THE REV. DR. MAURICIO JOSE WILSON
Rector, St. Paul's Episcopal Church Oakland, California
THE REV. DR. MAURICIO J. WILSON
Born Mauricio Jose Wilson Cole, during a time when his family resided in the province of Limon on the Atlantic Coast of Costa Rica in the small town of Siquirres. He is the fourth of five siblings. The family moved to the capital city of San Jose a little before he started first grade. Aside from the 3 years the family was in Atlanta, GA for his father’s seminary training, Mauricio’s education, through his first graduate degree, was in Costa Rica.
A lifelong Episcopalian, he is the child of deeply committed church leaders, his mother serves as a multidimensional lay leader of her parish and his father (R.I.P.) was Bishop of Costa Rica and Presiding Bishop of Central America. Fr. Mauricio started preaching at age 17, and was Youth Director of the Diocese of Costa Rica for 15 years. A business and accounting major at the University of Costa Rica, he was a registered CPA in his home country, eventually working as an auditor for Coopers Lybrand Accounting, the Coca Cola Co. and for Banex, a private bank. “My first calling was always to the priesthood,” said Fr. Wilson, who is bilingual in English and Spanish. “Accounting was my backup plan.” He attained the Doctor of Ministry degree in Ministry Development from Virginia Theological Seminary in 2013, as well as Master's degrees in Divinity and Sacred Theology (Liturgy) from General Theological Seminary in 2000 and 2001 respectively.
Fr. Wilson, who also answers to Fr. Mauricio, became rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in October 2009. Since arriving in the Bay Area to serve at St. Paul’s he has also been active in ministries around Oakland and the Diocese of California. He is a member of the Standing Committee and chairs the Afro Anglican Commission of the diocese. As the rector of St. Paul’s, he holds ex-officio seats on the Board of Clausen House in Oakland and St Paul’s Episcopal School. He is a member of the Governing Board of the National Association of Episcopal Schools. He is the Western Regional Director of the Union of Black Episcopalians.
He served on the Executive Council of the Diocese, the Program and Budget Committee and chaired the Assessment Relief Committee as well as the Diocesan Committee on Nominations. Fr. Wilson was a Mayoral appointee to the City of Oakland’s Citizens Police Review Board and served as a Commissioner for 2016 and 2017.
His wife Karla is a Doctor of Mechanical Engineering, and they have two children. His hobbies include cooking (his kids love his Thanksgiving lasagna), collecting wines and driving different kinds of vehicles. He’s looking forward to learning to drive an 18-wheeler and a race car someday. His favorite book is Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons and he figures he’s seen his favorite movie, The Matrix, 150 to 200 times.
CANDIDATE RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS
Question 1. Describe your relationship with Christ and how it shapes your ministry.
My 88-year-old, lifelong Episcopalian mother likes to remind her children that we have been in relationship with Christ since before we were born, as she would sing church hymns and pray with us when we were in her womb. My earliest memories of life are all related to being a member of a God-fearing and Church committed family. Being in church and actively participating was encouraged and supported. I knew from Sunday School that Jesus loved me “for the Bible tells me so.”
Sometime around the age of 14 to 15, something changed drastically for me. I started to experience Jesus in a more personal way. Participating and leading youth retreats and events led to a lot of personal spiritual work and faith development. It was at one retreat that I first heard Pescador de Hombres by Cesareo Gabarain, and in the singing, I heard Christ call.
Señor, me has mirado a los ojos, sonriendo has dicho mi nombre.
(Lord, you have looked in my eyes, smiling, you have called my name.)
En la arena he dejado mi barca: junto a Ti buscaré otro mar.
(I have left my boat on the sand, with you I will seek another sea.)
I returned home and told my parents that I felt God’s calling to be a priest in the church.
I have spent 40 plus years enjoying an indescribable relationship with Jesus. I can say without hesitation that Jesus is my unmovable rock. I am in constant conversation and prayer with Christ. I share the greatest joys, deepest sorrows and even my anger with Jesus. When I'm unable to understand the whys of my life and the world around me, it is Christ I count on for clarity, or to knock some sense into me. It is Christ who brings me back to center when I go astray.
My life as a minister of the Good News of Jesus Christ continues to be focused on trying to invite and help as many people as I can to develop and live a deep, personal, and strong relationship with Christ.
Question 2. What is it about our profile that gets you excited, and how do you think your skills and experiences are well-suited to serve the Diocese of New Jersey as Bishop?
I automatically connected with many areas of the profile because of my experiences with them, including:
· Youth and Campus Ministry – I was youth director for the Diocese of Costa Rica for 14 years and led youth groups in the dioceses of Long Island and New York. Children, youth, and young adults are the church of today, not of tomorrow.
· Formation for lay and ordained people – I’ve conducted lay leadership workshops, served on the boards of Mercer School of Theology (for lay and clergy) and Church Divinity School of the Pacific.
