JANUARY 12 , 2004
Official newspaper of the Roman Catholic
Diocese of Oakland, California encompassing all of
Alameda &
Contra Costa counties.






Homeless fed
in Hayward park

Burundi rebels
threaten archbishop
State Dept. cites
religious intolerance
Father Mark Wiesner named leader of parish
St. Leander Parish receives interim administrator

Brentwood parish gets ready to move into its new church

Efforts to protect children’s health earn honors
Workshop to focus on community investing
O’Dowd grad joins Maryknoll as lay missioner

Priest adds parish to his work as writer, counselor

FACE hopes to raise
$300,000 for tuition
Priest uses magic to
teach theology
Former acolyte to be ordained as Oblate priest
Priest works to create
a ‘culture of vocations’
Workshop to explore theology of the body
EWTN now available on Comcast digital tier
Local CCHD grants

Folding our hands is one way to embody prayer

‘Frankenfood’ or
feeding the hungry?
Terri Schiavo – a medical and moral reality

• Bishop Vigneron

Bishop to preside at apology services

Audits find most dioceses complied with clergy sexual abuse reforms

By Kevin Eckstrom
Religion News Service

WASHINGTON – Exactly two years after the sexual abuse scandal erupted in the Catholic Church, 82 percent of U.S. dioceses have implemented reforms intended to protect children from predatory priests, Catholic leaders reported Jan. 6.

A $1.8 million audit of 191 U.S. dioceses found that 157, including the Oakland Diocese and all other arch/dioceses in the state, had “fully complied” with new abuse policies contained in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, adopted by the bishops 18 months ago. Thirty-four dioceses still have unaddressed instructions or recommendations.
Oakland Bishop Allen Vigneron said the publication of the audit results marked “a significant milestone” in the efforts of U.S. dioceses to ensure the safety of children and young people.

“As a result of our experience of the audit process here in Oakland,” he said, “we have received solid confirmation of all the good we have achieved and helpful guidance about how to make a strong program even stronger.”
Of the 34 dioceses having outstanding obligations, most related to implementing comprehensive safe environment programs to protect children in church settings, and conducting background checks on all church employees and volunteers who work with minors.

The six-month audit by investigators from the Boston-based Gavin Group is the first national measure of the Church’s efforts to root out sex abuse by clergy and other Church workers.

“I believe that these findings show that we bishops are keeping our word,” said Bishop Wilton Gregory of Belleville, Ill., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He said the audits, summarized in a 418-page report, show “solid progress on the journey toward fulfilling the vision set out in the Charter.”
Investigators graded dioceses on the appointment of lay review boards to assess abuse allegations, criminal background checks on church personnel, outreach programs to victims and guidelines for handling their claims, whether accused priests had been transferred to another diocese, and other measures.

During the audit, investigators issued “instructions” to 57 dioceses that had not implemented all or part of the reforms adopted in Dallas in June 2002; in addition, 125 dioceses were given “recommendations” to improve their policies to bring themselves into full compliance.

The Oakland Diocese, audited in July, received three recommendations that it implemented in the fall. It was then found to be in full compliance with the Charter.

The recommendations were to develop a better plan for monitoring nine priests removed from ministry because of abuse claims, to reach out to ethnic communities beyond Latinos and English-speakers, and to consolidate various diocesan policies concerning the protection of children and young people into one document.

Sixty-eight percent (129) dioceses received from one to six “Commendations,” most often for having instituted sexual abuse policies and codes of conduct prior to the adoption of the Charter.

Oakland was commended for its “remarkable” outreach program to victims, which began in 1999. The report said the diocese showed “foresight and effort” in establishing this “highly successful” program.

Other commendations include the Archdiocese of Chicago’s program for counseling victims, Boston’s “aggressive” plans to train 200,000 people in preventing abuse and Washington’s employee-fingerprint system.

Only three dioceses — Davenport, Iowa; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; and an Armenian Eastern Rite diocese in New York — were not surveyed, due to either time or legal constraints.

William Gavin, director of the Gavin Group and a former FBI official, said 20 dioceses have unaddressed instructions, and 14 have recommendations that still need to be implemented.

“For the most part, it was not a refusal to adhere to the policies, it was a lack of understanding on how best to do that,” said Gavin.

Although most of the report on the audit findings assessed each diocese’s implementation of the Charter, one eight-page chapter recommends additional ways dioceses can insure safe environments for children and reach out to victims and their families.

In their recommendations, Gavin and Kathleen McChesney, who heads the bishops’ Office for Child and Youth Protection, said the diocesan abuse policies must now take root in the country’s 19,000 parishes.

Heading their list was a proposal to strengthen sexual abuse awareness, prevention and response in parishes, schools, and youth programs.
“This is particularly important because children and young people are most involved in church activities at the parish level,” the report said.

They recommended that McChesney’s office develop guidelines for dioceses to achieve this parish-level implementation. It urged that a mechanism be put in place that would assess parish participation.

In addition, they called on the bishops to conduct a national study on better ways to reach out to victims, to keep more uniform records on clergy abuse, and to track down known abusers who have moved and could strike again.

“We have a long way to go” in improving outreach to victims, said McChesney.

The report asked bishops to assure that priests do not wear clerical garb when they appear as defendants in criminal cases involving sexual abuse of a minor.
The report also recommended that bishops be given more assistance on how to insure that priests coming to work in the U.S. from other countries have not been accused or found guilty of abusing minors.

Gavin and McChesney urged the bishops to repeat the on-site audits in 2004 for a better sense of long-term compliance.

“Failing to create a long-term plan for accountability and response to the crisis of sexual abuse of children and youth would undermine the substantial efforts that have been made thus far,” the report said.

It recommended that future audits include the number of new allegations made during the year, the number of actions taken on admitted or established acts of abuse, the number of victims, and the financial costs.

Bishop Vigneron said he found the audit report “welcome encouragement as we work together with renewed commitment to implement the Dallas Charter.”
Next month, the bishops will release a nationwide survey by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice on the nature and scope of clergy sexual abuse of minors in the U.S. in the last 50 years. All but three Latin-rite and three Eastern-rite dioceses participated in that survery.

Scheduled for release Feb. 27, it will tally for the first time the total number of accused priests, victims and how much the church has paid to settle abuse-related lawsuits over the past 50 years.

The complete audit report on the implementation of the Charter is available at:

It is also available in print in English and Spanish and may be ordered by calling 1-800-235-8722. Ask for publication number 5-620 (Sec. I) and 5-621 (Sec. II)
The bishops’ Office of Child and Youth Protection can be reached by calling (202) 541-5431; FAX: (202) 541-5410; e-mail: The address is 3211 4th Street, N.E., Washington, DC 20017-1194.

Diocese faces
29 lawsuits for sexual abuse

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

In the last two weeks of 2003, as alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse rushed to meet a Dec. 31 deadline, eight persons filed claims for damages against the Diocese of Oakland, according to diocesan attorney Stephen McFeely of Los Angeles.

With the latest cases, he said, the diocese is facing a total of 29 suits filed this year that have yet to be resolved. Others, he said, have been settled or dismissed.

McFeely was still assessing the new filings as The Voice went to press. The recent cases lack the actual names of defendants at this stage in the legal process, and the final tally will not be known until the cases are amended and served.

Some of the recently filed cases involve the Boy Scouts or religious orders, he said, and he has had to analyze each of them to decide which ones are the responsibility of the diocese.

All of the recent eight cases were filed in Alameda County, McFeely said, and all involve priests who have already been accused in other suits.

Carondelet Sister Barbara Flannery, diocesan chancellor, said that during 2003, the diocese received no cases accusing previously unnamed priests who remain alive. It did, however, receive one new name of a priest who has died.

Several of the cases against the diocese, McFeely said, go back to the 1960s, and when the accused priest is dead the case is “very difficult” to deal with, especially if the bishop and others who may have been involved are also deceased.

In the case of deceased priests, Sister Flannery said, the diocesan response is to support any victims who come forth and treat them with respect. If the priest is living, the diocese has the additional duty of investigating the facts. Diocesan policy requires the accused to be immediately removed from ministry; if the complaint is credible, the removal is permanent.

The window of opportunity for filing claims against those responsible for abuse came about when the state legislature lifted the statute of limitations in civil abuse cases for all of 2003.

