The following interview with His Excellency Allen Henry Vigneron, then Bishop of Oakland, was conducted for the Fall 2004 edition of the Thomas Aquinas College Newsletter.
Q: In a sermon last year, you said the chief and overriding work of priests and bishops is to strengthen the holiness of the Church and that what you desire most as the Bishop of Oakland is to produce a saint worthy of canonization. Can you tell us your "strategy?"
A: (Laughter) Well, the short answer is: to the degree that I can be the bishop the Church expects me to be, I will do that. I think sound catechesis is essential to accomplish this act-the catechesis that is aimed ultimately at bringing people to contemplate the face of Christ. Another important part of the strategy-an indispensable part-is ever deepening love for the Holy Eucharist. And that means also a renewal of the sacrament of Penance and more frequent Confession.
Q: Has your experience as Rector of Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit been helpful to you in your new responsibilities as Bishop of Oakland?
A: Yes. The bishop of a diocese has to be attentive to everybody, to all the different groups within his diocese. But it is very clear from the readings of the fathers, the theologians, and the popes that the bishop must be attentive first to the pastoral care of his priests. The rector of a seminary is responsible for all dimensions of priestly formation-the intellectual, the spiritual, the pastoral and the human. My experience with the formation of seminarians has been quite useful in my pastoral work with the priests of the diocese.
Q: What are your plans in the coming year for the Diocese of Oakland?
A: It is very important for the bishop to directly serve the people, without being removed two or three steps. It is important for him simply to go to the parishes and, for instance, spend whole weekends there. It's not easy, given the other kinds of demands, but I have seen it work in other dioceses. I'm going to start that.
“In our classroom discussions, we are not only given free rein to speak, but free rein to think. No question is off the table. Anything that can bring a more full understanding of the truth is welcomed and encouraged.”
– Christopher Sebastian (’13)