ONLINE
JANUARY 26, 2004
Official newspaper of the Roman Catholic
Diocese of Oakland, California encompassing all of
Alameda &
Contra Costa counties.

BISHOP
VIGNERON

 

 

 

INSIDE
THIS ISSUE

Creativity fuels
acts of stewardship

Pope says Church
must be hierarchical

Bush commends Catholics on education

‘Healthy Belly’ menu wins at St. Elizabeth School
Berkeley school celebrates its 126th anniversary

St. Perpetua School showcases its new center

Students take to airwaves at St. Philip Neri School
Richmond student
wins scholarship
Book probes spirit behind De La Salle’s ‘Streak’

Holy Names High takes a break to learn new skills

Appeal aims to raise
$2.1 for ministries
School Dept. honors two women with Seton Award
All Saints School
bell choir chimes
Former Pt. Richmond pastor dies at 73
Catholic officials call state budget ‘problematic’
Father Gerald Coleman to leave St. Patrick Seminary
Progress towards ecumenical coalition

Parish plans monument
for abuse victims

Comedian traces roots
to St. Felicitas School
New cathedral site to be blessed on Feb. 15
U.S. bishops’ film office ranks top 10 movies

Commentary:
• Bishop Vigneron
• Fran S. Atchison

Obituaries
 
FRONT PAGE

Apology service aids healing

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

They prayed for victims, for the compassion to listen and for renewed trust in the Church; they came forward and knelt at the foot of the cross; they sang, and they heard words of sorrow and regret; and in the process, worshippers at St. Ignatius Parish in Antioch began to heal the wounds of clergy sexual abuse.

Up to a hundred persons took part in the ceremony on Jan. 13, the first of a series of apology services to be held throughout the year for parish communities that have suffered from the actions of their clergy. In the case of St. Ignatius, the offender was Robert Ponciroli, the first pastor of the church, who was named in the bishop’s homily and during the intercessions.

Beverly Iacona, who worked at the parish during Ponciroli’s tenure, said the ceremony “was a long time coming. It did help me to heal because I felt like a victim myself, and I knew back then that it happened. I had a lot of anger.”

Bishop Allen Vigneron’s words, the adoration of the cross and the music created an experience that touched the participants deeply, according to Iacona and Father Geoffrey Baraan, parochial administrator.

“The whole experience was wonderful,” Father Baraan said. “A lot of people noted the humility and the humanity of the bishop.” For everyone who took part, he said, “there were tears, there were goose bumps.”

Toni Garsh, herself a survivor of clergy sexual abuse and music minister at St. Ignatius, was one of those moved to tears. It was “a very healing time,” she said, and Bishop Vigneron’s honesty touched her deeply. He did not try to minimize the scandal, she said, and he entered humbly from the side and took a seat instead of processing into the church.

“The bishop came over to me and apologized after he heard that I was a survivor,” Garsh said, “and I really appreciated that.”

In his homily Bishop Vigneron said, “I, as Bishop of Oakland, apologize with all my heart for the acts of clergy sexual abuse perpetrated upon children and young people in this diocese…I beg pardon from all who have been hurt by these acts of abuse.”

He noted that he stood and spoke “under the cross,” and said, “In the light of the cross, in its promise of victory over evil, I am free to speak, to say I am sorry; and in the power of his crucified love it is possible to forgive – no, not to forget, but to forgive and move toward healing.”

Carondelet Sister Barbara Flannery, diocesan chancellor, read the intercessions – for all who have been abused in the diocese and their families, for those who were victims of Ponciroli’s crimes, for re-dedication to the protection of young people, for the courage to speak the truth about abuse, for rebuilding trust in the community.

Although Ponciroli left the parish in 1983, wounds still remain, Iacona and Garsh said. There are parents who continue to live with doubts, knowing that their sons served as altar boys with the former pastor. There are parishioners who still feel betrayed and angry.

And there are victims, such as Robert Thatcher, who returned to the parish last March to publicize his case of alleged abuse. He was amazed and touched when Father Baraan welcomed him with open arms.

In closing his homily, Bishop Vigneron acknowledged these wounds: “To his open heart, wounded for us, (Christ) calls us, so that there our souls, the souls of the parishioners of St. Ignatius, these deeply burdened souls, will find rest.”

He will bring this message to St. Philip Neri in Alameda at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 5 and to St. Bede in Hayward at 7 p.m., March 1.

Services are also to be scheduled at St. Joseph in Pinole, Queen of All Saints in Concord, St. Raymond in Dublin, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Fremont, Our Lady of the Rosary in Union City, St. Anne in Byron, St. Cornelius in Richmond, St. John in San Lorenzo and St. Mary-St. Francis de Sales in Oakland. Two more parishes will have services in 2005.

At risk schools must meet goals
or lose subsidy

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

Eight diocesan elementary schools, faced with declining revenues and enrollment, are to remain open for the 2004-2005 year, but all must meet strict timetables for improving their deficits or lose their diocesan subsidies.

Principals and pastors of the eight schools heard this news on Jan. 15, when they met with school department officials. The announcement ended a period of tension and speculation that began with the appointment last October of a diocesan task force to study the schools’ problems and potential.

“We have here a faith-filled decision,” said Mark DeMarco, diocesan superintendent of schools. “If it were merely a financial decision, it would be very different.” It is based on the Church’s “special commitment to the poor and the marginalized,” he said. The eight schools are all urban and in low-income areas.

But the decision is “realistic,” DeMarco said, because it demands that schools address their financial deficits. Bishop Allen Vigneron made the determination based on information provided by the committee and by Deacon Thom McGowan, diocesan director of services and administration.

He also relied on advice from the College of Consultors, a group of nearly a dozen priests acting as advisors to the bishop. DeMarco said he will inform the consultors of the schools’ progress during the group’s monthly meetings.

The bishop’s decision means that deficit spending must end by next year, DeMarco said, and schools will have to work hard to create strong marketing strategies, new sources of income and better communication with key members of the community.

Holy Names Sister Barbara Bray, assistant superintendent, said the decision provides “both comfort and challenge” to the schools. They are assured of receiving their subsidies for the 2004-2005 school year, but they must meet their individual goals or lose that funding in the future.

“It is non-negotiable,” Sister Bray said. “What’s tied to it is the subsidy.” The present subsidies for 2004-2005 run from $30,000 to $300,000, depending on the school.

The eight schools are St. Augustine, St. Bernard, Sts. Cyril-Louis Bertrand Academy, St. Paschal Baylon and St. Martin de Porres, all in Oakland; St. Joseph the Worker in Berkeley; Our Lady of the Rosary in Union City; and St. Barnabas in Alameda.

Each school received a set of individualized goals — a “sustainability plan” — for increasing enrollment, adopting a balanced budget and complying with a management strategy created with Catholic School Management, a Connecticut consulting firm that has been working with 22 schools in the diocese.

In addition, two schools must increase their number of credentialed teachers, and St. Martin de Porres, now situated at Sacred Heart and St. Patrick parishes, must consolidate into one campus at St. Patrick.

Sacred Heart Sister Barbara Dawson, president of St. Martin de Porres School, said, “I think we can have a very strong school with one campus. We’re not going to abandon West Oakland. That’s where the greatest need is.”

The school now has a van service that provides transportation between the two campuses, and Sister Dawson said this is expected to expand after consolidation to help students along the San Pablo Avenue corridor get to St. Patrick.

Natalie Tovani-Walchuk, principal of St. Joseph the Worker, said she was glad the decision had finally come, and Father George Crespin, pastor, said, “It’s kind of a relief to know that it’s really in our own hands.” St. Joseph is already showing signs of progress and increased enrollment by 15 students to 124 this past year.

Like many schools, St. Joseph the Worker has been targeting Latino families. “We’ve been making outreach for several years now,” Father Crespin said. “I think the future of our school, particularly, is in that community.” The key, he said, is word of mouth between families.