Previously, alleged victims could sue only until their 26th birthday or until three years after they could demonstrate that they had psychological problems due to sexual abuse.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys have estimated that some 800 persons took advantage of the exemption this past year to file cases against Catholic dioceses.

About 500 of these cases are against the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the nation’s largest, and another 175 are directed at the dioceses of Orange, San Diego and San Bernardino, according to attorney Ray Boucher, who is involved in 320 cases in Southern California.

Northern California dioceses together received about 125 cases, the attorneys said, and many dioceses were still assessing the numbers. The Diocese of Monterey reportedly sent paralegals to check the records in several counties in order to determine the number of cases filed in recent weeks.

All of the cases are civil suits, demanding compensation for damages caused by sexual abuse. The dioceses are held accountable if they failed to adequately protect children and young people from molestation.

Last June the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a California law that erased the statute of limitations for criminal cases involving sexual abuse.

Because of the decision, the state overturned convictions or dropped charges against several hundred molestation suspects, including priests.

The Diocese of Oakland has a policy to promptly report any charges of abuse to local law enforcement officials. Nine of the priests charged since the diocese was formed in 1962 have been placed on involuntary leave, 13 have died, and one, Stephen Kiesle, has been laicized.

In response to an audit commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and carried out in Oakland last July, the diocese has agreed to revise its policy in regards to priests placed on leave. The audit, which commended the diocese for its work on issues of abuse, nevertheless recommended that Oakland adopt a policy to more closely monitor these men.

The lack of such a policy “could conceivably put additional victims at risk,” the audit noted, and could harm the reputation and finances of the diocese. The auditors, headed by the Gavin Group of Boston, have since approved diocesan plans to remedy this problem, and Oakland was found to be in compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People adopted by the U.S. bishops in Dallas in 2002.

During the audit in Oakland, the investigators, both former FBI officials, praised the diocese, saying it had the spirit of the Charter before the bishops’ document was written.

The diocese is especially noted for its outreach to victims, headed by Sister Flannery, and it drew praise for an apology service held in 2000 by now retired Bishop John Cummins on behalf of victims.

In November of last year the diocese settled a case after it had gone to trial, agreeing to pay $1 million through its insurance company and up to $50,000 to cover the costs of counseling for the victim, a 33-year-old man who said he had been molested in 1980.

Sister Flannery said the diocese will announce the total amount agreed to in settlements at a later date when it releases diocesan data collected for a national survey commissioned by the U.S. bishops.

Bishop to preside at apology services

By Voice staff

The first of a series of apology services at local parishes, aimed at healing wounds created by clergy sexual abuse within parish communities, will take place Tuesday, Jan. 13, at St. Ignatius Parish in Antioch.
Bishop Allen Vigneron will preside at the 7:30 p.m. liturgy, which will include a prayer of apology and reconciliation. Similar services will be held each month throughout the year, with the second set for St. Philip Neri Parish in Alameda at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 5, and the following for St. Bede Parish in Hayward at 7 p.m., March 1.

Dates and times for services at nine other parishes in the diocese will be announced as they are known, and two additional parishes will host the services in 2005. The ceremonies are to be held at parishes where there have been known cases of abuse in order for the diocese to apologize to the entire community, said Sister Barbara Flannery, diocesan chancellor.

“We decided we needed to do this,” she said after conversations with members of the diocesan Ministry for Survivors of Clergy Sexual Abuse.

Bishop John Cummins, now retired, apologized to victims during a service in Oakland on March 25, 2000. During that service, the bishop and other Church leaders acknowledged the failure of the Church to confront clergy sexual abuse head-on, to inform themselves of the deeper issues involved in such abuse, and to remove priest abusers and other offending employees from active ministry.



Homeless receive food for body and soul in Hayward park

By Jose Luis Aguirre
El Heraldo Catolico

Every Sunday, Portuguese Park in Hayward becomes a meeting place for dozens of homeless persons. There they congregate to have a plate of food and to hear the Word of God.

This routine began three years ago when Sonia Artiles and her husband Edgardo noticed that many homeless persons were leaving their refuge in a Hayward hill to search for food in the streets.

The Artiles were members of a small Christian community that met each week to read the Bible and praise the Lord. When they saw the homeless emerging from their refuge, Sonia Artiles said, “It was like a call from God to see these people who were coming slowly down from the hill. They looked like they were cold and poorly clothed.”

The couple stopped to talk to some of them and said that the following Sunday they would bring them coffee with a little pan dulce. It was thus that in October 2000 the group “Walking With Jesus in the Park” began with the aim of offering sustenance to the homeless and to bring them closer to God, sharing prayers and Sunday readings with them.

Although only seven homeless persons took part at first, now about 80 may show up. “Little by little we were learning their stories, their sorrows and failures,” said Sonia.

She decided that the group should offer them more than a cup of coffee and started to bring eggs and rice and beans, but the group of homeless grew so quickly that she looked for help from small communities in other Hayward parishes.

Some of them contributed beans, others rice, some gave meat, and between them all they provided the necessary food. Now groups from St. Joachim, All Saints, St. Bede and St. Clement parishes and from Fe Verdadera Baptist Church take turns donating the food.

Sonia’s son, Jose Bolanos, and his wife Jeanneth are among the volunteers who help bring food, tables and plates to the park and who help in serving. Edgardo still brings the pan dulce, and a neighbor contributes the coffee.
But this work has not been easy for the group, which has had to overcome a number of obstacles. For example, in the first month of their ministry, the police accused them of attracting criminals to the city, and they were forced to move from the original Hayward park where they had been meeting.

It was then that the Portuguese community at All Saints decided to let them use Portuguese Park every Sunday so they could continue to offer food to the poor.

Sonia recalls that in the beginning the homeless didn’t allow themselves to be hugged. “They are solitary people who don’t often speak. They never communicate because they want to disappear from sight,” she said.

But today, after knowing each other for three years, the atmosphere is different. There are smiles and a spirit of camaraderie as if they were all members of one family.

“I feel a great joy in my spirit and soul to see that those who need it have food to eat,” said Edgardo, who considers it a great injustice that people still do not have basic necessities like food.

For Yolanda Garcia, who coordinates Spanish-speaking small communities for the diocese, “this is beautiful work because it not only provides a service but also creates community between Latino families and Americans. It is a very special way of uniting the two communities,” she said.

Garcia has been present at two of the Sunday gatherings and said she was impressed to see the homeless volunteer as readers during the services. “It seems to me a marvelous work with our brothers and sisters in need. We are all Church, and we must live it out just as this family does with the homeless,” she added.

Although the meetings take place in English, the majority of the volunteers are Latinos. Sonia believes this is because Hispanics – as immigrants themselves – understand what it is like to live with isolation and hunger. The group has found little support from members of other ethnic groups.

Most of the people who come to the park Sunday after Sunday are retired. Some of them collect materials to recycle and earn about $10 a day. Others receive help from the government, but by the end of the month they don’t have enough to buy even a breakfast.

For homeless persons like John, Tracy, Michael, and Larry who used to work as a driver in Alaska, this ministry offers them more than food - they also receive much love and affection.

To make donations of prepared food or to work as a volunteer in serving food, call Sonia Artiles at (510) 276-3353. Portuguese Park is located between Foothill Boulevard and C Street in Hayward.

Burundi rebels threaten archbishop
after murder of Vatican envoy

By Peggy Polk
Religion News Service

VATICAN CITY — Hutu rebels linked to the killing of the Vatican’s envoy to Burundi have given the president of the Burundi Bishops’ Conference 30 days to leave the country.

The National Liberation Forces delivered the ultimatum to Archbishop Simon Ntamwana of Gitega two days after guerrillas shot Archbishop Michael Courtney, 58, to death in an ambush on the car in which he was riding in the countryside south of Bujumbura.

“We are very clear and serious. There are 30 days at his disposition for leaving Burundi and not one more,” FNL spokesman Pasteur Habimana said Dec. 31. “We ask the Catholic Church in Rome to find another country in which Monsignor Simon Ntamwana can be welcomed in the coming days.”

The rebels apparently acted in response to Archbishop Ntamwana’s charge that they had carried out the execution of the envoy. President Domitien Ndayizeye made a similar allegation in a television message to the nation hours after the killing.

Habimana denied that the FNL attacked Archbishop Courtney.

The prelate played a role in negotiations leading to the signing of a power-sharing agreement Nov. 2 between another rebel group, the Forces for the Defense of Democracy, the main Hutu rebel force, and the government, and he had met with FNL leaders to try to bring them to the negotiating table.

