Thursday, March 16, 2006

Monsignor John Sweeny Eulogized in Santa Clara CA

  • Monsignor John Sweeny Eulogized in Santa Clara CA
  • Appeared on Mother Angelica Live
  • Humbly But Firmly Stood For Orthodox Catholic Beliefs and Practices
March 15, 2006, in Santa Clara CA in the Diocese of San Jose, mourners crowded the Church of Our Lady of Peace for a Funeral Mass for Reverend Monsignor John J. Sweeny, former pastor and creator of the Shrine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary at the parish

Our Lady of Peace Church, which was built in the 1960s in the middle of what used to be pear orchards

In spite of differences between the chancery and Monsignor Sweeny in the past, diocesan officials and the editor of the diocesan newspaper, who don't often use such terms, had no choice but to repeatedly use the word "saintly" when talking about Monsignor Sweeny during interviews with local reporters for his obituary. [Links are at the end of this email.]

Sweeny initially encountered diocesan opposition to his plans to erect a stainless steel statue of Our Lady at the shrine. The 32 foot height of the statue that he eventually got diocesan approval to build after negotiations was quite a bit smaller than he originally wanted it to be, but he partly made up the height difference by installing the statue on a 12 foot mound in front of the Church, where it prominently overlooks Highway 101.

The statue was dedicated on October 7, 1983 on the Feast of the Holy Rosary. It still stands as a tribute to traditional Catholicism in an area now solidly built up with hotels and Silicon Valley office buildings. From its vantage point, the statue portrays Our Lady as extending a motherly gaze and open arms to commuters and other passersby.

Yahoo headquarters are behind the statue.

Monsignor Sweeny once appeared on Mother Angelica Live, probably chosen for his life as a humble but determined devotee of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and of 24 hour Eucharistic adoration.

Starting under his pastorate, the church began to keep its doors open all the time, and 24 hour Eucharistic adoration (except for during Mass times) has continued for decades.

Church attendees who light candles in front of, bring flowers to, and embrace the church's many statues include a large proportion of ethnic minorities from the Philippines, Central and South America, and India, mixed in with many others from all socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds who are seeking a place where Catholicism as they once knew it is still practiced.

Under his pastoral leadership, the parish began to offer (and still offers) a Tridentine Latin Mass every first Saturday and on on other Saturdays offers the Novus Ordo Latin Mass (all with Gregorian chant at 7:30PM). The Ten Commandments are displayed directly to the right of the church door.

Monsignor Sweeny also offered a courageous witness when he encouraged and often led worshippers to pray the rosary weekly against abortion at nearby abortion mills. Bucking a diocesan trend downplaying the Sacrament, Our Lady of Peace parish priests began to provide the Sacrament of Penance before every Mass along with four hours on Saturday afternoons and evening. People from other parishes numbering 50 or more line up at the confessionals before every Mass.

Our Lady of Peace bucked yet another trend with its policy that only priests are allowed to dispense Communion to recipients, who kneel at the church's altar rail! Altar boys with gold patens attentively make sure that no particles of the Blessed Sacrament fall to the floor.

Photo of 82 year old mother of 10, Jean Foord, in the church parking lot, with her pro-life-bumper-sticker-bedecked car and one of the posters she carries to weekly anti-abortion rosary sessions at a local abortion mill.

And Monsignor Sweeny maintained all these practices in an era when these aspects of the Catholic faith were a very hard sell in the diocese.

Father Sweeny became pastor of Our Lady of Peace Church in 1969 and built the church and Shrine in what were formerly pear orchards. According to the shrine's website, the Shrine at Our Lady of Peace Church is the only major Marian Shrine on the West Coast between Our Lady of Sorrows Shrine in Portland, Oregon and the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

Monsignor Sweeny not only had a soft spot for people seeking to confess their sins. He also had a soft spot for homeless people. After Bishop McGrath asked him to retire at 75, to parishioners' dismay, two homeless women have told me how they miss him because he was kind and generous to them. Another of his soft spots was for homeless statues, evidenced by the fact that the Church and even the rectory parlor became home for many statues that were discarded from other parishes in the renovations after Vatican II.

Bishop McGrath made Father Sweeny a Monsignor at the same time he awarded the honor to several others, including Father Alexander Larkin, who was removed last year from his pastorate at Sacred Heart parish in Saratoga due to sexual abuse allegations.

Monsignor Sweeny was laid to rest today at Gate of Heaven cemetery in Los Altos, CA.


Wall Street Journal article

San Jose Mercury News news article

Another EWTN connection:
As the attached guest book entry says, Monsignor Sweeny traveled to Birmingham to witness the perpetual profession and ordination of Father Miguel Marie MFVE on June 4, 2004 and concelebrated Fr. Miguel's first Mass with him on June 6, 2004.
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