Its 50 years are as rich as the Valley in which it is located, but as the Diocese of Stockton celebrates its golden anniversary this year, it is looking forward rather than back.
The 34 Catholic parishes in the six counties of the diocese acknowledged the anniversary on June 10, but each did so in its own fashion. The counties include San Joaquín, Stanislaus, Calaveras, Tuolumne, Alpine, and Mono.
There's no scripted celebration of the decision of Pope John XXIII in 1962 to separate the region from the archdiocese of San Francisco.
"We wanted to have a celebration, but we decided we weren't going to have a great big, one-location celebration," Bishop Stephen E. Blaire said. "Only a certain number of people can come, and it gets expensive. We decided we were going to celebrate the 50th anniversary with ordinary events. We decided, with the pastors, that parishes would celebrate this Sunday, which is the Feast of Corpus Christi ... the feast of the body and blood of Christ. That fits in perfectly with the sacrament of the Eucharist, which is at the heart of the church."
One of the key components of Blaire's explanation is that the decision was made by the diocese pastors, and giving them a voice, a say in matters relevant to their churches, was the biggest benefit of the diocese being formed.
"We had been part of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, which at that time included most of Northern California," said Thomas Shephard Sr., an attorney who's a member of the faith and has represented the diocese legally for the past 35 years.
"The bishop would come once a year for confirmation and things like that, but you didn't see him and you weren't involved with him. It was a great change. To have our own bishop here, in a relatively small country area, it made a considerable difference. You could talk to him, and if you didn't like something you could tell him. It was a collaborative process between the diocese and the parishes. It was good for the church."