Burundi’s ethnic-based civil conflict, similar to that in neighboring Rwanda and pitting Hutus against Tutsis, has claimed more than 300,000 lives in 10 years.
“We solemnly swear to the people of Burundi that we did not organize the ambush against the papal nuncio,” the FNL spokesman said. The rebel forces have accused the government of the assassination.

Archbishp Ntamwana concelebrated a Dec. 31 funeral Mass for Archbishop Courtney with Archbishop Pierre Christophe, papal envoy in Uganda. The 1,500 mourners attending the Mass included the president and high-ranking military officials.

Archbishop Courtney was believed to be the first apostolic nuncio to be assassinated since the start of the 20th century. But Fides, the Vatican missionary news agency, said the prelate was one of 29 “ecclesiastic personnel” killed in 2003 — four more than in 2002.

Vatican sources said Pope John Paul II had planned to announce shortly Archbishop Courtney’s transfer to Cuba. He had held the post of ambassador to Burundi since Aug. 18, 2002.

U.S. State Dept. cites countries
fostering religious intolerance

By Adelle M. Banks
Religion News Service

WASHINGTON—The U.S. State Department issued its fifth annual report on international religious freedom, Dec. 18, rebuking China and North Korea among authoritarian regimes and countries such as Saudi Arabia and Sudan that are hostile toward minority religions.

“Though international law supports it and though millions of religious believers around the world desire it, religious freedom all too often remains fragile, neglected and violated,” said John Hanford, ambassador at large for international religious freedom, at a news briefing.

“Many religious believers find themselves forced to worship secretly instead of confidently, or to hold their sacred beliefs in fear and under threat rather than peace and security.”

A total of six countries were cited for “totalitarian and authoritarian attempts to control religious belief or practice”: Burma, China, Cuba, Laos, North Korea and Vietnam.

“Genuine religious freedom does not exist” in North Korea, the report said. “Reports of executions, torture and imprisonment of religious persons in the country continued to emerge.”

The other five countries were cited for restricting religious practice, monitoring religious activities or harassing believers.

Local authorities in some areas of China are involved in “a selective crackdown of unregistered churches, temples and mosques,” it noted.

In the area of state hostility toward minority religions, the report mentioned Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
The report described Saudi Arabia as a place where religious freedom is nonexistent: “The government continued to enforce a strictly conservative version of Sunni Islam and suppress the public practice of other interpretations of Islam and non-Muslim religions.”

Sudan relegates non-Muslims “to de facto second-class citizenship,” it said.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent federal agency, said these findings show why the State Department should designate Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan and Vietnam as “countries of particular concern” that have “systematic, ongoing and egregious” religious freedom violations. Burma, China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Sudan currently have that designation.

Other categories of religious freedom abuses included in the annual report are those where the state neglected problems related to discrimination or persecution of minority religions; where discriminatory laws or governmental policies put certain religions at a disadvantage; and where certain minority religions are wrongfully associated with dangerous “cults” or “sects.”

Hanford cited the small African country of Eritrea as an example of a state with discriminatory legislation, where more than 300 Pentecostal and evangelical Christians in that country are currently imprisoned because their churches have not been sanctioned by the government.

The report’s executive summary also cited a “disturbing increase” in anti-Semitism in Europe.

“European governments, we feel, are beginning to take this problem seriously—not that they weren’t before, but I think with renewed emphasis,” said Hanford.

He said the department is also concerned about anti-Semitism in Turkey, where two synagogues were bombed in mid-November. Kazakhstan, which recently started an interfaith dialogue, was cited for “significant improvement” on religious freedom.

Laos, which was also criticized for overall restrictions of religious practice, was commended for decreasing the number of arrests of religious leaders, and allowing some long-closed churches to reopen.

Father Mark Wiesner
named leader of Oakland parish

By Carrie McClish
Staff writer

Change appears to be a constant companion of Father Mark Wiesner, who begins 2004 as parochial administrator at St. Augustine Parish in Oakland.

His new assignment represents his fourth parish as a priest, but it is his first opportunity since his 1995 ordination to be “in charge” of a parish community.
The term of an administrator is usually two years, he explained, and is often made to determine if a priest has the skills or abilities to be an effective pastor.

Father Wiesner, 41, is more jazzed than nervous about this next step in his priestly ministry. “I get very energized by new challenges and by change, which is a good thing given how often I end up changing things around in my life,” he said.

One of the most appealing aspects of his new assignment is that he is replacing Father Ray Zielezienski, a priest that Father Wiesner assisted as an altar server and who became his mentor when he was growing up in Concord.

Father Zielezienski, who is taking a year-long study sabbatical, “has done some wonderful things here in terms of forming and building the community – keeping it active and creating new ministry,” Father Wiesner said. “I hope to continue that and build upon the good work he had started.”

After Father Wiesner’s parents attended Father Zielezienski’s farewell party, they gave their son glowing reviews about the parish. “They loved it,” he said. “They found the people to be warm and wonderful, which is what I have heard many times about St. Augustine. They thought the choir program was tremendous, which I also heard about. They confirmed all the marvelous things I have heard about the place. In all honesty, I have heard nothing bad about the parish.”

A native of Buffalo, N.Y., Father Wiesner moved with his family to the East Bay in 1969. They joined Most Precious Blood Parish, now St. Francis of Assisi, in Concord. He graduated from De La Salle High School in 1981 and the University of California, Davis, in 1985.

Shortly after leaving college, he and several friends joined Youth With a Mission in Scotland and began doing “door-to-door” evangelization. “While it was not always fun, I found it very worth doing,” he said. It was the first time he expressed his faith in that way.

“I had been an altar server, I had been a member of the choir, I had been a lector, in college I was on the Newman Center parish council – I had done all those things but this was the first time I had put my faith into action in an evangelical kind of way and I found it to be a very powerful experience.”

When he returned home he joined his family’s insurance business, but after a year he realized that he was “not gifted” for the business world. He began to look for something “more faith-centered or faith-focused.” This search led him to the National Evangelization Teams, a Catholic evangelization peer ministry based in Minneapolis-St. Paul that trains young adults to conduct retreats for high school students, then sends them in teams to dioceses requesting their services.

He participated in this ministry for nine months, then was invited to be part of a team that introduced the project to Australia.

Through this evangelization experience, he realized that he wanted to make ministry his life. At first, he recalled, he thought he wanted to do youth ministry, “but in time that vision sort of expanded.”

While doing retreat work in Louisiana in 1998, he called the vocation director for the Oakland Diocese and continued to discern his religious calling. His embrace of ministry led him to St. Patrick Seminary and after completing his studies there he was ordained in his home parish in Concord.

In the years that followed, his ministry grew through assignments as parochial vicar at All Saints Parish in Hayward, the Catholic Community of Pleasanton, and Assumption Parish in San Leandro. He also worked as co-chair of the millennium events for the diocese.

Now at St. Augustine, he will be reunited with Karen Miller, a “fully-trained lay woman” who is pastoral associate, with whom he had worked in Pleasanton. “What is also a great blessing is that Karen has been there for two years…she can help bring me up to speed.”


St. Leander Parish
receives interim administrator

By Voice staff

Father Jerry Kennedy, a former diocesan vocations director, has returned from sabbatical to become interim parochial administrator at St. Leander Parish in San Leandro, a position he began on New Year’s Day.

He succeeds Father John Prochaska who became pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Fremont on Jan. 1.

Father Kennedy will serve as administrator while a process to find a permanent replacement is underway. The veteran priest, who was waiting to be reassigned following his sabbatical, said he was willing to step in and help where needed. “And it will give me a chance to get to know the mother parish of San Leandro,” he said.

A native of Oakland, Father Kennedy, 63, graduated from St. Patrick’s College and Seminary in Menlo Park, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1966.

He served as secretary to the late Bishop Floyd Begin and was vice chancellor of the diocese before becoming vocations director for the first time in 1971. He has held the vocations position for a total of 14 years, completing his most recent term of five years last June.

He has also been director of field education at St. Patrick Seminary (1985-89) and served as diocesan director of the pre-seminary, the permanent diaconate, and campus ministry programs.

Father Kennedy has served as pastor at Santa Maria Parish in Orinda (1979-83), Sacred Heart Parish in Oakland (1983-85) and St. Philip Parish in Alameda (1990-98). He has also been associate pastor at parishes in Oakland and Hayward.


