Rev. Michael P. Norkett
During a Jan. 26 funeral Mass that evoked laughter in one moment and tears the next, Rev. Michael P. Norkett was remembered for embracing his gifts of presence and humor that he skillfully used to accompany his fellow priests as well as parishioners and friends throughout his priestly ministry.
"If you feel that Michael loved you the most, you were right," said Rev. Jim Schexnayder, a retired priest of the Diocese of Oakland who delivered the eulogy at the Mass held at Oakland's Cathedral of Christ the Light.
"He accompanied us through difficult and joyful times," said Father Schexnayder. "He went wherever he was needed."
Father Norkett, who was 78 and would have celebrated his 50th anniversary as a priest in May, spent nearly three decades serving as pastor at parishes around the diocese — at St. Columba, Oakland (1978-81); St. Joseph (Mission San Jose), Fremont (1981-90); St. Bonaventure, Concord (1994-96); St. Mary, Immaculate Conception, Oakland (1991-93); and at St. Paschal Baylon, Oakland (2001-2010). He also served as co-pastor with the late Father James Keeley at St. Mary-St. Francis de Sales, Oakland (1993-94).
Bishop Emeritus John Cummins credited Father Norkett for helping to steer the reconstruction of historic Mission San Jose in Fremont, which included having to deal simultaneously with city and county officials as well as local historians and diocesan entities. "Michael survived all of that," Bishop Cummins said. "He took care of that project very well."
Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, the principal celebrant at the Mass, also lauded the late priest for his work in helping to raise funds to build the Cathedral of Christ the Light. "We would not be worshipping here" if it was not for Father Norkett's work, the bishop said. "He was a loyal priest through and through."
In addition to these pastoral and administrative tasks he spent nine years as director of clergy services for the diocese, which Father Schexnayder described as one of the priest's most challenging assignments. He was charged with walking with and providing support to priests going through "difficult times."
Even as his own health declined in recent years, Father Norkett "never stopped being a priest," Father Schexnayder said. "He made Christ present in his suffering."
Born in Chicago, Father Norkett graduated with a bachelor's degree in sociology at Loyola University in Chicago in 1964. Around that time, while on vacation in Rome, he met Oakland Bishop Floyd L. Begin, who was attending the Second Vatican Council. The bishop encouraged the young man's vocation to the priesthood.
After returning to Illinois he studied at St. Procopius Seminary for three years and completed his studies at St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park. Rejoining his seminary classmates, Father Norkett was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop R. R. Blanchard in Joliet, Illinois on May 25, 1968.
Father Norkett also served at St. Lawrence O'Toole-St. Cyril Parish in Oakland; St. Augustine Parish, Oakland; Church of the Good Shepherd in Pittsburg; and St. Theresa in Oakland.
Father Norkett is survived by his brother and sister-in-law, Martin and Anne of Chicago; and his sister-in-law, Barbara, also of Chicago; and 10 nephews and nieces.
Rev. Richard Culver
Rev. Richard Culver, a retired priest of the Diocese of Oakland and a former pastor and parochial administrator at Our Lady Queen of the World Parish in Bay Point, died Jan. 25. He was 75.
Father Culver, a native of Los Angeles, went to a junior seminary right after high school. He left a year later to help support his widowed mother and polio-stricken brother. And he went to work for Bank of America, the start of a 19-year career in the banking industry.
He eventually moved to the East Bay and joined Most Precious Blood, now St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Concord, where he became a extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and helped to organize and teach religious education classes. Drawn again to the priesthood, he entered the Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, a seminary for men with late vocations to the priesthood, in 1981. He completed his studies at St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park and served his diaconate year at St. Joseph Parish in Pinole. He was ordained to the priesthood on Sept. 14, 1985, by Bishop John S. Cummins.
Following his ordination he served at Holy Spirit Parish in Fremont. From 1994 to 2014 he served as parochial vicar, parochial administrator and pastor at Our Lady Queen of the World Parish.
The funeral Mass took place Feb. 2 at Our Lady Queen of the World Church. Interment followed at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Lafayette.
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