Even if you're giving altar wine to churches, it needs to pass the taste test.
That's what Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland learned when it began offering free sacramental wine to about half its 85 churches three years ago. The fact that the wine was made from grapes grown at diocese cemeteries didn't get much reaction, but the taste did.
The Oakland Diocese produces altar wine from grapes grown at three of its cemeteries.
A look, by the numbers:
Allow me to come right out and acknowledge that what I am about to write may not score any points in the Mr. Popularity contest. If I play my cards right, I think that I should offend every category of reader in one fell swoop.
Rooted deep within our souls, at the very being of who we are as an industry and as individual organizations, is a word that we banter about on almost a daily basis - Ministry. Our core purpose is one of our sacred Corporal Works of Mercy – Burial of the Dead. So, what does it mean to be a ministry? If we cut right down through the potential volumes of text that could be used to define what a ministry is, couldn’t we simply say it is to be a servant; to place others before ourselves?
Cooper Chapel Mortuary in Oakland sits in the heart of the Fruitvale District. Beleaguered with homelessness, gang violence, abject poverty, addiction and high unemployment, the area has been described as bleak and hopeless.
Eduardo De Loa doesn't see it that way.
De Loa, Cooper Chapel's location manager, sees the people. "These are my friends and neighbors," he says. "When I look into their eyes I see an extension of myself."
After the 9.0 earthquake hit Japan in March, followed by the powerful tsunami that swept away entire communities, people around the world were looking for ways to help. After his wife read an article reporting that Japan, with hundreds of bodies washing up on its beaches, had run out of body bags, Bob Mallon found a way.
“We’re in the death and dying business,” said Mallon, chairman of the board of Catholic Funeral & Cemetery Services in the Diocese of Oakland. "We can help."
When the diocesan Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services purchased Cooper's Mortuary in Oakland two years ago, it learned that 33 sets of cremated remains were stored there because no one in the families of the deceased had claimed them.
The former operators of the Fruitvale Avenue establishment had kept the ashes and urns safe in case someone were to return for them. Some of the cremated remains had been in storage for a decade or more.
Innovation is a keyword for the funeral and cemetery services in the Oakland Diocese.
Four years ago, the diocese became only the third in the United States to operate its own mortuary and the first to provide cremation services. Now it may be the first Catholic diocese to offer a website where the bereaved may post obituaries, tributes and remembrances of the deceased.
For Robert Seelig, director of Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services (CFCS), it is another way the Church can help those who are dealing with the details of funeral planning during a time of grief.
As the old adage goes there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. Common perception is that there is nothing we can do about either, Uncle Sam will continue to reach into our pockets and the grim reaper will at some point come knocking.
The people were kind, compassionate, and very helpful. Everything being in one place made my life easier at a very trying time. Thank you for providing this service.