Brentwood parish gets ready
to move into its new church

By Voice staff

Parishioners at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Brentwood will witness the end of a long campaign this spring when Bishop Allen Vigneron dedicates a new church building with room for nearly a thousand worshippers.

The new building, to be blessed on April 24, marks the end of the first phase of the parish initiative “Together We Build God’s House,” which brought in some $3.5 million towards the $7 million cost of the new building. A loan from the diocese will make up the difference in cost.

The new Mission-style church, on 10 acres of land at the intersection of Central Boulevard and Fairview Avenue, will seat 600 in the first phase of the project and also include space for offices and classrooms Later phases will add a hall, an administration building and a school. When the office building is completed, the church interior will be altered to seat 950 persons.

Some $2.5 million of the building fund came from parishioners in pledges, donations and monthly building fund collections. The largest single contribution came from a sewing group, The Crafty Quilters, who raised $32,000, and several parishioners donated $25,000. Another $1 million came from the sale of the original church building at 813 First St., which will become an art gallery, offices and possibly a café.

Parishioner Jim Hopwood, project manager, told a local paper that parishioners responded generously to the capital campaign, which began in August 2000. One elderly woman comes in every month to personally deliver her contribution, he said. A couple donated funds set aside for a 50th anniversary trip, and a family gave up a cable TV subscription so they could contribute that amount to the fund each month.

In an interview Hopwood also said a parish family has been making and selling tamales every first Saturday over several years and donating all the proceeds to the building fund. So far, he said, they have contributed $23,000.

The donors recognized the need for a new church, Hopwood said. The original building was constructed in 1949, when the population of Brentwood was 1,800, and seats only 200 people. The city’s population today is about 30,000 and growing rapidly. The parish has added more than a thousand families since 2000.

Bishop John Cummins blessed the site of the new 14,000-square-foot building on June 8, 2002, the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and construction began the following October. The architect was Paul Kelly of Oakland, who worked with a building committee of 14 members.

In the second phase of the project, the parish plans to build a $2 million administration building within five years and then a $4 million parish hall. In the third phase the community hopes to construct a school jointly with St. Anne in Byron and St. Anthony in Oakley. It will be called the East Deanery Regional School and will include grades kindergarten through eight.

The parish is also buying a house in a nearby development to be used as a rectory. Father Joseph Fiedorowicz is parochial administrator.


Efforts to protect children’s health
earn honors for local DCCW

By Sharon Abercrombie
Staff writer

The National Council of Catholic Women has honored four of their California councils for their joint environmental project to stem the impact of toxic chemicals on children’s health.

San Francisco, Oakland, Orange, and Sacramento received the “The Earth In Our Hands” environmental stewardship award at the recent NCCW national conference in Minneapolis.

For the past 18 months the local councils have been working with the California Interfaith Partnership for Children’s Health to raise public awareness around the issue. Women of Reform Judaism, other faith communities and secular groups also belong to the partnership.

Diocesan and archdiocesan CCW volunteers, as part of a corps of speakers, have made presentations to churches, schools and social justice groups, attended state legislative hearings, and participated in media events which underscore the availability of environmentally friendly household cleaning products, shampoos, soaps and makeup to replace their toxic counterparts.

Two members of the Oakland diocesan council, Steffi Sylvia and Teresa Grant, testified last year on behalf of children at California Congressional committees, participated in a statewide lobby day and gave presentations at Contra Costa County gatherings.

Nick Guroff, public policy associate for the Interfaith Partnership, said the impact of toxics on children’s health is serious. Studies have linked air pollution to lung cancer, asthma, and some serious birth defects. Research is showing that pesticide exposures may increase the likelihood of childhood leukemia, brain cancer and Parkinson’s disease, he said.

Suellen Lowery, director of the California Interfaith Partnership for Children’s Health, said that “most people are not aware that the vast majority of chemicals in our environment, whether byproducts of industry or in consumer products, have not been tested to determine their health effects.”

Current laws do not require the safety of most non-food chemicals to be demonstrated before these chemicals are used in industrial processes or consumer products, she added.

Guroff added that children are especially vulnerable. “They eat, drink and breathe more than an adult relative to their body weight and therefore have greater relative exposure to chemicals in the food, water, and air,” he said.

Moreover, a child’s body is developing and does not have the same defenses against some chemical pollutants as an adult’s body. This is especially true before birth. The Association of Women’s Health, Obstetrics and Neonatal Nurses has reported that when a pregnant woman is exposed to poisons, so is her baby – and that baby is prey to long-term irreversible neurological, development and physical damage.

California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment said that there has been “a steady increase in incidence of childhood cancers since the 1970’s, which has not been fully explained by improved diagnostics. Leukemia, lymphomas and brain tumors are the most common.”

Workshop to focus
on community investing

By Voice staff

Community investing will be the focus of a daylong workshop sponsored by JOLT (Justice Organizers, Leadership, and Treasurers) from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Jan. 31 at the Redemptorist Center in Oakland. JOLT is a coalition of faith-based organizations who promote economic justice through investments, education and action.
Adrian Dominican Sister Corinne Florek, JOLT coordinator, said the workshop will help attendees experience the “transformative power of community investing for the organizations as well as the investors.”

Community investing supports affordable housing, microenterprise efforts, small businesses and community development. These efforts help people to move out of poverty.

Presenters include Jane Graf of Mercy Housing, Bill French from Rural Community Assistance Corporation, Paul Rice of Transfair, and Mary Rogier of the Northern California Community Loan Fund.

There will also be an opportunity for participants to find out more about non-profits and community development organizations. The day will include awards and recognitions as well. Price for the day is $20, payable at the door. Snacks and drinks will be provided, but each participant needs to bring a lunch. Registration deadline is Jan. 21.
To register, contact Sister Florek at or call (510) 547-3166.

O’Dowd grad joins Maryknoll
as lay missioner

By Nancy Westlund
Catholic Herald staff

Sheryl Saar’s journey of faith has taken her on missions to the slums of the Mexican border town of Cuidad Juarez and AIDS-stricken Kenya. Now she is more than ready to begin the assignment of her life as a Maryknoll lay missioner in Tanzania.

Saar, 35, who graduated from St. Theresa Elementary (’82) and Bishop O’Dowd High (’86) in Oakland, departed Jan. 10 for Mwanza, Tanzania, one of 22 lay missioners beginning service in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

“God has been calling me to serve and grow in another way with another culture,” she said. “Life as a Maryknoll lay missioner will give me a chance to devote my time to learning and knowing the hearts of the poor.”

Maryknoll is a U.S.-based Catholic missionary movement with missioners serving in 39 countries worldwide.

Saar, who has a sociology degree from UC Davis, has been living in Sacramento for the past 10 years and is currently a member of Immaculate Conception Parish. She has long felt a call to do hands-on work with the poor.

In 1997, she had her first taste of missionary work at Annunciation House, a shelter for the homeless in El Paso, Texas, and the neighboring city of Juarez in Mexico. It was an experience that confirmed what she had known in her heart.
“As I broadened my view of the life of the marginalized, I found my faith was deepening as my world view was expanding,” she said. “I felt I wanted more of that to lead me closer to God.”

Saar then came up against the heartbreak of losing her mother, who died in February 1998, and she put missionary plans on hold to spend time with her family. She took a job at the state Department of Rehabilitation helping people with disabilities develop independent living skills.

During this time Saar served as a member of the board of Catholic Charities in Sacramento and as a lector at her parish. “The people in the parish really fostered my missionary heart,” she said.

In 2002 Saar met with a Maryknoll recruiter during a visit to Berkeley. Because she admired Maryknoll’s work developing “peer partnerships” around the world, she signed on their Friends Across the Borders program in Kenya. She assisted at a school for orphans and saw firsthand the tragic impact of AIDS in a country where thousands of children are orphaned and adults are dying at a young age.

“It was an opportunity to see Maryknoll in action and it was a good fit,” she said. “Maryknoll has a strong commitment to community and a big family community means a lot to me.”

As a lay missioner in Tanzania, Saar will utilize her expertise working with people with disabilities by assisting at a school for disabled children in Mwanza. She will also be involved with a local parish’s religious education program and transfer her accounting skills to help the staff at a secondary school for girls.

