Monsignor John Sweeny Showed me What it Meant to be a Catholic
In 2002 Monsignor John Sweeny showed me what it meant to be a Catholic. With dignity and calm he prayed and obeyed as meetings were held to force him to step down. Monsignor Sweeny always told his parishioners that all would be well if we prayed, especially the rosary.
On the evening of March 12, 2002 seven officials of the Diocese of San Jose met with the staff and lay leaders at Our Lady of Peace in Santa Clara. Twenty parishioners prayed the rosary for them outside the closed door meeting.
Most staff and lay leaders coming out of the closed-door meetings expressed hope that Sweeny's legacy of emphasis on the sacraments and spirituality would not be changed.
Keith Robinson, one of the attendees of the lay leader meeting said "The lay leaders emphasized that Monsignor Sweeny had built a truly culturally diverse parish. We talked about the power of perpetual adoration, the focus on the Mass and the Eucharist, and confession."
"It felt different than a lot of churches I go around to here. The people were very focused on their prayers. They were kneeling. It just felt different" Richard Scheninin, religion and ethics writer for the San Jose Mercury News said.
"I immediately liked [Monsignor Sweeny] a lot. He seemed like a humble guy. There is something kind of dashing and youthful about him even though they say he is 77. He seemed like someone who would, without asking for it, demand respect. It gave me a little insight into why people feel so strongly about him."
The parishioners' meeting was a standing-room only crowd of approximately six hundred including reporters. Most parishioners expressed concern with possible changes and others were angered that Sweeny was stepping down.
At one point the crowd broke into a chant of "no change." Someone asked the crowd to calm down, and they did. Not too long after this a woman with children around her with a voice about to break asked that the parish not be changed.
After her an elderly blind woman said, "I'd like to see perpetual adoration stay. Another women said, "This is like our home." Towards the end of the meeting a man said that he had personally seen many people saved from suicide at Our Lady of Peace. He asked that the parish not be changed.
The meetings ended a little more than a week before Holy Week with many parishioners fearing their parish would be changed. The result of meetings came on March 27 during Holy Week. The diocese of San Jose announced that the Order of the Incarnate Word would be assuming responsibility for Our Lady of Peace later in the year.
Monsignor Sweeny said of the order "It's good. They are devoted to Our Blessed Virgin Mary through St. Louis De Monfort."