· Finances - I’ve served congregations with little money, as well as congregations plush with resources. I’m also a trained accountant.
· Companion Diocese – My home Diocese of Costa Rica was companion with the Diocese of New Jersey.
What stands out most is that both in words and pictures, there is an emphasis on understanding the diversities that exist within the Diocese. It is a truth that should bring warmth and joy to God’s people, for it is a reflection of the Kingdom of God. Leaning into being in relationships with people who are different from us helps us grow and gain a better understanding of the wide expanse of God’s creative actions.
I have led and been involved in ministries in diverse settings. I have served congregations in four dioceses. There have been opportunities to meet and minister with incredible people throughout the years, from rural banana farms in Costa Rica to wealthy estate owners in Great Neck, NY, from the hills of Oakland to the impoverished mountains of Haiti. Being fully bilingual, I have served congregations with people from Spanish speaking countries around the world. I have enjoyed informal barbershop conversations, as well as forums with mayoral candidates and police-citizen dialogues.
One of my greatest joys has been walking with individuals in their process of being family: heterosexual and non-binary couples, foster families, interracial adoptions, intentional single parents and more, with couples of all kinds coming to God’s altar to make formal commitments to each other and bringing their children to the font for baptism.
God has gifted me with countless opportunities to minister and be a pastor among people of extraordinarily diverse life experiences, and I believe that these are elements of a strong footing to serve as bishop of New Jersey.
Question 3. What new and hopeful perspectives and ideas can you bring to the conversation about church decline that support and encourage long-term solutions?
One of my concerns for our church is the continued assertion that the church is dying. I do not believe this to be true. The church is changing, not ending. Since its beginning, the body of Christ has adapted to many cultural and global transitions. The church of the first Pentecost, or even of the first millennia is not the same as today’s, and it will not be the same tomorrow or in 100 years.
The Episcopal Church is a place where we treasure people’s gifts. We welcome people from different walks of life to come in and contribute to the overall life of the faith community and the world. It reflects what we have to give and what others have shared with us. I believe that all humans are constantly trying to be in contact to have a deeper connection, with the essence of themselves. In the church, we call it the Holy Spirit. For centuries we have built up a language that not everyone can understand. We need to create new ways to communicate it, so we are able to offer it to those who are searching as a tool in finding the godly presence within. It is imperative that we step out of our beautiful buildings and make ourselves available to those looking to be in dialogue with us about the being we call God.
Additionally, we must encourage our member’s call to ministry. The Episcopal Church has a very strong focus on the leadership and ministry of priests and bishops. If we are going to be effective, we must continue empowering the ministry of deacons and the laity, as well as allowing those discerning a call to the priesthood the freedom to envision themselves outside of buildings and liturgical settings.
As a member of the Governing Board of the National Association of Episcopal Schools we’ve had conversations about our schools being fertile ground for ministry. In my 13+ years of working with St. Paul’s Episcopal School, I have found this to be true. The church and school have partnered to bring together children of many different walks of life through a strong tuition assistance program. We have also partnered for joint community outreach. Many families who claim no religious affiliation count Friday chapels as their time for spiritual connection.
Question 4. Social justice is near and dear to the heart of the Diocese of New Jersey. How has social justice been a part of your ministry and how would you see your role in moving social justice forward in the Diocese of NJ? Please give examples.
For me, seeking justice, social and otherwise, is a direct way in which we ought to live our baptismal commitment to renounce all the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God. It is also how we live the vow to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.
Time and again through human history we have degraded and dehumanized each other. We have caused each other to see ourselves as less than the good that God created. The justice work I have been involved in has been inspired by a desire and hope to bring restoration to those who feel alienated for being who God created them to be.
I am the chair of the Afro Anglican Commission of the Diocese of California (4 years), Chapter co-chair of the Northern California/Vivian Traylor Chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians (5 years), and Western Regional Director of the U.B.E. (3 years). These three ministries have allowed me to partner with diocesan leaders to put forth resolutions such as the establishment of the Juneteenth Feast Day and the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act.
At St. Paul’s we have worked to assist and advocate for people with food insecurity. For over 10 years we’ve given out thousands of pounds of food through our Pantry of Hope, serving 80 to 100 families.. This has been possible through the commitment of church and community volunteers, as well as partnerships with businesses and organizations. This Thanksgiving and Christmas we will be distributing over 600 meals to seniors in our local cities.
Over the last two decades, St. Paul’s has been intentional in the advocacy, partnership and full inclusion of people who identify as LGBTQAI+ in all aspects of the life of the church and community. We cosponsored the inaugural City of Oakland Pride Parade.
What I have learned over the years is that great desires and dreams to restore the dignity of every human being becomes more achievable if we are willing to partner with others. What I seek to bring to the ministries of the Diocese of New Jersey is a renewed sense of being open to join others in doing what needs to be done for the betterment of our communities.