The principal of St. Bernard, Mary McGing, said at the meeting that she has “tried desperately to increase enrollment” in the Latino community with no success. Sister Bray responded, “This is a huge area where we can do business differently. It’s called culturally competent outreach.” She said Father Crespin and members of the Hispanic pastoral center could help.

Each of the eight schools is to submit an outreach plan with target dates and goals by Feb. 27. In addition, schools are given specific aims – to increase enrollment by 5 or 10 percent a year until reaching 80 percent of capacity, in most cases. One school has been asked to increase its percentage of Catholic students.

Diocesan elementary and high schools lost about 5 percent of enrollment, or more than 1,200 students, in the past two years, with the greatest decline in Oakland. From studying transcripts of students who had left, the task force discovered that a large number had moved to Tracy, Stockton and Modesto in search of affordable housing.

But, said Sister Bray, there remains a population of families who are interested in Catholic education, as shown by census data, CCD enrollment and baptisms. “From what the committee can see,” DeMarco said, “the pool is there of families who want Catholic education.”

It is important to reach these families, Sister Bray said, and to assure them that financial help is available. Several groups provide funding for Catholic school students, she noted, such as the BASIC Fund, FACE (Family Aid to Catholic Education) and the Children’s Education Organization of Oakland.

Enrollment is the main concern at St. Barnabas School, said St. Joseph Sister Marie Myers, principal. Families have been forced out by the high cost of housing in Alameda, and the school’s plan calls for increasing registered enrollment to 141 by June 30.

“We’re just going to bite the bullet and do it,” said Sister Myers.
In assessing the performance and potential of the schools, the task force looked at academic quality, Catholic identity, enrollment and financial stability. The committee members depended on evaluations by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, an accreditation agency, for determining academic quality.

Those four criteria are key to building a strong school, said Sister Bray. She also noted that enrollment has increased in some schools and a new school is slated for St. Bonaventure Parish in Concord. Plans for the new school have been approved, and a capital campaign to build the plant is being organized.

The diocese has been subsidizing one high school and 10 of its 50 elementary schools with funds collected in the annual Bishop’s Appeal. These funds are matched two-to-one by an anonymous foundation, and the total school funding collected last year came to $1.1 million.

Catholic School Management has been working with 22 schools to help them adopt realistic budgets, increase enrollments, improve outreach and communications, raise funds and create strategic plans. The process takes three years, and the schools are now in their second year of collaboration with CSM.

The individual school plans include goals for completing work with CSM, and these vary widely, with some schools already far along in the process and others just beginning. The presence of CSM in the diocese was an important factor is deciding to keep the schools open, DeMarco said.

“The consultors feel there is a great amount of hope around what you have accomplished with the Catholic School Management plan,” he told the group of pastors and principals.

DeMarco was not involved in the task force reviews, but he will oversee compliance with the sustainability plans. “It is my responsibility to monitor the plans with you,” he said. “We’ll give you every resource you need to get over the bar.”

Bishops criticize
Israel’s separation barrier

By Michele Chabin
Religion News Service

JERUSALEM—U.S. and other Roman Catholic bishops concluded a four-day conference in the Holy Land on Jan. 15 with a statement critical of the Israeli government, especially its so-called security barrier.

The bishops, who said they had come to the region first and foremost to express solidarity with the dwindling community of local Catholics, blasted the separation barrier Israel is building between the West Bank and Israel proper.

“We have seen the devastating effect of the wall currently being built through the land and homes of Palestinian communities. This appears to be a permanent structure, dividing families, isolating them from their farmland and their livelihoods and cutting off religious institutions,” the bishops said.

The International Court of Justice at the Hague will begin deliberations, Feb. 23, on whether the barrier is illegal.

The U.S. delegation was led by Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Prelates from 10 other bishops’ conferences, including Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, Canada, El Salvador, Spain and Scandinavia as well as England and Wales, attended the conference.

In their final communiqué, the bishops also criticized Israel’s stringent visa policy, which has prevented many Christians, including clergy, seminarians and lay personnel, from obtaining residency permits during the past couple of years.

This policy, they said, results in “genuine impediments to the churches’ capacity to carry out their mission at the service of the people of the Holy Land.”

The bishops also implicitly criticized the Palestinian leadership and the world community when they observed “the lack of political will” to work for a peaceful settlement “not only in this region but in the international community.”

They called on “all our politicians to respond to the desire for peace which the people of this Holy Land have so deep in their hearts.”

In spite of the ongoing violence in the region, “we have been given hope by the small but notable increase in the number of pilgrims coming to the holy places,” the bishops said. They expressed the hope that their own visit, the third in three years, “will be an example and encouragement to our fellow Christians to come and see where Jesus Christ lived.”

Since the start of the intifada in 2000, pilgrimages to the Holy Land have plummeted. Because local Christians often earned their livelihoods from tourism, they were hit particularly hard by the downturn. Once a significant minority in the Holy Land, due to ongoing emigration Christians today comprise just two percent of the Holy Land’s population.

Given the local community’s difficult situation, the bishops said, pilgrimages provide “a sign of hope and solidarity to the Christians of the Holy Land.”
The bishops paid tribute to “the vitality and commitment of the Church of the Holy Land itself, including the fraternal relations” between Christian leaders of various denominations.

During a press briefing following the statement, individual bishops said they were deeply touched by the faith and tenacity of the local Catholics they had met during their visit.

“Their faithfulness to the Lord shone through,” Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool said, recalling the faithful he had met at Mass in the West Bank town of Beit Sahur, on the outskirts of Bethlehem. “The joy in people’s faces would bring shame to many gatherings we have back home.”

Bishop William Kenney, auxiliary bishop of Stockholm, said that while he was heartened by celebrating Mass in the West Bank town of Ramallah, he was also “saddened by the parents, mostly mothers but some fathers as well, who told me of their children who have moved to the Diaspora. I found their stories very moving.”

Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, who presided over the conference, stated that the local church and the universal church “are ready to act as mediators for peace between the political leaders,” but noted that, at the moment, “we do not have a mandate” to do so.

For the Church to act as referee, Patriarch Sabbah, a Palestinian native, concluded, “you have to be accepted by both sides.”

In the meantime, Sabbah, who openly supports Palestinian rights and uses the term “occupation” to describe Israel’s rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, said, “We continue our role, without a mandate, with only the mandate of God.”
Earlier that week, Pope John Paul II in his annual review of world affairs also encouraged Israelis and Palestinians to resume negotiations. The pope warned that the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “a permanent destabilizing factor for the entire region.”

He criticized “the choice of arms, the recourse on one side to terrorism and on the other to reprisals, the humiliation of the adversary and the propaganda of hatred.

“Only the respect for the legitimate aspirations of both sides, the return to the negotiating table and the concrete engagement of the international community are capable of leading to the start of a solution,” he said. “True and durable peace cannot be reduced to a simple equilibrium between opposing forces.”

 

INSIDE STORIES

Creativity fuels parishioners’ acts
of stewardship

By Sharon Abercrombie
Staff writer

Most seasoned, road-weary drivers don’t look for extra reasons to make long-distance commutes. George McDonnell, however, remains a willing, cheerful commuter.

For the past year, he has been chauffeuring a Korean War veteran from Dublin to his weekly doctor’s appointment at the Veterans Hospital in San Francisco. For McDonnell, a member of St. Raymond Parish, providing this service has been a fine way to use his “time, talent, and treasure.”

Chauffeuring as a ministry emerged in November 2002 after McDonnell reached into the collection basket at Mass — not to put money in, but to take some out. The occasion was the parish’s “reverse collection.” That morning McDonnell and other parishioners dipped into the baskets for envelopes containing anywhere from zero to $60.

If their envelope contained cash, it was to be used for personal charitable fund raising projects, instructed Monica Lander, stewardship chair. The moneyless group, including McDonnell, was also challenged to come up with creative ways to “practice random acts of kindness.”

St. Raymond’s project was the 21st century version of Matthew’s parable of the talents. In the Scripture story, a householder is preparing for a long journey and entrusts his three servants with coins of different amounts. When he returns, two of the servants have doubled the value of their treasures, but the third has buried his money in the ground. The lesson of the reading is to use one’s talents instead of burying them.