She said the biggest challenge of her work over the next three years will be dealing with becoming attached to people struggling to survive. “They are a resilient people with a faith in God,” she said. “I will learn from them and be a better person for it.”

Saar is currently studying Swahili at the Makoko Language School in Musoma, Tanzania, and will begin missionary work in Mwanza in May.

Priest adds parish to his work as writer, canonist, counselor

By Carrie McClish
Staff writer

Friends have been telling Father David O’Rourke that he should be slowing down, getting ready to retire. But at age 70 the Dominican priest said retirement is the furthest thing from his mind.

As if to prove the point, Father O’Rourke moved to Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Point Richmond last year to take on the role of resident priest. While he does not function as the pastor nor as parochial administrator – that position rests with Father J. de Jesus Nieto-Ruiz, administrator at St. Mark Parish in Richmond – Father O’Rourke provides the flesh-and-blood-and-soul presence in the rectory that had been empty for six months.

He does everything from answering the parish phone to presiding at liturgies. He also oversees maintenance of the church and rectory in the small parish, where some 100 Catholics gather for weekend Masses. He praised parishioners who long ago were empowered to take responsibility for the parish. “Their level of participation is high.”

This gives the Dominican time to tackle his other work – Defender of the Bond at the diocesan Marriage Tribunal. As defender, he participates in the processing of annulment cases, reading testimony and raising any reasonable objections to the annulment requests. He may state that he has no objections.

He also writes a regular column for Catholic News Service and has in the works both a book on chattal slavery and a documentary on resistance to the Soviet takeover of the Baltic republics in 1945. This upcoming film also ties in to the priest’s other ministry – helping to rebuild the Catholic Church in Lithuania, which suffered decades of religious repression by the USSR.

Father O’Rourke serves as a consultant to the Family Center in the Archdiocese of Vilnius where he helps train volunteers in youth ministry, young adult ministry, and family ministry. This is a significant step for Lithuanians because the value of volunteerism did not exist in the Soviet system, he said.

“The whole idea of volunteering was crushed by the Soviets for 50 years. Anyone who volunteered was [considered to be] a subversive and a spy because everything that was done had to be done by the Communist Party,” he said.

During his trips to Lithuania over the past three years, he has promoted volunteerism and advised the Family Center on how to recruit volunteers for ministry.

Young Lithuanian Catholics have been very receptive, he said. Many of them had come to believe that “there had to be something better in life than Soviet Communism or western exploitation.”

Father O’Rourke hopes to develop a collaborative program between the Center and the Oakland Diocese in which Lithuanians would come to the diocese to study youth and young adult ministry programs in the East Bay.

These projects are just the latest efforts of the New Jersey native and Yale graduate, who studied at the Ecole Theologique in St. Maximin, France, and in the Dominican houses of study in Berkeley and Washington, D.C.

Ordained in 1962 by Bishop Floyd Begin, he was a member of the first Catholic community at Berkeley’s Graduate Theological Union in 1966 when the consortium was established. He also taught there.

He spent six years as director of pastoral training for the Western Dominican Province and as prior of the Dominican Priory in Berkeley before serving as pastor at St. Mary Magdalene Parish in Berkeley (1975-81) and later at St. Dominic Parish in Benicia. For many years he was editor of Church magazine.

A licensed marriage and family therapist in California, Father O’Rourke became associate director of the diocesan Family Life Office in 1982, a position he held for six years.

That same year he started working in the diocesan Marriage Tribunal and he has worked there periodically ever since.

With his recent assignment to Point Richmond, Father O’Rourke is delighted to be back in the heart of pastoral ministry.

“It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. I love it here. It is perfect,” he said, noting that one of the parish’s priorities is to reach out to the many young people moving into the area.


FACE hopes to raise
$300,000 for tuition

By Sharon Abercrombie
Staff writer

Family Aid to Catholic Education (FACE), a diocesan organization that has made it possible for needy children to attend Catholic schools for the past 25 years, currently is assisting 967 elementary and high schoolers with tuition help. That’s the good news. The bad news is, there are another 1,150 needy students on the FACE waiting list.

The organization’s immediate goals are to reduce its waiting list a bit, by getting a few more kids into Catholic schools while continuing to provide tuition assistance to kids already enrolled. In order to realize these aims, FACE needs to raise at least $300,000 at its annual dinner/live/silent auction, March 13, at the Greek Orthodox Center in Oakland. In terms of figures, that much money can help 250 kids, said Ann Rynders, director. Tickets for the benefit are $125 per person or
$1,250 for a table of 10.

Rynders said she is seeing more and more financially strapped parents who are struggling to keep their children in Catholic schools. In response to their plight, last year FACE increased its grants to elementary school children from $1,000 to $1,250. Assistance to high school students went from $1500 to $2250.
Such grants provide about 25 percent of the average elementary school tuition of $4060 and high school tuition of $8200 a year. FACE was able to increase the amount because of attrition rates from some FACE recipients who chose to withdraw from the program and send their children to public schools or charter schools, or who moved away from the Bay Area.

Just as in past years, FACE has been able to help this current crop of kids – 662 elementary students in 38 diocesan schools and 305 teens in the system’s nine high schools – through its annual fund raiser, from foundation grants and from private, individual contributions.

Other generous funding organizations such as the BASIC Fund , the CEO organization and the Independent Scholarship Fund of Oakland also provide assistance to elementary school students by channeling scholarship monies directly to schools.

FACE began in 1978 through the efforts of Holy Cross Sister Sebastian Adza, a longtime educator, and Barbara Morrill. Sister Adza died in October 2003.
To make reservations for the March event, call (510) 628-2155 or e-mail

Priest uses magic to teach theology
and feed street kids

By Sharon Abercrombie
Staff writer

“Mathew Vellankal – ministry of magic” sounds like a character from the pages of a Harry Potter novel, but this particular fellow inhabits the real world.
He is a Salesian priest from India with lots of tricks up his sleeve. Father Mathew, as he prefers to be called, incorporates visual illusions and other delightfully mysterious pranks when he teaches about the Catholic faith.
The parochial vicar of Queen of All Saints Parish in Concord since August 2001, he has been bringing his bag of tricks to numerous East Bay events including some recent Theology on Tap sessions at the Black Diamond Brewery in Walnut Creek. He entertained at a Halloween party sponsored by the Senior Citizens Center in Concord, and he has appeared at private birthday parties for kids.

The proceeds from all of Father Mathew’s shows go back to the Salesian community for its mission projects in India. Last month, the priest played to a sold-out crowd of 200 in Queen of All Saints parish hall and raised over $1600 to provide food for homeless street children in his home province of Guwahati.
Father Mathew has been delighting children and adults alike with his magic for the past 30 years. During 2003 he earned three first place awards from the Inter Club Stage Magic Competition organized by the Oakland Magic Circle (OMC), the Stage Magic Competition of the Society of American Magicians, and the Close-up Magic Competition of OMC

St. John (Don) Bosco, founder of the Salesian community, would be proud that this 21st century Salesian is carrying on a tradition of his order. The 19th century saint often used entertainment – in his case, music — to reach out to poor Italian street children.

When Father Mathew entered a Salesian seminary in Mannuthy, India, the young teen discovered the tradition was still alive and well. One of the faculty members, Father Castelino Fernandez, was a worker of magic and the future priest had the good fortune to be in his class.

“He was a great inspiration for me. I wanted to be like him.”
It seems that ever since he was a child, Mathew has been fascinated by the many street magicians who have always populated India, and he was delighted to find that clergy could be magicians.

He checked out two books on magic from the seminary library and began practicing. By the time he was 18, Mathew was skilled enough to take his show on the road. Each Sunday, he and his fellow seminarians would fan out across the countryside to visit with families and evangelize.

He used his magic tricks as icebreakers among the people gathered in the town square. Then he told Catholic stories. “It was an agricultural area. There was no radio or TV, nothing to do, so the people would come,” even if they weren’t Catholic, he said.

Through his street ministry, the seminarian quickly saw how magic brought joy and happiness to young and old alike. “I liked to see the smiles, the laughter.”

Wherever Father Mathew has been missioned – parishes, high schools or as province youth director, he has taken along his dice, scarves, water pitcher and other tricks of the trade.

How does he mix and match the world of illusion with Scripture-based teachings?

Sometimes he shows three silk scarves of different colors.
“I say that each one represents one of the three persons of the Holy Trinity. Then I tie them together, speaking about the unity of the Trinity. Suddenly, the three silks become just one large silk with the perfect blending of the three colors. Then I speak about the subject of Trinity a bit more.”

