Since 1962, a bronze-and-marble alcove at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery's impressive Mausoleum of the Apostles has been set aside for the spiritual leaders of a flock that now numbers about 560,000 Catholics in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
The Rev. Floyd L. Begin, the diocese's first bishop, is the only occupant of the 10-space niche off the mausoleum's chapel, resting in solitary splendor since his death in April 1977.
Now, plans are under way to disinter Begin's body and entomb it in a crypt for him and his successors at the Cathedral of Christ the Light now under construction in Oakland.
The Rev. Mark Wiesner, diocesan spokesman, said an underground mausoleum will be part of the cathedral at Grand Avenue and Harrison Street in downtown Oakland. It is across Lake Merritt from the current diocesan office on Lakeshore Avenue.
Transparent glass around the new cathedral's altar will allow light from the heavens to shine into the mausoleum below. Drawings and design plans on the cathedral Web site show the light symbolically uniting saints above, saints among us, and saints buried below.
Cathedral construction started in 2005, with completion expected in 2008.
How did Holy Sepulchre come to house the bishop's remains, with another Catholic cemetery St. Mary's already in Oakland?
Availability and space, explained Wiesner.
Holy Sepulchre had room for a large niche to be set aside for bishops, both at the time of the diocese's creation in 1962 and in the future.
Begin was succeeded by John Cummins, now retired, and the current bishop, Allen Vigneron.
East Bay growth in the post-World War II era prompted the Vatican to form a new diocese, based in Oakland, from areas previously part of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
St. Francis de Sales, a church on San Pablo Avenue in Oakland, wasdesignated the Oakland diocese's first cathedral. It did not have a mausoleum, and was seriously damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
It eventually was demolished, and its parish merged with St. Mary's Catholic Church in Oakland.
Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, on Mission Boulevard at Harder Road, was built in 1913 and is one of six diocesan cemeteries. The mausoleum, constructed in the 1920s, is graced by an exterior archway depicting Jesus Christ and the 12 apostles.
The interior contains ceilings and walls of intricately carved marble, glass windows depicting the steps towards redemption and religious statuary.
Visit http://www.christthelightcathedral.org for information on the cathedral project.