At St. Raymond’s the lesson was learned well. The original $10,000, a gift from Concord’s St. Agnes Parish after its “reverse collection” project, yielded $33,393.40, plus numerous charitable projects.

In November, they passed on the initial $10,000 to St. Joseph Parish in Fremont with instructions to begin their own stewardship projects during 2004.
This saga of stewardship-in-action had its genesis at St. Agnes in 1998, when an anonymous donor gave money to the parish, with the challenge to fulfill the parable of the talents.

Parishioners responded in a variety of ways, ranging from selling abalone meals to staging their own concert. They raised $33,000, and decided to make the original “seed money” a pass-it-on gift.

Marge Perez, diocesan stewardship director for the diocese, and Katherine King, diocesan development director, praise the ongoing adventure in applied stewardship.

Here are some examples of parishioners’creative projects:

A gift of sight

Ray and Barbara Garrett were among the 315 parishioners who drew empty envelopes.

Two weeks after the drawing, they went to their favorite waffle restaurant and noticed that their regular waiter was without his eyeglasses. As he struggled to write out their check, the young father of three told them he probably couldn’t afford to replace the frames anytime soon because his wife was sick.

After he left their table, simultaneous light bulbs went off in the Garretts’ heads. They took out their wallets and counted the cash between them. It came out to $100.

As they prepared to leave, Ray Garrett walked over to their waiter. “I reached out, and stuffed the money into his palm.” The next week, when the couple returned, there was their grateful friend, sporting his new pair of spectacles.

“It was the right thing to do,” said Ray Garrett, who provided a poignant postscript to this story. Garrett is legally blind and disabled. “I know what it’s like not being able to read.”

Saving memories
Jennifer Mosel also left Mass on “reverse collection” Sunday without any additional cash. But she knew of a perfect way to practice stewardship – donate scrapbooks to the families of Alzheimer’s’ patients so that family memories would not be lost.

She remembered an article by a physician-researcher concerning the memory retention abilities of Alzheimer patients. He found that those who had photo albums of themselves to look at and relate to didn’t lose their remembering skills so quickly.

Mosel’s sister is a Creative Memories consultant, a person who teaches people how to journal their memories and include them along with photos in special albums. Mosel herself is a scrapbook enthusiast. So she began asking friends, family and parishioners to donate money to buy Creative Memories albums for families of Alzheimer patients. Each book costs $31.

People were outstandingly generous. “They wrote checks for $50, for $100,” marveled Mosel. Pretty soon, she had more than $1,000 — enough to purchase 35 albums, with $260 in extra funds to donate to the Alzheimer’s Association. Creative Memories chipped in another $60.

Mosel gave the albums to the Northern California Alzheimer’s Association chapter in Lafayette, which in turn, passed them on to client families. Each gift came with a letter instructing caregivers how to help their relatives work with the
scrapbooks.

“Keep it simple,” advised Mosel. As a memory jogger, begin with one just picture, and then ask about it. And see what happens, she urged. The result could be a lovely family story brought forward from the past.

Truckloads of organic produce
Danielle Foster parlayed her $10 into vegetable seeds that grew into 16 truckloads of organic produce for the Open Heart Kitchen in Livermore and Pleasanton.

She planted her seeds in a homemade type of greenhouse and “said a little prayer.”

Soon she was rewarded with an abundance of vegetable seedlings – 30 zucchini, 20 yellow squash, and 60 tomato plants. But she didn’t have a clue as to why she was planting another garden.

Then she saw an announcement in the parish bulletin asking people to cultivate an extra vegetable plant in their garden and donate its harvest to the Open Heart Kitchen.

“It was then I knew why God had sent me on this mission,” said Foster. By June, she was delivering her first baskets of produce to the kitchen. “I was so touched by their operation,” she recalled. “Many of their guests are working families who just seem to have more days than money at the end of the month and need a helping hand.”

She realized that with summer approaching many of those families would not have the school lunch program to help feed their children.

So Foster embarked on the second phase of her stewardship project. She put an announcement in the parish bulletin asking people to donate the excess fruit from their trees to the kitchen. She promised to show up in people’s backyards with volunteers who would harvest and deliver the fruit.

By October, a crew of volunteers, including her children ages 2 and 4, had harvested, delivered and donated more than 16 truck loads of fresh produce to the kitchen.

Foster estimates the total value of her project as “close to $10,316 worth of fresh food going directly to those families who hunger right here.”

Parish garage sale
Scott and Bonnie Kramer decided to organize a parish garage sale with the help of their three kids and another parish family. They used their $10 in seed money to buy materials for signs. To pique interest, they billed the sale as a “name your own price.”

The day of the sale, the church parking lot was filled with donations that brought garage sale aficionados out in droves. The sale raised $1400 for the parish youth group. “People were really generous,” said Bonnie Kramer.

Christmas raffle for missionary
When Louise Ledford looked at her $10 bill, she thought of “foreign missions” and of her former eighth grade teacher, Sister Mary O’Dea, a member of the Sisters of St. Columban in Ireland, now helping poor women in Peru organize economic self-sufficiency projects.

What better way to put one’s money to use than see it go towards changing the lives of these impoverished women, Ledford thought. So she purchased a pretty Christmas ornament and sold raffle tickets. Today, Sister Mary O’Dea has an extra $75 for her work.

Football pool
People in need are often living right in one’s neighborhood. Terry and Cathy Lacey had such a family in mind – a mother and son. The woman had cancer and was two months behind on her health insurance premiums.
So the Laceys organized a football pool with their $20 and raised $1,055 – enough to make up the payments. Their neighbor has since died, “but she left this earth knowing that somebody cared enough to help her when she needed it most,” said Cathy Lacey.

Books for sick kids
Allison Laughton’s family decided to have a family neighborhood book drive for the Oakland Children’s Hospital literacy program.
“The hospital gets many book donations at Christmas, but they receive very few donations the remainder of the year,” she said. A good way to bridge that gap was to have a mid-year book drive, so she and husband, John, and their kids, Alex and Tori, decided to organize one.

Safeway donated 150 grocery bags to the cause. Alex and Tori created posters asking for books and stapled one to each bag. Then, the family dropped off their bags on the porch steps of their neighbors, announcing they would return a week later.

“We picked up over 40 bags of children’s books. All combined, there were over 1,000 books donated,” Laughton said. The project also received three checks totaling $70 to put towards new books for the children.
“We had a great time completing this project,” she said. And they didn’t even use the $10 they received in their envelope. Instead it went back to St. Raymond’s with the proviso “to use it for the next ‘time, treasure and talent’ project.”

A generous pay back
One family decided that they needed to help themselves first, before assisting others, reports Monica Lander, stewardship chair. When Lander collected all the information forms from parishioners telling about their projects, she discovered an anonymous letter from a couple who had arrived at church completely broke. They had no food in the house and wouldn’t be able to buy any until their next paycheck. They had drawn an envelope with $20.

They used the cash to buy food. A few weeks later, after they had recovered financially, the couple donated a generous amount of groceries to the parish food pantry.

Pope says Church
must be hierarchical

By Peggy Polk
Religion News Service

VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Pope John Paul II has strongly reaffirmed the hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church and the strict division of roles between priests and the laity.

“The structure of the Church cannot be conceived on simply human political models,” the pontiff said Jan. 10 in an address to members of the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy.

“Its hierarchical constitution rests on the will of Christ and, as such, is part of the ‘depositum fidei (deposit of faith)’ which must be conserved and transmitted completely over the course of the centuries,” John Paul said.

The Church teaches that the deposit of faith is the body of saving truth, which Jesus entrusted to the apostles and they handed on to the Church to be preserved and proclaimed.

The pope said it is necessary to “safeguard the balanced relationship” between the role of the priest and the “useful collaboration on the part of the laity” within the Church’s hierarchical structure.

“Pastors have the duty of teaching, supporting and sanctifying the people of God while the lay faithful, together with them, take an active part in the mission of the Church in a constant synergy of efforts and in respect for their specific vocations and charisms,” the pope said.