To illustrate the beauty of God’s creation, Father Mathew produces flowers or uses a blooming bouquet.

Card tricks are also a part of his routine. He throws three of them away, then has audience members count the leftovers. But there are always six, no matter how many times he tosses the cards aside. His point? The multiplication of the loaves and fishes.

One of Father Mathew’s favorite ministries has been outreach to street children. When he was appointed headmaster of Don Bosco High School in Guwahati, he started the first evening school for the city’s street children.
The Salesian community operates a number of homes and schools for them throughout the country, but there could never be too many schools and hostels for India’s street children, said the priest. Statistics put the population at 17.36 million.

These youngsters are either orphans, have been chased from their homes or have run away, he said.

“Most often, it is acute poverty, death or illness of the parents, broken homes, alcoholism, family violence and many other problems that push children into the street.” Some have come to the city with the illusion of making it big or bringing back money for their families.

Street children are not limited to India, said Father Mathew. They live in urban areas of every nation of the world. The Salesians call them “the rootless and roofless.”

“The phenomenon of street children is a repercussion of industrialization and urbanization,” he said. In the race for technological advancement, industrial growth centers have upset the age-old pattern in which people lived and worked in their native villages and towns.

For further information about booking Father Mathew for one of his magic shows, contact him at (925) 685-7307, or e-mail him at He also has a website at

Former acolyte to be ordained
as Oblate priest

By Carrie McClish
Staff writer

Salvador Gonzalez first heard a call from the Oblates of Immaculate Mary when he was an acolyte at St. Mary Parish in Oakland. To serve at the altar, the priests said, he should also serve his brothers outside, and the young Gonzalez responded by caring for the homeless in the streets.

Before Mass the youth, who was born in Mexico but raised in Oakland, would take hot sandwiches, pastries, and drinks to the needy who lived near the church (now St. Mary-St. Francis de Sales), and he continued to work with the homeless until his family left Oakland for Modesto some years later.

Now Gonzales, 32, is returning to his adopted hometown and responding once again to the call from the Oblates. At 10 a.m. on Jan. 24 he will be ordained an Oblate priest at Sacred Heart Parish. (The Oblates assumed pastoral responsibility at Sacred Heart in 1991 after leaving St. Mary’s where the community had provided spiritual leadership for 30 years.)

“I am proud of where I came from, where I was raised, the experiences that I have had,” said Gonzalez, who is the ninth of 11 children. “Being ordained in Oakland for me is giving back the blessings to the Lord.”

One of those blessings, he realized, was the example of the missionary Oblates at St. Mary’s. As he grew up, attended college and worked his way from bagger to assistant grocery manager at a supermarket, he saw that his life had diverged from that of many friends he had left behind in Oakland.

Some of them were in jail; others had died, and he asked himself what had set him on another path. “I grew up in the same neighborhood as they did, I went to the same schools as they did, yet something was different,” he said. “I came to the conclusion that the difference was the people around me, the witness that I had, which were the Missionary Oblates.”

Gonzalez then asked himself how he could give someone else the same opportunities he had received and make a difference in their lives. “And I found out, through my own thinking and my own listening, that the only way I could do that was by being a Missionary Oblate myself.”

He quit work to “listen closely to what this call was.” He spent time with Oblates, spoke to them about his call and eventually joined the community.
During his formation period, he got a taste of missionary life, working with the poor. He joined an Oblate mission in Tijuana, Mexico, for his philosophical studies. “I spent two years there in Tijuana in a community of other young men who were having the same call, this same discernment,” Gonzalez said.

From there he went to the order’s novitiate in Illinois, where he spent a year in study and prayer. He then professed his first vows as a religious and in 1998 spent a year studying theology in San Antonio, Texas. From there he traveled to Italy where he spent the last four years studying theology and catechetics in Rome and exploring the Oblates’ ministry and mission in different parts of the world.

“It was a good time, a good blessed time,” he said. “Now that I have finished my studies, it is time for work.”

Part of that work began late last year when Gonzalez visited Sacred Heart Parish and traveled to Lowell, Mass., to complete his pastoral internship at a Latin American parish. “It is a parish where the Oblates serve seven different cultures, all of them of Latin American origins,” he said.

He admits to feeling nervous about the ordination ceremony, where Oakland Bishop Allen Vigneron will preside, but Gonzalez is happy to begin his mission as an Oblate in a place he called home.

“That’s why I chose to have it here because I want this to be a family thing,” he said. “I am not interested in big, gigantic liturgical ceremonies. I think liturgy should be a family celebration and that’s why I wanted to be ordained here.”

His first assignment as a priest will be made after ordination.

Priest works to create a ‘culture of vocations’ in diocese

By Sharon Abercrombie
Staff writer

There probably aren’t many priests who are fortunate enough to have more than a year’s worth of homilies already prepared. But Father Larry D’Anjou does.

He presented his first one yesterday, Jan. 11, at St. Raymond Church in Dublin. From now on, Father D’Anjou, who is diocesan director of vocations, will preach each week at a different parish in the diocese. That’s 89 homilies in all. His basic message will be the same — pray for vocations.
“Our goal is to create a culture of vocations,” he explained. By virtue of their baptism, every Catholic is called to share their gifts — whether as a Eucharistic minister, a greeter, or perhaps as a priest, Brother, or woman religious, said the priest.

During each homily Father D’Anjou will encourage parishioners, including the sick and homebound, to pray for vocations. He will also introduce the “vocations cross” project started in 1998 by Father D’Anjou’s predecessor, Father Jerrold Kennedy, now parochial administrator at St. Leander Parish in San Leandro. Each week a volunteer family takes the cross home and prays for vocations every day. The next week, the cross goes to another family who has also signed up.

Father D’Anjou’s message will be familiar to one-third of the parishes in the diocese. Thanks to Father Kennedy, he said, about 30 of them have working vocations committees who have been encouraging prayers since 1998, the year the National Conference of Catholic Bishops introduced “A
Future Full of Hope,” a national strategy for vocations awareness.

Many of those parishes are also involved in the vocations cross project, he said.

Father D’Anjou , vocation director since July, decided to visit each parish community to get vocations “onto the radar,” after Pope John Paul II issued a letter last May urging the renewal of prayer for vocations. On Nov. 23, the Pontiff again made a plea to continue the practice.

Holy Family Sister Kathy Littrell, associate vocations director, is distributing prayers, which can be included in the general intercessions at weekend Masses. “Saying the words out loud is one way of raising awareness,” she said.

Father D’Anjou is also collaborating with Linda Krehmeier, diocesan liturgical resource specialist, to design a monthly worship service on the theme of vocations.

Sister Littrell is working with other vocations directors to produce a brochure listing all the evening and weekend events for those who are considering religious life. She hopes to recruit religious women and men to present special talks about their lives and ministries.

Acknowledging that vocations awareness is just beginning to really take root, Father D’Anjou said current statistics show that at least 60 percent of parents say they would not be supportive if their children wanted to become priests, Brothers, or Sisters because they fear their children wouldn’t be happy.

But Father D’Anjou believes that if moms and dads would talk to some of these religious, they could be reassured that their kids could certainly find meaningful, fulfilling work as priests or religious. He cited an October 2003 survey of priests in which 87 percent of them reported being happy with their choice of work. Father D’Anjou wonders if this high percentage of satisfaction is apparent in other fields.

Asked if religious vocations are increasing, both Father D’Anjou and Sister Littrell said they believe that the most difficult times “are behind us.” Although he had no statistics, the priest said that some dioceses across the United States are beginning to see an increase in seminarians.

“In the Diocese of Oakland, we are also beginning to see an openness to talk about vocations, as well,” he said. Currently, there are 17 seminarians, and more men are beginning to make inquiries to his office, he said.

Sister Littrell said that Oakland, San Jose, and San Francisco each have a discernment group for women considering communal religious life. Although their numbers total nine, “they are at a serious level of commitment,” she said. “We don’t have the huge crowds we had in, say, 1958, but now there is consistency.”

The nun added that both her work and Father D”Anjou’s have been made easy “by the very collaborative style we enjoy here” with high school and college campus ministers, and with both retired Bishop John Cummins and new Bishop Allen Vigneron. “We’ve been well supported in our work by both bishops. This diocese is really blessed.”


