United in faith
Father Daniel McCotter, CSP (front right), pastor of Old St. Mary's and Holy Family, and Deacon Simon Tsui, lead the Aug. 26 unity Mass.
Sometimes it is the little things that can matter the most.
The occasion was the annual unity Mass and picnic for the two Paulist-run faith communities held Aug. 26. It was a time for people to just “get to know one another,” said Father Daniel McCotter, CSP, pastor of Old St. Mary’s and Holy Family.
With the music, readings, Gospel and homily alternating between English and Cantonese––and sometimes offered in both languages––the liturgy was a true celebration of both cultures.
This is especially important as the two faith communities are working to form one parish, according to Father McCotter.
“We have so much to learn from one another,” he said, noting that there is now a single parish council and one finance committee.
A new parish mission statement is also in the works, according to Jim Foster, parish council president.
Deacon Simon Tsui summarizes the Sunday homily in Cantonese during the Aug. 26 unity Mass at Old St. Mary's and Holy Family Chinese Mission in San Francisco.
“Bringing these two communities together––each with their own history, traditions and successes––is not easy, but you say, ‘Let’s get together for Mass and some hospitality,’ and it starts to happen,” Mr. Foster said.
And things have been happening at Old St. Mary’s since it was built as California’s first cathedral in 1854. It was placed in the pastoral care of the Paulist Fathers in 1894. The building was untouched by the famous earthquake of 1906, when the resulting three-day fire destroyed much of San Francisco. During World War II, the parish became a much-needed place for service personnel coming through San Francisco to gather, relax, write letters home and socialize.
Old St. Mary’s was never intended to become a Chinese parish, but with its location on the border of the Financial District and Chinatown, many Chinese lived in the parish bounds. Paulist Father Henry Wyman asked to establish mission to the Chinese at the 1902 New York meeting of the Paulist Fathers General Chapter. His suggestion was approved, and in 1903 Paulist Father Henry Stark, a San Franciscan by birth, opened the first Chinese mission in America. Father Stark began the mission school with four students.
Today, Old St. Mary’s has some 200 registered families, with many visitors and downtown workers taking advantage of the church’s location near the Financial District for daily and weekend Mass.
Holy Family now has approximately 300 registered families. The faith community’s St. Mary’s Chinese School and Center just opened a new building in the fall of 2010 that includes a day school, Chinese language school and other services.
Ron Ng, a lifelong parishioner of Holy Family, came to the unity Mass and picnic with his family.
“Years ago, there was more division, but it feels right to come together, said Mr. Ng, 54. “There couldn’t be a better place for us to be than with Old St. Mary’s.”