The Congregation for the Clergy oversees the duties and rights of clergy, their preaching and educating, and their administration of Church property.

Bush commends Catholics
on education

By Religion News Service

WASHINGTON (RNS) – During a speech in which he acknowledged Catholic leaders in education, including Oakland’s Emeritus Bishop John Cummins, President Bush commended Catholic schools for insisting on high standards for academic achievement, reaching out to disadvantaged students, and for being a model for all schools around the country.

President Bush praised Catholic educators for overcoming the challenge of tight budgets to produce remarkable results, in a talk in the White House’s East Room to some 250 Catholic educators marking the 100th anniversary of the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) on Jan. 9.

“The per-pupil cost in a Catholic school classroom is substantially below the per-pupil costs of many other schools – public or private,” the president said.
“And yet the results are astonishing: 2.6 million students who attend Catholic schools will graduate – that’s 99 percent – and almost all go to college. Even though the per-pupil expenditure per classroom is low, the results are extremely high. And it says something is going right,”

He also lauded the educators for their commitment in reaching out to “disadvantaged” students regardless of religious affiliation.

“The Catholic schools have done our country a great service by a special outreach to minority children, who make up 26 percent of the enrollment of our Catholic schools,” he said. “This is a great service to those children and their parents and our country.”

Catholic schools have a proven record in “bringing out the best in every child,” said Bush, adding that “every school in America should live up to that standard.”
That philosophy, he said, is behind his No Child Left Behind Act, education reform legislation that assumes that every child can and is expected to learn.

Many Catholics at the White House ceremony applauded when Bush debriefed his $14 million plan to push for a federal voucher program in Washington, D.C., public schools, which passed in the House and is anticipating a Senate vote this year.

Others involved in Catholic education marveled at the possible ramifications of the school-choice program, which would enable low-income families to defray high tuition costs at private schools.

“If President Bush’s efforts are successful in bringing voucher funding to the nation’s capital, this can be a real model for many cities, including Chicago, where there is a critical need for alternative funding sources for schools,” said Nicholas Wolsonovich, superintendent of schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

But amid excitement at the prospect that low-income parents could use vouchers to pay their children’s way into Catholic schools, Catholic educators were also well aware of their own lack of resources. According to an NCEA study released July 2003, 140 Catholic elementary and secondary schools shut down or were consolidated, while only 47 schools opened across the country.

Michael Guerra, NCEA president, said about 40 percent of Catholic schools have waiting lists, reflecting a large gap between supply and demand.

“We’re (also) interested in children in public schools,” Guerra said. “Many of them are Catholics, and we try to provide religious education for those kids in our parish programs. ... I think we can do better in that area; we’re trying to measure and do better with our parish religious education.”

Bishop Gregory Aymond of Austin, Texas, and NCEA board chairman, also emphasized his concern for finding adequate resources to train lay teachers, which accounted for 94.4 percent of full-time Catholic school staffers, according to an NCEA study of the 2002-2003 school year.

“There are less women religious and men religious in schools, and so therefore as laity take on more of these positions, we not only have to pay them just salaries, but we also have to train them and form them in the (spiritual tradition) of many of these other religious communities of the past,” Aymond said.

Despite financial worries, Catholic educators were quick to emphasize their ultimate goal. “We didn’t, and those who went before us, they didn’t open all these schools to be an example to everybody else,” Guerra said.

“Our job is to be ... the arm of the Church, the Church’s teaching mission, to form the minds and the hearts and the souls of the students who come to us, to send them into the world as people of competence, and compassion, faith, so they make a difference. That’s our business.”

(To read the complete text of President Bush’s talk to Catholic educators, visit the NCEA website at www.ncea.org.)

‘Healthy Belly’ menu wins
at St. Elizabeth School

By Sharon Abercrombie
Staff writer

The newest menu offering was watermelon radishes. A bowl of them beckoned invitingly. Known officially as Red Daikon, the sweet-tasting radishes bear an uncanny resemblance to their much larger namesakes.

That noon hour the little radishes were surrounded by bowls of chicken salad, celery sticks, whole-wheat honey rolls, romaine lettuce, purple cabbage, carrots, two kinds of cheese, Granny Smith apples, cherry tomatoes, and four varieties of salad dressing.

After sampling a radish slice and pronouncing it “good,” one six-year-old added several more to her plate of lettuce and tomatoes, bread and carrots. Some of her friends did likewise.

A fifth grade boy, however, bypassed the radishes and went for the celery — seven sticks of it – to accompany a roll slathered with ranch dressing, a heap of chicken salad, and two orange slices.

Meanwhile, an eighth grader stared gloomily at the two apple slices on her tray and announced that she’d much rather have some chicken strips from Kentucky Fried. Two of her friends confessed that they had visions of Jack in the Box burgers and fries dancing in their heads.

Welcome to the “Healthy Belly” salad bar at St. Elizabeth Elementary School in Oakland. Every Wednesday, 300 students line up at two kid-sized smorgasbord style food bars for a raw veggie lunch.

The salad bar is the brainchild of three faculty members—Dominican Sister Barbara Hagel, principal; and Katherine Webb and Anne Symens-Bucher, coordinators of the school’s Garden of Learning, a year-round working garden which is integrated into the curriculum.

Fast food alternative
Last year, a growing concern over the rapidly expanding waistlines of kids, both nationally and locally, prompted the three educators to consider how they could promote healthy eating to a generation of young diners addicted to fast foods. They were all too aware that childhood obesity has gone up 50 percent during the last 20 years, and that 50 percent of new diagnoses of Type 2 diabetes, ordinarily a middle-aged adult condition, will be among children.

Their response to these gloomy statistics? Bring a salad bar to the school cafeteria one day a week. Offer no hot meal to compete with the edible greenery pilot project.

Food-wise, St. Elizabeth’s was already steps ahead of most schools. At its Garden of Learning, located on the school property, kids have been planting veggies and flowers, learning about earth care, organic seed saving, and composting. At harvest times, when the tomatoes are plentiful, they make salsa for the whole school.

With this as background, Sister Hagel, Webb and Symens-Bucher ran their salad bar proposal past the rest of the school staff. They thought it was a great idea, too. So last spring, salads became Wednesday’s lunch fare. Response was consistently good, said Webb.

Kids were willing to expand their food preferences to include colorfully presented slimming veggies and good healthy, low fat protein items. In fact, many of the kids looked forward to their new Wednesday menu, added Webb.
So she and Symens-Bucher went to work writing grants so they could offer a permanent salad meal each week. They needed two salad bars, and even the kid-sized versions cost $3,000 each.

A few months later, three local organizations responded favorably. Chez Pannisse, the organically food conscious Berkeley restaurant; the Franciscan Commission for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of All Creation, located at St. Elizabeth Church; and the Fairy Godmother Society of Oakland supplied the $6,000 for the two big ticket items.

Organic produce

Last summer, the teachers and the school food staff took field trips to Sacramento, Davis and Berkeley, where there are some salad bars available in public schools. They visited organic farms and decided that Full Belly Farm in Guinda, near Sacramento, would be their primary produce supplier, with Sysco, a San Francisco food supplier, providing the remainder of the food. They would include as many organic items as they could.

Produce from the Garden of Learning would be included in the mix as well to reinforce the educational component. The school cafeteria staff would prepare the food.

The teachers recruited parents to pick up the produce every Tuesday night when it arrives from the farm for sale at a local farmers market.
Webb organized a contest among students to name the salad bar. Faculty and staff picked “Healthy Belly” as the winning entry. The bar officially opened in September.

Price-wise, kids pay the same amount to cover the cost of the salad meal — $1.50 per day – as they do for their lunches the rest of the week. Three hundred children participate in the school lunch program. The remaining 150 bring food from home, “but some kids buy lunch tickets just to eat the salads,” noted Liz Guneratne, special needs coordinator.

