Legacy of St. Francis de Sales Cathedral
The Cathedral of Christ the Light is now intertwined in the legacy of St. Francis de Sales Cathedral. When Pope John XXIII established the Diocese of Oakland in 1962, he designated St. Francis de Sales as its first Cathedral. Originally built with funds from an Irish immigrant, Mrs. Mary J. Canning, the church had already served its growing population for many decades as a lively hub in central Oakland.
The parish became an early center of ethnic richness during World War II, when shipbuilders and servicemen and women of many backgrounds settled there with their families. In the 1970s St. Francis de Sales attracted immigrants from the Philippines and Vietnam, giving the parish a face that was practically universal.
After receiving its mission as Cathedral in 1962, the parish community rose to its new responsibilities, inspiring our Diocese with lively, well-planned liturgies, and exemplary social ministries that continue to this day. The music of St. Francis de Sales achieved a notable level of excellence in creating what local newspapers called the “Oakland Cathedral Sound,” an influential style that earned a national reputation lasting over 20 years. The parish was even praised in Time magazine.
Everything changed in October 1989 with the Loma Prieta earthquake. The Cathedral of St. Francis de Sales was not safe for use after the quake and the badly damaged building was razed four years later.
Now, from our new home overlooking beautiful Lake Merritt on the corner of Grand Avenue and Harrison Street, as members of the Catholic Parish of Christ the Light, we renew the legacy of the original Cathedral parish. This began in 2005 with the hospitality we provided at the new Cathedral’s ground blessing, and continues long past the September 25, 2008 dedication, as our parish becomes the nucleus of our new Cathedral presence.