From L.A. City Hall to a gala dinner and five regional receptions, expressions of thanks and love for Bishop J. Jon Bruno and Mary Bruno flowed from nearly 1,000 participants gathered in advance of his November retirement 18 years after being elected to lead the six-county Diocese of Los Angeles.
“Love has always been the guiding principle,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said of the bishop’s ministry, standing with the Brunos in City Council chambers Oct. 18. Speaking of Bruno’s role as both pastor and prophet, Garcetti called the bishop “a man with the biggest heart I know, who pastors unlike anybody I’ve ever met. But he’s also been a prophet… at difficult moments and at crises we’ve faced, he’s always steered our faces and our feet toward justice.”
Underscoring Bruno’s “Hands in Healing” and “Seeds of Hope” initiatives, Garcetti cited the bishop’s work of “fighting for justice, raising his voice for the voiceless for so many years. Whether it was his work… to address our homeless brothers and sisters, LGBTQ Angelenos, folks in our immigrant communities, he’s not only stood up for those voices, he has brought us all together to do the same.”
Before presenting Bruno with a commemorative scroll on behalf of L.A.’s 4 million residents and the region’s 18 million people, Garcetti said the bishop “has been so important in my life, but I know I’m not the only Angeleno who has those sorts of memories. In fact, you could probably multiply that ten-thousand-fold in this city…. This truly is an angel in this City of Angels.”
A few weeks later, with 370 seated in the nave of St. John’s Pro-Cathedral, the Nov. 4 Bishop’s Dinner raised more than $180,000 to benefit the diocese’s 41 mission congregations and mission centers while honoring the Brunos for their extensive service across the diocese where the bishop first entered ordained ministry 40 years ago.
All dinner proceeds apply to mission thanks to generous underwriting of the dinner by Geoffrey Rusack and his wife, Alison Wrigley Rusack, both present among the dinner’s honored guests. Geoffrey Rusack’s father, the late Rt. Rev. Robert Claflin Rusack, served the Diocese of Los Angeles first as bishop suffragan beginning in 1964 and then as diocesan from 1974 until his untimely death in 1986.
Bishop Coadjutor John H. Taylor offered closing remarks and prayer, co-hosting with his wife, Kathy Hannigan O’Connor. Retired Bishop Suffragan Chester Talton gave the invocation, and the honorary canons of the diocese stood to lead an ovation for the Bruno family, pledging particular ongoing support for Mary Bruno’s Educate for Hope program in Zababdeh, a West Bank township.
The dinner was planned and coordinated by the Rev. Lorenzo Lebrija with the cathedral’s operations team overseen by the Rev. Fernando Valdes. An original anthem composed by Brian Driscoll in honor of Bishop Bruno was performed as a gift to him with singers conducted by cathedral music director Christopher Gravis with Zach Neufeld as organist. A video presentation produced by diocesan communication specialist Chris Tumilty recapped highlights of the Brunos’ ministries.
In remarks to the dinner attendees, the bishop expressed his gratitude to the diocesan community and to his family. Acknowledging the difficulty of the last two years’ property disputes and related ecclesiastical proceedings, he said that “No matter what happens in our lives, I thank you, the people of the Diocese of Los Angeles for standing by me and supporting me.”
Bruno recounted several highlights of his ministry, including his ordination by Bishop Rusack, early ministry when Bruno served as rector of Echo Park’s St. Athanasius Church which at the time was torn by internal conflict, and that parish’s subsequent donation of its site for construction of the Cathedral Center of St. Paul.
More memories were shared the previous Saturday at Church of the Epiphany in Lincoln Heights, the congregation through which Bruno as a young teen began attending the Episcopal Church. Canon Patsy Briereley was present to recount how she, 55 years ago, knocked on the Bruno family’s door while inviting neighborhood residents to a youth dance. Then a young football player, Bruno answered the door, attended the dance, and the rest became history.