Besides offering healthy fare, the salad bar gives students an opportunity to make empowered choices. They learn, for example, not to load up on six rolls, but to take balanced helpings of other items. The menu changes as fruits and vegetables come and go during the season. The selections also include taco salad, smoked turkey, homemade soups (recipes courtesy of parents) and pasta salads.

Kids are exposed to healthy food the rest of the week too. Juices, yogurt, and Nature Grain Bars are available, along with the hot meals. “Even these fast things (yogurt, and grain bars) have some nutrition in them,” noted Sister Hagel. Sodas remain a non-item at St. Elizabeth’s.

Honey-wheat rolls were one of the real “sleepers” in the beginning, but they are now a universal hit, said Webb. One day, Sysco accidentally sent white ones and the kids were disappointed.

Salad bar day has other advantages. It provides an opportunity for students and teachers to eat together. The principal is a regular diner as well. Besides the community building which takes place, Sister Hagel has witnessed the fulfillment of her dream — “getting kids to taste foods they would never have touched before.”

She marvels at how well the students have embraced salads.“ One day I was out in the garden, and they were actually eating kale,” she marveled.

Changing habits

So what do the kids have to say? Vincent Miller, a seventh grader, says the salad bar “is good.” One Wednesday he was hoping for some peanut butter for his celery. But its absence didn’t stop him from eating the crunchy veggie plain and unadorned.

Eighth grader Kenneth Scott, 13, says his family doesn’t have many sit-down dinners because his mom works. So they do depend on fast foods sometimes. But when she is home, “we have broccoli or string beans with our steak and baked potatoes.”

Assiana Ollero is only five but she’s made the connection between nature and the lunch table. “I like it when the garden comes to us.”

Both Jeronimo Mora, 10, and Diego Rocha, 11, said they are learning to like vegetables and even eat them more at home now.

But all is not perfect in St. Elizabeth’s school cafeteria. The reality is some kids, especially in the upper grades, prefer fast foods, acknowledged Symens-Bucher.
She sees no easy answers except “consistency and perseverance over the long term. Older kids are harder to convince. We’re fighting against a culture of fast foods. They’ve gotten used to the taste.”

The real answer lies, she said, in “starting them off at a young age, eating the right things.”

 

Berkeley school to celebrate
its126th anniversary

By Voice staff

St. Joseph the Worker Elementary School in Berkeley, the second oldest Catholic school in the diocese, will mark its 126th anniversary with a special Mass at 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 25 in the parish church.

The school traces its origins to 1878, when the Presentation Sisters in Ireland sent a small contingent of Sisters from its San Francisco mission to establish a convent in Berkeley on 2.7 acres of land donated by James McGee, a local farmer and devout Catholic.

The convent was dedicated on June 27 of that year, with Mother Mary Teresa Comerford as superior and principal. On July 15, a dozen young girls began attending the first St. Joseph’s Presentation Academy in the convent building.
According to the parish archives, life was not easy in those early days. “Catholics were few and scattered. The children and their parents made immense sacrifices to attend school and church.” And it was lonely for Mother Teresa Comer ford to be living “out on a prairie with a few young Sisters.”

A year after their arrival, Mother Comerford realized that a school alone was not enough to meet the spiritual needs of the Sisters and Catholics of Berkeley, so she wrote to her brother, retired Bishop Pierce Comerford, inviting him to come to Berkeley to minister to the people on a full-time basis. He responded positively. In April 1879, Archbishop Joseph Sadoc Alemany established the parish of St. Joseph.

Demands on the Sisters were high. They not only taught school, but also served as janitors because they were too poor to pay for help. For five years, every Friday evening they moved benches and desks to turn the school into a church, and then moved everything back again on Sunday afternoon for Monday morning classes.
Since there were no streets or sidewalks in the newly incorporated city, when the wet weather arrived, the Sisters had to clean mud off the floor.

By 1881, Bishop Comerford had built St. Peter’s Boys School which the Sisters also staffed. Then in 1912, Father Francis X. Morrison built a “new” St. Joseph Boys School, which served the parish until 1953 when it was remodeled into the present day structure, built around the frame of the old school.

The Presentation Sisters no longer staff St. Joseph. Today a lay staff is headed by principal Natalie Walchuk.

Following the Jan. 25 anniversary Mass, the school will be open for visits until 1:30 p.m.

St. Perpetua School
showcases its new center

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.

Students take to airwaves
at St. Philip Neri School

By Carrie McClish
Staff writer

While their classmates spend the lunch period chatting and laughing, a group of seventh and eighth graders at St. Philip Neri School in Alameda gather in the media room for a working lunch. Their objective is to brainstorm story ideas for the next broadcast of SPN 3 news.

They toss out several ideas — a feature on roller coasters, a story on students with perfect attendance, a report on World AIDS Day. “It’s timely,” says Joe Leo, student media advisor and director-producer of the newscast, of the last suggestion. “But what is the angle for us?”

Covering major news stories that its viewers – the student body of the Alameda campus — can comprehend is the goal of SPN3 News. Now in its third year, the 20-30 minute broadcast is aired every other week over the school’s TV monitors.
“We take news stories and put our own angle to them, in order to provide a connection to news that, normally, would not be newsworthy to the student audience,” Leo said.

The SPN3 team, for example, recently examined changes in the AC Transit bus schedule by looking at how student commuters were affected by them. In a segment just before the state recall election last November, they asked students if they had been following the election and why. The student reporters also present regular segments on entertainment, health, sports and technology/science.

“They do a wonderful job,” said Principal Marilyn Marchi with pride. “They cover national news, they cover community news – with the perspective of the students – and, of course, school news. They cover our own sports and national sports. It is just a wonderful blend of coverage.”

Last year, she said, the news team even reported on how their adult counterparts at KRON-TV cover sports with an especially equipped van. “They went into the van and looked at the equipment that the newscasters have in place and how they actually film the game. That piece was very interesting. The kids just loved it.”

SPN3 News is a production of SPN Student Media, a project of the school’s junior high (6th to 8th graders) journalism program. Student Media also coordinates the publication of the student newspaper, yearbook and literary magazine.

All of the news team must first take Joe Leo’s print and broadcast journalism classes. He selects students for the newscasts based on their outgoing personality (individuals who “are not afraid to talk”) and ability to work well as a team.

Their responsibilities include researching and writing the news and presenting the news in front of the camera. Several news team members admitted that filming the reports is not as easy as it looks.

“My first report (on SPN3 News) was harder than I thought it would be because I was so nervous,” said Caroline Caselli, 13, an 8th grader who serves as senior staff reporter. Caselli, who is also editor in chief of the student newspaper, said she has grown to appreciate how much work goes into each newscast. “It looks easy,” she said, “but then you see how much harder it is.”

But the team members admit there are perks. Other students seem to take greater notice of the newscast members after they have appeared on the broadcast, said Terri Martin, 14, an 8th grader and main anchor. The younger students “look up to you,” she said. Her seventh-grade co-anchor, Toby Gay, 13, agreed, adding with a laugh, “We have fans.”

One of the newscast’s most enjoyable aspects is off-campus assignments. Recent location shots have taken place at the Bay Street shopping complex in Emeryville, the Oakland Museum and the Naval Air Base in Alameda.

Despite the high profile nature of their work, none of the campus journalists seemed enthusiastic about pursuing journalism as a career. Despite the challenges and rewards, noted Toby Gay, “there are a lot of journalists who are out of work.”

Finances are also a concern for the news program itself, said Leo, who has used his own Apple computers and secured donated video equipment from the athletic department to keep the program on the air. He hopes to organize regular fundraisers for the newscast and other media programs on campus. “I like to empower the kids,” he said.

Richmond student wins scholarship

Taylor Melton, an 8th grader at St. David School in Richmond, is the first recipient of the Marty Mart Scholarship Award. Named in honor of the longtime CYO associate director who died in December 2002, the $500 scholarship will be given annually to an 8th grade CYO girl’s volleyball player who best exhibits Christian values and fair play.

In an essay on sportsmanship in her award application, Melton wrote CYO is “not about having the most points or being the greatest. It’s about doing your personal best, sharing your spirit with others, and keeping a good attitude.”

