New Roman Catholic parish established

The public is invited Feb. 19 to the dedication of Our Lady of

The Catholic Diocese of San Jose, encompassing all of Santa Clara County, was inaugurated in 1981. It has grown steadily since then, to an estimated 650,000 members now. Yet, only three new parishes have been formed, the latest in 1994.
Four churches in East San Jose have been operating at capacity, with each offering 10 to 14 Masses every weekend. However, this has resulted in hectic scheduling, crowded seating and extreme parking problems.
For at least a decade Catholic leaders have studied this problem, seeking a way to provide more spiritual support for residents of this populous, multiethnic area. A school in the Santee neighborhood (bounded by U.S. 101 and 280, Senter and Tully roads) has provided space for 350 worshippers on weekends, but the neighborhood is home to some 23,000 residents. Something had to be done to better minister to the Catholics living here.
Last year an answer appeared: Our Father’s House, a Protestant congregation, moved from its facility on Lucretia Avenue, leaving two adjacent buildings vacant. The older one, dating to 1961, and the second one, dating to 1983, combine a two-story worship space seating 1,000, offices, classrooms, kitchens and meeting rooms, plus a large parking lot. The price to purchase and renovate was approximately $6 million.
The Diocese needed a creative financing plan to cover this cost, and four parishes offered to sponsor the new parish. St. Mary (Los Gatos) has pledged $50,000; St. Simon (Los Altos), $50,000; St. Patrick (San Jose), $50,000; and Holy Spirit (Almaden Valley) $100,000 per year for five years to support the new parish. Members of the other 50 parishes in the Diocese have together pledged another $1.5 million.
The new church is named Our Lady of Refuge (Nuestra Senora del Refugio), a title given to St. Mary as “Patroness of the Californias” in 1843 by the first Bishop of the Californias, Francisco Diego Garcia. Bishop Patrick J. McGrath chose this name from more than 200 suggestions submitted by local Catholics.
Father Brendan McGuire and Monsignor Francisco Rios have been named co-pastors of the new parish, with Monsignor Rios as the onsite pastoral minister. A native of Argentina, he came to the United States in 1994 to minister to Hispanic Catholics as a member of the Institute of the Incarnate Word.
Since then he has served many local parishes, most recently at St. John Vianney in the East San Jose foothills. In 2011, Rios requested that the Bishop relieve him from administrative responsibilities so that he could devote more time to working directly with parishioners. This new assignment will be ideal, since Holy Spirit’s pastor, Father Brendan McGuire, will handle most of the administrative duties of the new parish.
Father Rios is excited at the prospect of beginning this new ministry. In addition to three Sunday Masses (Spanish, English and Vietnamese), he looks forward to offering other opportunities to this low-income community as the parish develops:
– After-school tutoring
– English as a Second Language classes for adults
– Food programs in cooperation with the Second Harvest Food Bank
– Vocational classes through Catholic Charities
– Catechetical classes
– Prayer groups
“I feel blessed to have this opportunity because we have so much potential to help people,” Rios said. “I am grateful to all those who have provided us support, and I look forward to offering refuge to all in need of help and peace.”
The Dedication Mass for Our Lady of Refuge (2165 Lucretia Ave., San Jose) will be held at 3 p.m. Feb. 19 with Bishop McGrath presiding. A reception will follow. For more information, call (408) 715-2278.

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