Canon Lydia Lopez, also long associated with the Epiphany congregation, also shared memories and praised Bruno among the Episcopal Church’s greatest urban bishops of several generations. Mariachi joined Epiphany priest Tom Carey in welcoming some 150 guests present for a brunch fiesta on the street facing the historic church, its parish hall dating from 1886.
Similar gatherings were held on preceding Saturdays in the south, east and north of the diocese. On Sept. 30 at St. George’s Church in Laguna Hills a brunch gathering included music performed by a Japanese choir and a soloist who sang “Time to Say Goodbye,” a ballad made popular by the vocalist Andrea Bocelli that reflected Bruno’s Italian heritage. The event was hosted by the Rev. Canon Pat McCaughan, vicar. An Oct. 7 afternoon gathering at St. Michael’s Ministry Center in Riverside featured presentations of multicultural gifts and music, as well as reports of local mission to the needy in ministries established by the bishop. The Rev. Canon Mary Crist, program director, hosted the program. On Oct. 14 St. Patrick’s Church in Thousand Oaks, the first congregation where Bruno served as curate, hosted a reception and announced the renovation of a parish-owned residence in honor of the Brunos. The celebration was hosted by the Rev. George Daisa, rector.
On Oct. 1 at San Gabriel’s Church of Our Saviour, Stillpoint, a diocesan institution dedicated to spiritual direction and formation, hosted an evening reception and program highlighted by reflections and a litany of thanksgiving for ministries advanced by the Brunos. The gathering was welcomed by the Rev. Gary Bradley, rector, and the litany was led by presenters including the Rev. Elizabeth Rechter, Stillpoint executive director.
Based on gospel passages of Matthew 25 and culminating with attendees assembled in a candle-lit circle, the litany was divided into sections recalling areas of service established and strengthened during the Brunos’ tenure, including the following:
“I was hungry, and you gave me food: For Seeds of Hope, Abundant Table, Chef’s Kitchen, and the Diocesan Food Pantry program, pastoral care spiritual, emotional and financial support; aid for parishes and missions in need; commitment to the spiritual life of leaders through the ministry of Stillpoint.
“I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink: For courageous work in the Middle East in partnership with the Cathedral of St. George; “For acknowledging our One Light as people of faith in Interfaith and Ecumenical leadership in Los Angeles in a post-911 world, especially his leadership of the Council of Religious Leaders in Los Angeles;
“For courageous leadership and compassion on the journey toward marriage equality, equal rights for our LGBTQ sisters and brothers, and for his support of women in leadership; for lifting up the ministry of the diaconate, the ministry of the Laity through Liderazo, and for his the support of the Episcopal Seminary at Bloy House.
“I was a stranger, and you welcomed me: For the work of the First Sanctuary movement in Los Angeles, and the Sanctuary Task Force; the expansion of the ministry of IRIS, the Interfaith Refugee and Immigrant Services; and his leadership in the founding of Chirla, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights; for the establishment of the Refugee Law Center; for his support of the ministries of our Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish, and Korean congregations; for envisioning a place of hospitality in Echo Park through the Cathedral Center and Retreat House; for the continuation of Holy Family Adoption and Foster Care Services and for his sustaining support of the Neighborhood Youth Association.
“I was sick, and you took care of me: For his support of the work of Good Samaritan Hospital and its CPE and chaplaincy programs; “For his compassion and care in the AIDS crisis, and for his support of ministries serving those with HIV/AIDS throughout the diocese; for his leadership convening the 2015 churchwide climate change webcast.
“I was naked, and you gave me clothing: For the Nehemiah Housing Project; for HUD Housing; for the founding work of the Institute for Urban Research and Development.
“I was in prison, and you visited me: For his initiative in the work of nonviolence and reconciliation through the Hands in Healing Youth Initiative, Kaleidoscope; PRISM, and the Community of Divine Love.
“We give great thanks for the stewardship of the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno in caring for the resources and property of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the national Episcopal Church, and for a heart that sees and respects the dignity of every human being.”