Bishop Stephen Blaire of the Catholic Diocese of Stockton has been a familiar face to parishioners at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Manteca since the beginning of October.
Before the month is over, more parishioners will have an opportunity to meet and greet, as well as worship with, the head of the six-county diocese as he completes his month-long visit to the faithful living in The Family City.
In what has been called “unprecedented in the Diocese of Stockton,” Bishop Blaire has undertaken a rigorous schedule of paying a month-long visit to each of the 34 parishes. The parish of St. Anthony of Padua in Manteca is only the second in the rigorous itinerary that will take him nearly three years to complete. The first parish that he visited last month was St. Mary of the Assumption in Stockton where the current pastor is Father Dean McFalls, former pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Lathrop.
As part of his pastoral visit, Bishop Blaire has presided, and will preside, in at least one of the Saturday Vigil and Sunday Masses. The first official Mass that he conducted was the 9 a.m. weekly school Mass for the students of St. Anthony of Padua School. The bishop, who has been a school teacher at one time, delighted the students with his presentation which included an explanation about the bishop’s attire and what his duties as head of the diocese entail. On Sunday this past weekend, he presided over the Masses at 8:45 and 10:45 a.m. The closing Mass of his month-long pastoral visit will be at the 12:30 p.m. Spanish Mass on Sunday, Oct. 30.
In addition to serving the faithful at the different Saturday anticipated Masses and Sunday worship services, Bishop Blaire is also meeting with the different church groups in the parish. This evening, for example, he is scheduled to meet with the music ministers of the church.
The six counties comprising the Diocese of Stockton are San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Calaveras, Tuolumne, Alpine and Mono – a 10,023-square-mile area with Mono County on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains which is usually cut off from the rest of the diocese in winter; and the counties of Calaveras, Tuolumne, and Alpine on the western side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range where most parishes date back to the Gold Rush days. The parish church in Mono County is located in Mammoth Lakes where many of the church goers are vacationers during the winter and summer months.
Other facts about the Diocese of Stockton, according to the diocese’s official web site: 1) the largest racial/ethnic groups in the diocese are White and Hispanic, 2) many are of Filipino and Southeast Asian descent, and, 3) the largest Azorean Portuguese population outside of the Azores is found in the Diocese of Stockton.