kennedy. Monsisgnor also spoke of the beatniik era and the on slaught of the drug culture. He took his time. No one looked at their watch! He held his place at the podium on the altar. He held his place in the history of the church in Castro Valley. He represented the best of the seasoned wise men of the Lord Jesus Christ. A real servant of God. God bless him!
Following the very moving homily, our Bishop pleaded with us to renew and strengthen our devotion and prayers to Our Lady of Grace.
We then processed to Stack Center, named after the deceased former pastor, where the Hispanic community must have been up late in the wee small hours of the night transforming the hall into a gala fiesta setting. Colorful banners graced the ceiling. Flags and colorful Mexican woolen fabrics lined the tables. Preparations had been made for a real fiesta. Not only were there musicians to entertain us, but they walked between the tables gracing us with their music. Fr. Francisco Nahoe led the prayers to bless the food we were to eat. The food was delicious. My chicken was over the top fabulous. Everyone was in a celebration mood. No one needed wine nor spirits to awaken the best in all of us. God had sent His Holy Spirit down upon us and we were happy, united, and in One accord, a joyous family of the Lord.
Thank you, Jesus. Thank you all who graced the church with beautiful flowers, the new and elegant shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Our Lady of Grace school students who served us our fiesta repass. Thank you the vocalists and musicians who practiced their music, for the priests who flew from afar to join us, for those who set up the hall and especially those who cleaned up the hall afterwards. God bless each of us, young and old, sweet and sassy.
God bless us as a family of Our Lady of Grace. God protect, bless, and guide our priests. May the doors of Our Lady of Grace never again be locked down! God grant us many, many new and renewed families. God grant us new and numerous men seeking ordination. Protect us Lord. Strengthen us Lord. Make Your face to shine upon us, Lord. Amen.
Love and blessings to all in humble thanksgiving,
Susanna Maria Ax, Benedictine Oblate of Divine Will