By Archbishop Salvatore Joseph Cordileone
A wise bishop I once knew had a knack for coming up with short, pithy phrases that sum up volumes of wisdom. One of his favorite was “gratitude is the attitude of the beatitude.” In a world that in so many ways can seem a dark and cynical place, it is important to take time to reflect thankfully on those ways in which truth, beauty and goodness make themselves manifest. And looking back at 2022, it is comforting to recall the many ways in which our schools and parish communities helped to do exactly that, serving as beacons of hope for a very despairing world.
The year began with a vibrant and well-attended Walk for Life, where a peaceful procession from Civic Center Plaza to the Embarcadero shined a bright light on the immeasurable value of motherhood and the child in the womb. What profound gratitude we feel toward the countless advocates who, in so many ways, support and defend the dignity of human life at its very beginning. Their dauntless and ceaseless efforts bore fruit in June of this year with the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. In overturning Roe v. Wade, the court, far from denying “rights,” returned to the people the right to decide what the abortion laws will be in their state. While the challenges are now in some ways intensifying, especially here in California, we give thanks to God for this landmark decision that struck a significant blow to the lie of abortion and gives us hope for the day when abortion will be unthinkable in every state in our nation.
It did not take long after the announcement of the decision for attacks on crisis pregnancy centers to erupt all around the country, which continue to this day, often unreported by the media. I am so proud of our many parishioners who share generously of their time, talent and treasure to make possible the work of these life-saving crisis pregnancy clinics for women in distress. Their tireless work beautifully showcases what it means to truly be pro-life by supporting women before and after their babies are born. These are the advocates for true “choice,” providing pregnant women with accurate information about what’s going on within their bodies, informing them of life-giving options, and linking them with the resources they need to exercise those options. They make visible the truth that the response to a woman in a crisis pregnancy is not violence, death and isolation, but support and tender, loving care.
In confronting the continuing and intensifying challenges, our chancery worked closely with the California Catholic Conference of Bishops to activate our parishes and schools on educating Californians on Proposition 1, the ballot proposition to enshrine into the state constitution the “right” to abortion, without any limitation, all the way up to the moment of birth. The so-called right to “reproductive freedom” (another euphemism, since reproduction has already happened once a new human life is conceived in the mother’s womb) opens up a whole spectrum of other possible violations of human dignity, including the use of taxpayer dollars to fund abortions, even for women coming from out of state. Unfortunately, Prop 1 passed on Nov. 8, which is devastating for women, children and families in California. While this extreme measure will likely be challenged in the courts, we will continue to do our essential work of accompanying mothers in distress.
In continuing with the effort to build a culture of life, in September, we joined Pope Francis in prayer for the abolition of the death penalty, where our intentions focused on the importance of preserving and nurturing all human life. This effort was reinforced when our Archdiocesan Office of Human Life and Dignity and its Restorative Justice Ministry recorded record-setting registrations for the Re-Entry Conference and Resource Fair. This unique event brought together victims, offenders and the community in prayer, offering hope and opportunity to crime survivors, formerly incarcerated youth and adults, and families with loved ones in prison. Since San Quentin State Prison, which has housed California’s death row for men, is located within our Archdiocese, I felt a moral obligation to capitalize on this request of Pope Francis by speaking out on the issue. I am grateful to America Magazine for publishing my opinion piece on the issue and for the interview conducted with me about it on their podcast.
Throughout 2022, we also engaged in the national conversation on the humane treatment of migrants and refugees, highlighting the important legal and humanitarian work of Catholic Charities within the Archdiocese. We were reminded that, while nations have a right to secure their borders, Christian charity makes no distinctions regarding legal status when it comes to providing humanitarian aid to those in need. When people are on our doorstep, we take care of them, regardless of race, creed, language, nationality or which documents they have or lack.
Our parishes and schools found creative ways throughout the year to spread truth, beauty and goodness—from the blessing of a new statue of Our Lady at Serra High School, to feast-day celebrations of patronal saints at Church of the Assumption in Tomales and St. Finn Barr in San Francisco. Parishes also held milestone anniversaries, including the 150th anniversary of Church of the Nativity parish in Menlo Park, the 75th of Immaculate Heart of Mary in Belmont, and the 100th at St. Kevin and St. Thomas the Apostle, both in San Francisco. In May, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption (delayed one year due to the pandemic). Among my favorite celebrations were the many Confirmations that took place across our parishes. These are significant moments for our faith communities, and signs of how vibrant Church life is throughout our local parishes.
Parishioners from across the Archdiocese also came together in May at St. Mary’s Cathedral for the St. Pius X awards celebration, recognizing catechists for their outstanding work in faith formation. This special event honors the many volunteers who serve the Church by teaching both adults and children about the faith, forming them as disciples of Jesus.
In October, hundreds gathered in prayer for the Rosary Rally and Eucharistic procession from St. Mary’s Cathedral to St. Boniface in the Tenderloin. In the same month, parishioners also joined in prayer to honor Cardinal Robert W. McElroy, the first native son of San Francisco to be made a cardinal.
When the world around us seems hollow, apathetic and dark, it is our faith communities that rise up and light the way to Jesus Christ by living the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. He is the Light of the World, Our Lord and Savior, and as we celebrate His birth at Christmas, let us continue to open our hearts to truth, beauty and goodness, so that we may lead others to Him.