Workshop to explore theology
of the body

By Voice staff

Oakland Bishop Allen Vigneron will present an address on “The New Evangelization and Theology of the Body” during a pro-life workshop, Feb. 7, at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Concord.

The bishop is one of three featured speakers at the event, which has for its theme, “The Church’s Doctrine on Human Sexuality: Christ’s Vision of the Human Person.”

Sponsored by the Knights of Columbus Council 8207 and hosted by the K of C Council 13179, the day will emphasize the relationship between the contraceptive mentality, abortion and euthanasia and will focus on the Catholic apostolate designed to help homosexual men and women live chaste lives, said Jack Hockel, event spokesperson.

Bishop Vigneron will speak at 10 a.m.; he will celebrate Mass following his address.

Dr. Mary Davenport, an ob-gyn in El Sobrante, will speak at 1 p.m. on “Practical Aspects of the Theology of the Body in Catholic Reproductive Health Care.” Dr. Davenport will describe her own journey from abortionist to a Catholic pro-life physician, the influence of Mother Teresa on her life, and her subsequent work with Natural Family Planning.

Dominican Father Emmerich Vogt, chaplain to the San Francisco chapter of Courage, will bring information about this Catholic organization that helps people with same-sex attraction lead celibate lives. Father Vogt, who lives at St. Dominic Priory in San Francisco, is also editor of the 12 Step Review, a publication of the Western Dominican Province.

Jack Hockel said the conference was developed in response to Pope John Paul II’s challenge for a “new evangelization” to combat the “culture of death” in our society. The Knights of Columbus are active in meeting the challenge, he said.

The conference is free. Participants may either bring their own lunches or reserve box lunches at $8.50. To order a box lunch, make checks payable to John Krajcir and mail to 3319 Deerpark Dr., Walnut Creek, CA 94598.

For further information, phone (925) 937-6742 or email:


EWTN now available
on Comcast digital tier

By Voice staff

The 24-hour Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) became available to many East Bay cable viewers on Dec. 17 when the Catholic media outlet was added to Comcast’s Digital Classic tier of service. EWTN is now located on Digital Channel 229.

EWTN will provide live coverage, Jan. 21 and Jan. 22, from Washington D.C. of events marking the 31st anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. The Mass for Life will be broadcast on Jan. 21 at 5 p.m. from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and rebroadcast at 9 p.m.

On Jan. 22, starting at 8 a.m., EWTN will follow the March for Life up Constitution Avenue. to the Washington monument. The six-hour broadcast will include interviews with pro-life leaders and members of Congress. That coverage will repeat at 7 p.m.

Both these broadcasts will be carried on the Dish and DirecTV satellite networks in addition to the digital channel.

EWTN will also broadcast a six-part series called Making Abortion Rare, beginning Jan. 16. The series, consisting of 30-minute installments, offers a three-pronged strategy for ending abortion through a compassionate program of pastoral, political and educational reform.

Part 1 will air Jan. 16. The subsequent parts will run on Jan. 19, Jan. 20, Jan. 21, Jan. 22 and Jan. 23. All the broadcasts are at 4:30 a.m. and 6 p.m., except Jan. 20, which airs only at 6 p.m.

Mother Angelica, a cloistered Franciscan nun, began EWTN in 1981 with telecasts of daily Catholic-based programs from the cramped garage of her Alabama monastery. Today EWTN is available to more than 55 million U.S. households as well as to viewers in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, parts of Africa and the United Kingdom. It also has a Spanish-language network.

EWTN programs include daily Mass and devotions, call-in talk shows, family and children’s programs, Catholic world news, and telecasts from Rome.

To access Comcast’s Digital Classic ($9.95 per month) customers must be subscribers to Comcast’s basic service. Purchase information is available at Comcast Custom Sales and Service at (800) 945-2288.


Eight groups receive local CCHD grants

By Voice staff

Eight East Bay organizations have each received a $4,000 grant from the local portion of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. This money is the amount that remained in the Oakland Diocese after last year’s annual CCHD collection. The other funds were sent to the national CCHD office for distribution throughout the country.

The recipients are:
Central Legal de La Raza, an Oakland-based organization that offers free and low-cost legal, counseling and referral services to Latinos and other immigrants, will use its grant for leadership development, educational opportunities and political advocacy for Oakland day laborers;

East Bay Central American Refugee Committee organizes, empowers and assists low-income Latin American immigrants living in Oakland;

EAH, Contra Costa Inc., Multicultural Family Resource Center, a non-profit organization that develops, manages and advocates for affordable housing, will use its grant to help address the long-term needs of low-income individuals and families in the Crescent Park neighborhood of Richmond;

Filipinos for Affirmative Action promotes self-help resources and civil rights advocacy in the Filipino community through its offices in Oakland, Richmond and Union City;

Health-Interfaith Partnership plans to improve the quality of life of Contra Costa’s uninsured and underinsured families by empowering the community with wellness education and the skills to expand health resources;

Safe Ashland Neighborhood Organization plans to develop a collaborative of residents, social service providers, public agencies, property managers, and local merchants to improve the quality of life for residents in this unincorporated area of Alameda County;

St. Andrew-St. Joseph Parish in Oakland plans to implement a full-time program of ministry to encourage women working in prostitution to seek an alternative lifestyle and to assist them in that process;

Tri-Valley Interfaith Poverty Forum in Livermore will help pay an organizer to mobilize people of faith to address the needs and rights of low-income people.

The U.S. Catholic bishops founded CCHD to address the root causes of poverty in the country by supporting local self-help projects led by low-income people.


Folding our hands is only one of many ways to embody prayer

By Julie McCarty

Seated across from two young men smoking cigarettes — the only available spot in the crowded city café on this rainy day — the woman pauses before eating, her graying head bowed, her wrinkled hands clasped before her, resting on the edge of her soup bowl. Nearby diners glance furtively her way, mysteriously drawn in by her quiet, humble gesture.

Americans don’t need to see the title of this 1951 Norman Rockwell painting, “Saying Grace,” in order to know the woman is praying. The posture of bowed head and folded hands, with gently intertwined fingers, is common for prayer in our society.

Christians, however, have not always prayed with folded hands. The first Christians prayed like their Jewish ancestors, standing with arms extended before them, palms open toward the heavens.

In his book, “Earthen Vessels: The Practice of Personal Prayer According to the Patristic Tradition” (Ignatius Press, 2002), Benedictine Father Gabriel Bunge notes that this position was so standard for praying that biblical writers assumed that readers would know that phrases referring to “the lifting up of the hands” signified the person was praying.

Solomon prays “kneeling with his hands outstretched toward heaven.” In the book of Tobit, Sarah prays to God by facing a window and “spreading out her hands.” Moses prays with his hands extended to the Lord. “Lift up your hands toward the sanctuary,” writes the psalmist, “and bless the Lord.” The First Letter of Timothy encourages praying by “lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument.”

As time passed, some Christians began to pray with their arms extended on either side rather than in front of them. We know this from early Christian writings, icons, and artwork.

Tertullian is one early Christian writer who encouraged this practice as a way of bearing witness to the Passion of Christ while praying.
Although modern Catholics may think of this “orans” position as a posture for the priest during Mass, in reality this prayer posture has been used by many faithful followers of Jesus throughout history.

Praying with folded hands, palms together and fingers pointed heavenward, does not appear to have hit the Christian scene until medieval times, probably beginning in the region of present day Germany.

In the Middle Ages, a vassal taking an oath of loyalty to his feudal lord placed his hands in this gesture of submission and obedience.

In turn the feudal lord accepted this oath by placing his hands around the vassal’s hands. Medieval Christians using this gesture for prayer were expressing their obedience to God, the true Lord of all.

Catholics of today pray using other hand gestures as well. Families may hold hands during table prayers, as a sign of their oneness in prayer. Some people meditate with open hands, resting in their laps, as a sign of openness to God.
Others may rest their hands, palms down, in their laps, as a simple, unobtrusive way of praying silently for longer meditation periods.

It is a great blessing to have such a rich heritage of prayer styles from which
to choose when we pray.

The best hand position during prayer is not one which appears outwardly to be the most pious, but rather, the one which fosters the most inner attentiveness to God.

Whatever hand gesture we use, it should lead us into deeper relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ, who opened his hands in the most radical gesture of love upon the Cross.