Book probes spirit
behind De La Salle’s ‘Streak’

By Jeffrey Lewis
Voice correspondent

“There’s only one word to describe the reason for our success—mystery. The spirit that exists at De La Salle is mysterious. You can’t define it, box it, buy or sell it. You just allow it in, with all respect and humility. Our job is to allow the spirit to work within us to change our small corner of the world—one play at a time, one relationship at a time, one love at a time, one child at a time—and when it’s all said and done, you’ll understand that it begins with you.” De La Salle High School football coach Bob Ladouceur

“When the Game Stands Tall—The Story of the De La Salle Spartans and Football’s Longest Winning Streak,” written by Contra Costa Times sports columnist Neil Hayes, takes readers inside the locker room and into emotional, inspirational team meetings during the 2002 season to explore the mystery, the spirit, and the intense dedication that has produced the longest winning streak in all football—high school, college, and professional—and an incredible 151 consecutive victories and 17 undefeated seasons.

The challenges and redemption of the 2002 season are the thread that holds the book together, with alternating chapters providing historical background, profiles of outstanding players, and accounts of challenges and obstacles the teammates overcame together.

The book is not merely an account of a high school team that has become a national phenomenon. It explores the philosophy, the vision, and the spirit of this outstanding program and its architect, Bob Ladouceur. “When the Game Stands Tall” is not simply a sports story or the play-by-play description of a winning streak.

“It is a remarkable blueprint that has applications not only in business, but also with your family and friends,” St. Louis Cardinal manager Tony La Russa writes in the book’s foreword.

“This program is not about what you do on the football field,” Terry Eidson, the Spartans’ athletic director and defensive coordinator explains during a team meeting. “It’s about the journey you take… You’ve all done as much as you can do to be the best you could be, and that’s what life’s about.”

When Ladouceur was hired as the head football coach of the Spartans in 1979, he inherited a program that had never had a winning season, that had not been embraced by its school, and that was comprised of students who were reluctant to wear their varsity jackets because they were habitually subjected to public ridicule. One of his first acts as coach was to order new jerseys with the school name printed proudly across the chest.

Hayes takes us on a journey that begins with the hiring of Ladouceur as religion teacher and football coach, even though he had only one year at a public high school as an assistant coach and had no teaching experience. The coach’s first commitment was to teach his players a new veer offense—and a new attitude.

The questions Hayes poses are simple: “How did they do it?” How did the Spartans amass a consecutive winning streak of 151 games, crush opponents during 17 undefeated seasons and 19 North Coast Section Championships, and establish a winning percentage under Ladouceur of .948?

How did they overwhelm Bay Area and Northern California perennial powers year after year? How did they defeat bigger, faster Southern California powers like Mater Dei for four consecutive years, Bakersfield, and Long Beach Poly twice, a team that has sent more players to the NFL than any other high school in the nation?

And how did they become 10-time Cal-Hi Sports state champions and four-time mythical national champs, chosen by USA Today?

Ladouceur’s success, according to many defensive coordinators, is his intuitive gift as a play-caller, the gift of spatial awareness, and an uncanny ability “to sense open spaces on a field, and a way to get the ball into that space.”

The head coach believes in discipline, toughness, outworking the opponent, doing everything precisely right, committing yourself to your coaches and teammates, sweating through all the grueling hours, and playing for your teammates. Winning is a byproduct of this.

Ladouceur does not emphasize winning or The Streak. “We don’t do things so we look good to other people, but because our mission is to be better people, players, and coaches,” he stresses. The coaching staff prides itself on getting 11 kids moving as one and playing with heart. “We’re tough on kids because we believe they can do things they don’t believe they can,” the head coach notes.

“You all know and lived the ‘secrets’ to De La Salle’s success—love, brotherhood, sacrifice, discipline, heart, courage, passion, honesty,” Ladouceur told a group of seniors.

Coaches have come from as far away as Alaska to analyze the De La Salle mystique, the precision of their offensive line, their halftime adjustments, and The Streak. “I’m comparing these kids with ours and thinking we could compete with them physically,” Eddie Brakes, the defensive coordinator of Juneau, observes. “But it’s the system. It’s a program and a half.”

Ladouceur also possesses the uncanny ability to utilize the talents of his assistant coaches—and to learn from them. Steve Alexakos, De La Salle’s former offensive line coach and a former NFL player, introduced the numbering system to the Spartans’ arsenal that enables offensive linemen to identify where defensive players are. (That’s the reason the Spartan linemen always have their heads up as they approach the line—they’re counting.)

But Alexakos’ greatest contribution was the introduction of commitment cards—the index cards players always seem to be carrying around. They stress the importance of individual goal setting and enable all players, even those who do not get into the game, to measure their progress.

In addition to the commitment cards, an important part of the unique Spartan program is for players to stand up and call themselves out in front of their teammates—to courageously reveal what lies deep in a player’s heart, to relate deeply personal stories often with tears running down the player’s cheek. Unity is also encouraged by Thursday evening team meals and Friday afternoon chapel services.

“When the Game Stands Tall” portrays the journey of so many young men who have inherited The Streak, cherished it, fought to sustain it, and, finally, passed it on to others. The student athletes keep The Streak in perspective, because the coaching staff has focused on what is important—consistency, mental toughness, precision, focus, the importance of challenging oneself, to give it everything, and to become what you’re capable of becoming.

And finally love, for love is the essential component of the program.

Holy Names High
takes a break to learn new skills

By Sharon Abercrombie
Staff writer

Holy Names High School’s annual Mid-session experience is a dream come true for teachers and students alike. Teachers get to share their favorite hobbies or avocations instead of the usual hard-edged classes in chemistry, math, Spanish or history.

On the other side of the desk, students get to create stained glass windows, learn to play chess, sew their own pillow or teddy bear, play the guitar, cook a Mexican meal, sink into the meditative discipline of Yoga, dive into advanced Scripture study, or try their hand at crime solving.

They can go on college tours, cross-country skiing and theater trips, and take advantage of public service opportunities in local elementary schools, hospitals and senior centers.

This mini-alternative school concept is not limited to Holy Names. Oakland’s St. Elizabeth High School’s April program is called “Special Session.” St. Mary’s College High School in Berkeley titles theirs “March Enrichment Week.”
Salesian High School in Richmond’s progam takes place during “seventh period block” with special classes such as guitar and cooking incorporated into the trimester schedule and offered four days every week.

Assistant Principal Nancy Barrett said the Mid-session program at Holy Names began 28 years ago to expand students’ horizons and give them opportunities to learn new skills.

“Mid-session lets students see us in different ways,” said Sister Karen Conover, a Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Most of the time, she teaches chemistry. But during the Jan. 7-16 mid-session, she switched gears twice.

At 8 a.m. she co-taught a forensics science class, helping students learn the painstaking business of counting fingerprint loops. Then, at 10 a.m., she taught beginning guitar.

Joining her for the crime analysis class was Pete Barnett, president of Forensic Science Associates, and husband of Dana Barnett, Holy Names drama teacher.
Their class included lessons on how to detect forgeries and how to determine the angle a gun was fired by the location of blood spatters on the wall.

Every task was a lesson in “applying scientific principles and learning how to carefully analyze the evidence in front of them,” Sister Conover said.

By the end of the two weeks, they’ve learned crime solving is a tedious business involving many people, not like TV dramas where many of the tasks are rolled into one, and the star detective takes credit for breaking a case.

The 10 a.m. guitar class dovetailed nicely with Sister Conover’s favorite weekend volunteer job. She’s a Sunday music minister at San Quentin Federal Prison in Marin County.

Students quickly learn that beginning guitar class can be intense. Left hands cramp and tire quickly. Uncalloused fingertips hurt as students strive to keep their fingers clamped into the” D” chord position while, at the same time, learning to hold a pick and strum in rhythm with right hands.

Similar scenes of concentration were going on all over the school.
In a downstairs kitchen, Khadeaja Carroll, a 14-year-old freshman, watched intently as a classmate carefully pours a hot cream sauce into a large Pyrex dish of enchiladas. Carroll had signed up for a cooking class at her mom’s urgings. “She told me I was lazy and needed to start cooking for myself,” Carroll said.

