A very special event was held last Sunday, Nov. 6 in the Sacramento Delta town of Clarksburg at St. Joseph Church – a place of worship both historically and presently connected with the Pocket area – as members of the parish gathered to participate in a Sept. 11-themed, 25-year time capsule ceremony.
Following the 9:30 a.m. Mass, members of the church gathered at the northeast corner of the church, where Father Dan Madigan conducted the ceremony.
The brick time capsule will be opened during another ceremony in 2036. Two large, blue plastic storage containers filled with items of remembrances and historical records pertaining to Sept. 11, 2001 and the church were placed inside the capsule, as well as other items.
Additionally, parishioners donated personal items associated with their own connections to the church.
Items placed in the time capsule included: a firefighter’s rosary, a book about Sept. 11, a newspaper announcing the deaths of Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, a Pentagon/Sept. 11 memorabilia album donated by the Scott family of the Pocket area, copies of Madigan’s published books, photographs and one of the notable jackets of former St. Joseph parishioner Joe Borges (the founder of Clarksburg’s airport), newspaper clippings and photographs of early St. Joseph social clubs, the then-latest edition of The Sacramento Bee and the May 19, 2011 edition of The Pocket News, which includes an article with details about the Soto Ferry that transported parishioners to and from the church’s side of the river and the Pocket area.
As part of the ceremony, the cover of the time capsule was placed over the capsule to be sealed the following day.
Speaking at the event were Madigan, Jacqueline “Jackie” Pometta and Deacon Jim Healy.
The speeches were devoted in remembrance of the people who were directly affected by the Sept. 11 tragedies.
A pre-written Sept. 11 prayer was simultaneously read aloud by the group. The prayer included the words: “Almighty and ever-loving God, we remember Sep. 11, 2001, and pray for all those who were affected by the terrible events of that day. We remember, with love and respect, all of those who went tragically to their deaths. We remember those who still suffer from their injuries of that day 10 years ago and pray for their recovery. We remember the still grieving families and friends and all who lost loved ones.”
In closing the ceremony, Jennifer Kirtlan-Tickler led attendees of the event in the singing of “America the Beautiful.”
Following the service, Pometta, who served as the chairman of the ceremony, explained the story behind how she came to organize the event.
“What happened is: we were having our first annual barbecue and it just happened to fall on 9/11,” said Pometta, whose son-in-law, Air Force Sergeant Jason Dudley, survived an air attack over Iraq about eight years ago. “So, we thought, ‘Let’s make this really special for our first barbecue (and) we’ll do a time capsule.’ It started out as just doing items for 9/11 and then we decided that it was very important to put articles in (the time capsule) about the church.”
As part of the preparation for filling the time capsule, Pometta distributed a questionnaire for all the parishioners to describe where they were 10 years ago, when the events of Sept. 11 occurred, what memories they have of this infamous time in history and what the parish means to them.
Pometta said that she gained a greater understanding of the importance of the time capsule after two particular youth filled out the questionnaire.
“These (youth) were six years old (on Sept. 11, 2001) and they could remember what (9/11) was about and that’s when I started thinking, ‘This is very important for our children to know about this time capsule, so they know what they’re going to see,’” Pometta said.
Madigan, 74, said that he believes that the eventual opening of the time capsule should be a great experience for those who attend the 2036 ceremony.
“I think (placing a time capsule at the church) was a great idea,” Madigan said. “You can imagine the excitement here (in 25 years) and going in there and getting all kinds of literature and books, wine and all kinds of things. I would imagine that it would be a lovely, lovely day with great excitement to see the newspapers and everything. Hopefully they will be opening this (time capsule in 25 years) and I hope on that day they will invite me and that I will be here to say a few words.”
St. Joseph Church’s rich Pocket area connection
As previously mentioned, the Pocket area has a rich connection with St. Joseph Church, as the history of this church dates back to October 1892, when John Soto donated the Yolo County land for the sole purpose of building a Catholic church for the Portuguese farming community.
St. Joseph Church was consecrated in September 1893 and remained the area’s only Catholic church until the dedication of the Pocket area’s Igreja de Santa Maria – later known as St. Maria Church – on May 31, 1914.
Dredgers were later used to build up the river levees and because the old church was on the edge of the area’s levee, during winter months, when the river ran high, the water lapsed into the front doors of the church.
When the levee was raised, the original church had to be demolished and a new church was built further down from the levee on flat ground.
Father Joseph Cunha, who served as St. Joseph’s pastor from 1922 to 1932, initiated and led the drive to raise funds for the construction of the new church.
The new church, which was built on land owned by W.W. Dwyer, Ethel Clare Dwyer and Mary E. Devlin with bricks manufactured from the brickyard that was located in the Pocket area, was built with its doors facing east.
Despite the loss of the original church, a portion of the old church remains in use today, as lumber from the old church was used in the construction of the new church.
Furthermore, the original church’s rectory was saved. The walkway connecting the old church with the rectory was removed and the rectory was remodeled and moved immediately north of the new church.
On May 11, 1924, Father Guilhermes Gloria, who was an active priest in the Northern California Portuguese community, dedicated the new church, which is located immediately south of the original church, adjacent to the old Soto property.
Cunha is quite notable in St. Joseph’s history as being the last pastor to say Mass at the original church and first pastor to say Mass at the then-new, now current church.
Today, because of the development of the Pocket area, there are no Portuguese ranches. Many Catholics of this area rely on St. Joseph Church for non-Portuguese-speaking Catholic services.
Although the Pocket and Clarksburg communities continue to have members of some of the original Portuguese immigrant farming families, these locals are now in the minority of the congregation of the present St. Joseph parish.
But the fact remains that St. Joseph Church has a more than century long connection to the Pocket area.