(Julie McCarty, M.A.T., is a freelance writer from Eagan, Minn. whose syndicated column on prayer appears in diocesan newspapers around the country. Contact her at

‘Frankenfood’ or feeding the hungry?

By George Weige

lA November conference at the Vatican helped surface one of the most important debates in global Catholic social justice circles today. The argument involves “genetically modified organisms” or GMOs. Critics call GMOs “Frankenfood” or worse. Proponents – including many Third World farmers – see GMOs as the way to feed hungry peoples whose food supply is threatened by natural disaster, insect infestation, or other blights.

GMO critics have rallied some Catholic leaders behind their anti-“Frankenfood” campaign. Last year, the bishops of South Africa declared that “it is morally irresponsible to produce and market genetically modified food.” Some Brazilian and Filipino bishops have also condemned biotech foods. These agitations have had real effect: Catholic activists in Zambia, for example, have persuaded that government to reject food aid that includes GMOs – despite widespread hunger in Zambia.

According to the National Catholic Reporter’s John Allen, GMO critics raised three issues at the Vatican conference: possible environmental harm; possible health risks; and “potential for growing dependence upon commercial seeds and chemicals among poor farmers.”

Veteran observers of Catholic “antiglobalization” activism may well suspect that the last is the nub of the matter. Studies by reputable scientists (including the Pontifical Academy of Sciences) suggest that concerns about GMO damage to the environment or GMO health risks are largely unsubstantiated and typically exaggerated. Cautions are in order, as with any developing technology, but the empirical bottom line on GMOs seems to be that they feed people, they don’t cause disease, and they don’t damage soil, water, or air.

Which leaves the commercial connection. In his report on the Vatican conference, John Allen quoted Thandiye Myeni, a South African small farm owner and chair of the Mbuso Farmers’ Association. “We don’t always want to be fed food aid,” she told the conference. “We want access to this technology so that one day we can become commercial farmers.”

Do the anti-GMO activists, including bishops, priests, and religious, approve of Thandiye Myeni’s ambition? It seems unlikely. In fact, one cannot help getting the impression that the more aggressive anti-GMO activists are far more concerned with battling “globalization” and “unbridled capitalism” than they are about feeding hungry people.

That’s not just my impression, by the way. The U.S.-based Congress of Racial Equality recently blasted the environmental lobby Greenpeace for its opposition to GMOs in these uncompromising terms: “Well-fed eco-fanatics shriek ‘Frankenfoods’ and ‘genetic pollution.’

They threaten sanctions on nations that dare to grow genetically modified crops, to feed their people or replace crops that have been wiped out by insects and blights. They plan to spend $175 million battling biotech foods over the next five years. Not one dime of this will go to the starving poor. Greenpeace policies bring misery, disease, and death to millions of people in developing countries, particularly in Africa.

Are hungry people being used as pawns in an ideological debate? That would be a nasty business indeed. GMO proponents concede that there are cautions to be observed in deploying new agro-technologies. Why won’t the critics of GMOs concede that the burden of available scientific evidence is against their case?

Why does the testimony of working farmers like Thandiye Myeni, who want to serve their people while making a commercial success of their farms, not count? Is it because they’re entrepreneurs?

Theological confusions are also in play here. An American Jesuit, Father Roland Lessups, told the Rome conference that “the right to use other creatures does not give us the right to abuse them.” Fair enough as a principle. But since when are wheat and maize “creatures”? And if the “creatures” in question are livestock, why is it “abuse” to raise cattle that are genetically resistant to certain strains of disease?

Is there really a serious moral theological question here? Or are the opponents in opposition because Monsanto (to take a symbolic reference point) might actually make a profit – and help African farmers do the same?
(George Weigel is a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.)

Terri Schiavo case –
a complex medical and moral reality

By Ronald G. Connolly, M.D.

As a Catholic physician, I am 100 percent pro-life. I have actively been involved in the pro-life cause from 1968 to the present. I have testified before legislative bodies in Washington DC and Sacramento, written articles, a book, and given talks.

In the tragic case of Terri Schiavo, however, there is substantial evidence that the often strident “pro-life support” is misdirected. To demonize opponents on an extremely complex medical and moral reality is destructive, unfair, and uncharitable.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of “over-zealous” treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted.” (No. 2278).

The Terri Schiavo cause is confounded by the many advancements in medical technology which at times can blur the distinction between prolonging life and prolonging the act of dying. Ethical medical care seeks to prolong life, not to prolong dying.

Many people with terminal cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other illnesses, choose to die at home. They are conscious and talking until their act of dying – their sickness – progresses to the point that they can no longer eat or drink. This is the way most people die. Most of these patients would live months longer if feeding tubes were placed and round the clock nursing care provided.

However, the Church and the Catechism have always held that burdensome and extraordinary measures are not indicated; it is wrong to prolong the act of dying.

Is it reasonable to say that these patients who died at home were “starved to death”? Is this fair? Life support, whether it is nutritional, a respirator, or renal dialysis, obviously can in some circumstances be extraordinary; namely, when it no longer prolongs life, but only prolongs the act of dying.

People with high ethical standards should be able to disagree – without being demonized – whether nutritional life support for 13 years is extraordinary, burdensome, and disproportionate.

This case is confounded further by the fact that there is disagreement concerning the wishes of Terri Schiavo prior to her illness. It can be instructive, however, to place ourselves in Terri Schiavo’s position: would you want a feeding tube for 13 years? Do you want your family to assume nursing care for the next 13 years? Many people would view this as a torture.

The Church teaches we must use ordinary means to preserve our life, not heroic measures. However, if in fact, as many claim, it is murder not to support a feeding tube in Terri Schiavo, then it would be suicide – gravely immoral – for Terri Schiavo or anyone else to decline such a feeding tube. The same moral act cannot be intrinsically right for some people and wrong for others.

A few general medical facts may be helpful. It is known that the cerebral cortex (the higher lobes of the brain responsible for cognitive function) dies after 4-6 minutes without oxygen; whereas the brainstem (with its reticular activating system – RAS – that controls respiration, heart rate, etc.) dies only after 15-20 minutes without oxygen. Thus, there is a significant discrepancy between the two.

After three months, if the cerebral cortex has not recovered from an injury or insult, then, for all practical purposes, it will not. However, the RAS can partially recover – for example, the patient’s eyelids may be open, there may be yawning and random limb and head movements, but there is an absence of response to commands and an inability to communicate – in essence, an “awake coma.” The cerebral cortex, however, will not recover. Further, most dying people do not experience hunger; most have an aversion to food. This is why weight loss and wasting are often present in dying patients.

Physicians must always supply medical care; a patient should always be made as comfortable as possible. Physicians are not always obligated to provide treatment; among other factors, some treatment may become a torture to the patient. (There is a difference between care and treatment.) Patients can refuse any treatment, but society, as well as reality, limit to some extent what treatment can be demanded.

In distributive justice, doctors and nurses, as well as the public and the Church, have a serious obligation to provide essential medical care to all people – including prenatal and infant care, as well as basic immunizations. This care must be provided while working within the unfortunate reality of limited resources.

It is up to society and the Church, not the medical profession, to decide how medical resources are to be rationed. Society must decide who is to receive the next heart-lung transplant. Do prisoners in our penal system stand equal to the five-year-old child with cystic fibrosis when the next organ becomes available?

Litigation has been ongoing in the Terri Schiavo case since 1998, with intense animosity being generated. Only recently has the case become national news. Unfortunately, at this time, it has become politicized and turned into a rallying cry for the pro-life cause against abortion and euthanasia. In my opinion this is a disservice to all involved.

I don’t have an answer for this tragic case. It would be helpful if Terri Schiavo’s expressed wishes regarding the feeding tube were known, but they are not known; they are in dispute, and therein lies the problem. Perhaps saintly experts in medical ethics, in light of current medical technology, will address the issue.

In the meantime, the most unfortunate consequence of this public polarization is that what could have been an opportunity for meaningful dialogue, generating respect and goodwill, has rather resulted in ridicule, disdain, and distrust. The Holy Father states that there should be “mature and disinterested” dialogue between the Church and society, seeking the common moral good as inviolable truths are applied to individual circumstances.

What the world needs is more faithful Catholics, in all walks of life, who are willing to dialogue and explain the wisdom of the Church’s teachings without taking personal affront from those who disagree on matters of prudential judgment.

(Dr. Ronald G. Connolly is a physician in Walnut Creek.)