“These have to go into the oven for a few minutes and then we can eat,” said Frances Bird, the director of admissions who used to have her own catering business.

That morning, the class of 10 freshmen had already made fresh salsa, guacamole, tortillas, and fried taco chips. Before Mid-session would conclude, they would have also visited a farmer’s market in Jack London Square to pick out produce, a sausage factory and a bakery.

And they would have learned to cook omelets and make marinara sauce and a peach cobbler.

“No, we’re not doing homemade pie crust,” Bird responded to a visitor’s question. “We’ll use ready-made. I don’t want to discourage them from ever cooking again.”

Upstairs on the second floor, religion teacher Stan Lommen was supervising two games of group chess. Group chess? Well, yes, because beginners don’t readily see how the pieces work, explained Lommen. To help move the game along, he organizes the players into teams so they’ll benefit from the collective wisdom in the room.

Chess gets students to “see beyond the next step in real life and to polish their problem solving skills” he noted.

Myrella Morales, 15, was already acquainted with the game. The sophomore was taking the class as a refresher because a neighbor friend had asked for some lessons. She had learned chess as a young child from her older brother, but she needed to review in order to stay ahead of her future student.

In a nearby classroom, students were bent intently over sewing machines, stitching material for their “quillows.” Three days earlier, Debbie Sutter’s quilting class was clueless as to how the machines operated, but now they were creating modified quilted travel pillows and blankets. The pillows had secret compartments to hold the blankets, thus their catchy name.

Stephanie Ham, a 16-year-old sophomore, had been looking forward to Sutter’s class ever since her friends took it last year.

“This is so cool, to have something like this when you go on a trip,” said Ham. “I just hope mine doesn’t fall apart in the wash.”

Sutter, who has been teaching the class for the past three years, said she loves to see the transformation in the girls as they tackle the intricacies of an unknown mechanical device, and then walk out eight days later with finished products.
The educational perks along the way are valuable life-long lessons, she pointed out.

“The kids learn self-reliance in putting the pieces together, and they learn to trust themselves.” Oh, yes, and, of course, they encounter the inevitable downside of sewing: “getting used to ripping the stitches out if they’re not right.”

Appeal aims to raise
$2.1 for ministries

By Voice staff

The 2004 Bishop’s Appeal, “Sharing God’s Grace,” is aiming even higher this year with a goal of $2.1 million to serve ministries that range from schools in need to hospital chaplains and seminary education.

This year also marks the tenth anniversary of the appeal, which will be held in parishes Feb. 7 and 8. The fund drive was initiated in 1994, when the Diocese of Oakland was one of only three in the U.S that did not have an annual appeal. Last year the diocese exceeded its goal of $1.8 million by $83,000, even in the face of regional economic problems, the war in Iraq and the clergy abuse scandal.
“I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of parishioners throughout the 10 years,” said Katherine King, development director. Donors now number over 50,000, she said.

The Bishop’s Advisory Council and the Presbyteral Council approved this year’s appeal goals, which increase the allocation to schools in need, from $360,000 to $500,000. It also introduces a new category, long-term clergy care, with $100,000 to provide for priests in good standing who have disabilities that disqualify them from active ministry.

Increases – from $5,000 to $20,000 – are also provided for seminary education and vocations, youth and young adult ministry, ethnic pastoral centers, liturgy, stewardship and the offices of the bishops (with two bishops this year instead of one).

The funds go to six major areas – clergy support and lay leadership training, education, family and youth, parish support, spiritual ministries and diocesan services. Under these categories are specific funds such as catechetical ministries, Special Religious Education (for developmentally disabled children and adults), liturgy, clergy retirement, canon law and pastoral planning.

In a letter to parishioners, Bishop Allen Vigneron wrote, “Without this appeal, we could not support all the important works of our growing diocese.” The backing of local Catholics, he said, “makes the breadth of our works possible, as it reaffirms the unity in faith of our diocesan community.”

A total of 20 programs in Alameda and Contra Costa counties are included in the appeal. None of the funds go to settlement payments for clergy accused of abuse or to the new cathedral, which is financed separately.

Since its inception the appeal has brought in $15.2 million with an additional 2-to1 matching grant for schools from an anonymous donor, bringing the total to $20.3 million.

Bishop Vigneron is making a personal appeal for support in a video sent to all parishes and in letters to over 100,000 individuals. He will also speak on behalf of the appeal at the 5:30 p.m. Mass at St. Monica Church in Moraga on Saturday, Feb. 7.

School Dept. honors two women with Mother Seton Award

By Voice staff

Jeanne Sousa and Sue Wainwright have been named recipients of the 2004 Mother Seton Award. Both women were chosen because they embody the strong values of Mother Elizabeth Seton, a 19th century Catholic educator and first American-born saint. She was canonized in 1975.
Joseph Connell, Diocesan School Board president, said the recipients have shown the spirit of Mother Seton through teaching, example and service.
The award is presented annually by the Oakland Diocesan School Board and the diocesan Department of Catholic Schools.

Jeanne Sousa
Jeanne Sousa, a graduate of St. Jarlath Elementary School and Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, has worked as a secretary at St. Bede School in Hayward for 24 years. She bears the unofficial title of “undercover catechist,” said Nimfa Posey, one of her two nominators. “Jeanne reminds and encourages children to make decisions and form attitudes based on their faith,” said Posey, who has three children at the school.

“As our school secretary, she is surrogate mother to all children. She tends the ill, injured, and most importantly, the fearful among us. Many times I have watched her cradle a tearful child in her arms, reassure him that she would stay with him until his parent arrives, and distract him with ‘important office work’ that she has convinced him needs his assistance.

“When the parent arrives to take the child home or to medical care, they arrive to a calm, busy child who has been happily preoccupied stamping ‘important’ blank papers with the school address and phone number.”

Sousa ministers to the teachers as well, said Posey. “It is Jeanne we turn to when we need motherly advice on health care, boyfriends, husbands, laundry and important trivia. If Jeanne does not know an answer, she will have one by the end of the day and has frequently called me at home in the evening with just the right information from one of her medical or cook books.”

Leslie Hanna of St. Felicitas Parish, where Sousa has been a member for over 35 years, said that she is “especially moved” when Sousa is lector at Mass. “She is profoundly reverent and loving when speaking His words to His people. She takes her jobs as both lector and eucharistic minister very seriously.”

If it hadn’t been for Jeanne Sousa, Hanna’s serious illness would have been harder to bear, she said. “Through a long six-month period, Jeanne kept me laughing, reminded me of the light at the end of the tunnel, prayed with and for me, and stayed present. What a better witness to the message of Catholic education than these actions modeled after Christ.”

Sue Wainwright
The second Seton awardee, Sue Wainwright, is a member of St. Philip Neri Parish in Alameda who “proclaims the Word by her very being, “ said the nomination form. Wainwright is involved both in the parish and the school and holds “as a constant value the picture of this Catholic school as a ministry of St. Philip’s parish. All of the energy, love and passion that infuse her work on the school are always focused on the oneness of the whole community.”

Three of Wainwright’s children have gone through St. Philip Neri and on to Bishop O’Dowd High. Her youngest is currently in the fourth grade at St. Philip’s. Wainwright, a native of Oregon, graduated from Sacred Heart Elementary School and St. Mary’s High School, both in Medford, Oregon.
Wainwright has served as president of the parent teacher group and has headed up the parish school board for two terms. For the past year she has participated in Catholic School Management as a planning committee coordinator on improvement issues for St. Philip’s.

Through this work, Wainwright has been adept at drawing alumni, older parishioners, new family and long-time families into the process, said the nomination form. Although the work is nearly completed, Wainwright plans to serve on an action committee to continue improving the school.
In addition to her committee work, Wainwright volunteers in the classroom and works in the school’s Art Docent program.

