St. Catherine of Siena Church celebrating 145th Feast Day

MARTINEZ, Calif. – St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church will be celebrating the 145th feast day this month of the saint for which the church is named.

The church will have a procession from Susana Park at 10 a.m. April 28, and return to the church at 11 a.m. to celebrate the Holy Eucharist. A catered reception with music will take place in the school’s yard at 12:30 p.m.

St. Catherine of Siena has been part of Martinez since the 19th century, a history of the church said. It played a role in the growth of the city.

St. Catherine herself wrote “Dialogue of Divine Providence,” in which she describes Jesus Christ as a bridge between heaven and earth. Her writings were used by Pope Emeritis Benedict XVI during a Nov. 24, 2010, Wednesday audience.

She was born Caterina di Giacomo di Benincasa March 25, 1347, during an epidemic of the Black Death, in Siena, Italy, and died April 29, 1380, in Rome, where she is buried. She became a scholastic philosopher and theologian in the Dominican Order, after deciding early in life she wanted to devote herself to God.

During her life, she gained the confidence of Pope Gregory XI, who sent her to Florence to negotiate peace when that city was at war with the pope, and promoted obedience to Pope Urban VI during the Great Schism of the West. She is regarded as one of the most influential writers in Catholicism.

Considered a significant Medieval-era figure, she is the first woman declared “Doctor of the Church” by Pope Paul VI, and is one of six patron saint of Europe, as proclaimed by Pope John Paul II. She and St. Francis of Assisi are considered patron saints of Italy.

The local parish has its roots across the Carquinez Strait. Prior to California’s statehood, Benicia was home to the parish of St. Dominics. In 1853, members of that parish began traveling by ferry to Martinez to lead monthly services in Brown’s Store, because there was no church for the Catholic congregation.

The congregation moved to an adobe church within a few years, then to a wooden building in 1866. But that structure blew over in a gale.

In 1868, a new wood frame church with a steeple was erected on the current site of St. Catherine’s, the corner of Estudillo and Mellus streets.

Catholic immigrants were attracted by both the Gold Rush and California’s statehood, and they arrived from Ireland, Italy, Portugal and other countries, joining those of Spanish ancestry in their common faith.

By 1873, the church became a full-fledged parish with a resident pastor. Among its members were familiar community names – Pacheco, DiMaggio, Nunes, Russo, Welch, Martinez, Marazzani, Moraga, Sparacino and Briones, the Oakland Diocese history relates.

St. Catherine’s cemetery is on the old road to Port Costa, and more than 2,500 parishioners are buried there, including Don Juan Savio Pacheco, co-founder of Concord, and Sam Rodia, designer and builder of Watts Towers in Los Angeles.

The school was added in 1949, and has educated thousands of students, some of whom have gone on to become community leaders.

St. Catherine’s is one of the oldest parishes in the Diocese of Oakland, and has been called “the mother church” of East Contra Costa County.

Those interested in attending the celebration are asked to email by April 23.

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