The nomination form describes Sue Wainwright as a “woman who stands in her own truth and is not afraid to speak up in the face of an injustice. She does not ask of anyone something she would not do herself.”

Sue Wainwright and Jeanne Sousa will receive their awards during a special ceremony at 1 p.m. on Jan. 27 at Holy Names High School.

All Saints School
bell choir chimes throughout Bay Area

By Voice staff

Holiday shoppers have heard them perform in San Francisco, visitors have seen them at the Lillian Black Arts Festival, All Saints School families enjoy their music at the Christmas and Spring concerts, and lately, Hayward residents have seen them on television.

The All Saints Bell Choir has been bringing joy to listeners since it was founded 11 years ago by Steve Meyer, who also directs the Golden Gate Boys Choir and Bell Ringers. He created the group especially to encourage older boys at All Saints School to take part in musical activities.

Today the group includes both boys and girls, who learn to use the hand bells at twice-a-week music classes in fourth through sixth grade. Older students, in sixth through eighth grades, then audition to join the Honors Bell Choir.

Those chosen become part of the 12-member choir, and they show their dedication to the program by giving up a half hour of lunchtime twice a week in order to rehearse. They also spend time on weekends performing at concerts and events throughout the Bay Area.

Recently the group performed at the St. Rose Hospital Foundation prayer service, and they were featured on the Hayward community access cable channel’s “Best Kept Secrets” show. They also perform annually at the Mother Seton Awards dinner.

Once a year All Saints School draws bell ringers from as far away as Fresno and Sacramento during the Northern California Bell Festival. As host campus, it welcomes 200 ringers to the event.

The choir has won support from the Hayward Foundation, which presented the group with a grant allowing them to expand its bells to include a fourth octave.

Director Steve Meyer is now hoping to earn another honor for the choir. He is applying for the group to receive an “exemplary bell program” designation from the American Guild of English Hand Bell Ringers, an honor that would place the choir in an elite group of ringers.

Former Pt. Richmond pastor
dies in Oakland at 73

By Voice staff

Father James Clift, who served as pastor at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Point Richmond from 1989-2000, died Jan. 19. The priest, who retired from active ministry in 2000, had been living at Oakland’s Mercy Retirement and Care Center. He was 73.

A native of Chicago, he was ordained to the priesthood as a member of the Dominican Order in Dubuque, Iowa, in 1957. He served as an associate pastor at parishes in Galveston-Houston, St. Paul, Miami, and Chicago before moving to the Oakland Diocese in 1965.

He was an associate pastor at St. Leonard Parish in Fremont (1965-66 and 1975-78), St. John in San Lorenzo (1966-68), St. Bonaventure in Concord (1968), Corpus Christi in Piedmont (1968-70), St. Mary in Walnut Creek (1970-71), St. Lawrence O’Toole in Oakland (1971-74), and Assumption in San Leandro (1974-75).

The priest served in the U.S. Army Reserves during the 1960s and became a Navy chaplain in 1978, a position he held until 1986 when he was appointed chaplain at Brookside Hospital in San Pablo.

He was appointed administrator at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Point Richmond in 1988 and pastor the following year. During his pastorate he oversaw the 12-year renovation of the parish plant and paid close attention to the spiritual needs of the community. He took great care, for example, in preparing his homilies.

He wrote a Scripture reflection for the parish bulletin. “a kind of meditation they could take home,” he told The Voice in March 2000.

Father Clift also said that visiting parishioners who were homebound and unable to attend Mass was among the highpoints of his ministry. Older people after children are the most vulnerable and precious “in the sight of God,” he said. Being able to bring the sacraments to them was a gift, he added.

In commemoration of his 40th anniversary of ordination in 1997, he wrote that eight words he overheard at a funeral – “He was always there when we needed him” – were also a good description of what it means to be a priest. “I hope these eight words can be said of me also,” he wrote.

The funeral Mass will be held today (Jan. 26) at St. Cornelius Church in Richmond. Bishop Allen Vigneron will be the principal celebrant and homilist. Burial will follow at St. Joseph Cemetery in San Pablo.

 

Catholic conference officials call
state budget proposal ‘problematic’

By Voice staff

Portions of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s new budget proposal for 2004-05 are “very problematic,” according to officials at the California Catholic Conference, who are wary of plans to cut benefits to the neediest residents of the state.

“As a Catholic conference, we try to see that those who are vulnerable don’t take too much of the pain,” said Ned Dolesji, CCC director. Proposed caps to several programs are of special concern, he said. Those targeted include food stamps for documented immigrants, aid to the disabled, Medi-Cal, the Healthy Families program and the Child Health and Disability Prevention program.

These are mentioned in Gov. Schwarzenegger’s budget proposal released on Jan. 9 and taking aim at a $14.4 billion deficit. To balance the state’s budget for 2004-05, he would cut $5.9 billion in spending, shift funds, increase fees and take other measures.

Dolesji acknowledged that “there is a tremendous budget problem and the governor is trying to find a creative way to deal with it,” but he said that enrollment caps on programs for the needy must be done “as a last resort” and with an clear understanding of the demand for services.

“We want to really take a look at the need and the community,” he said, to determine the legitimate level of support. “Food security and hunger among families” are major concerns, he said.

Caps on the CHDP program, Dolesji said, are worrisome because the program is “a first line of defense,” providing immunizations and preventive care. It has “served as an initial point of contact for many children” in regards to health care, he said.

Al Hernandez, associate director for Hispanic affairs, said the conference was also concerned about a proposal to place funding for food stamps and cash assistance for legal immigrants in block grants to the counties. “The problem is,” he said, “that some counties would not be prone to help these groups.”

The conference is also planning to press for reinstatement of funding for naturalization, Hernandez said. Catholic Charities programs were using these funds to prepare immigrants for citizenship.

Dolesji also noted that the budget proposal would cut state funding for homeless and battered women’s shelters by 25 percent. Services to the aged, blind and disabled are also in jeopardy, he said.

On the other hand, Hernandez said, “We like the signals coming out of the governor’s office in regards to prisons, freezing construction of new prisons, releasing some non-violent offenders.” The budget also refers to closing some correctional facilities.

But Hernandez noted, “I don’t see anything in (the budget) that asks the rich to share the pain, only the middle and lower classes.” For instance, he said, the budget would raise college tuition 10 percent in the University of California system and 40 percent in community colleges.

He said the CCC was meeting with “other coalition partners,” such as churches, community organizing groups, and organizations dedicated to health, education and families. Together they will decide “what their priorities for advocacy will be.”

“We’re formulating our positions and beginning to prioritize what we see as the major pitfalls of this budget,” Hernandez said.

“You can bet your bottom dollar,” Dolesji said, “there will be a budget issue” on the agenda for Catholic Lobby Day, April 27. What it will be, he said, depends on the results of budget negotiations in coming weeks.

 

 

Father Gerald Coleman to leave post
as president of St. Patrick Seminary

By Catholic San Francisco

Sulpician Father Gerald D. Coleman will resign as president-rector of St. Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park this June after serving for 16 years in that post.

Archbishop William J. Levada of San Francisco, chancellor of the seminary and chairman of the board of trustees, and Father Donald D. Witherup, Sulpician provincial superior, made the announcement Jan. 12, saying that Father Coleman had planned already planned a long-delayed sabbatical for the coming year and “this seemed an opportune time to make this decision and to prepare for an administrative transition.”

The two commended Father Coleman for his service as president-rector, noting that during his tenure he oversaw the development of a new master plan for the seminary, new programs in priestly formation, a recruitment plan and a significant increase in enrollment.

Father Coleman also was praised for overseeing the sale of unused seminary property, which enabled the seminary to retrofit its historic building and improve the library and student residences.

“Throughout his administrative career, Father Coleman, a distinguished professor of moral theology, has maintained an extensive teaching load, served as a consultant on hospital ethics, and published various articles and books in the field of moral theology,” the announcement said.

Father Coleman has been a columnist on moral theology and ethical issues for several diocesan newspapers in California, including The Catholic Voice.
“We are all indebted to Father Coleman for the outstanding work he has done and the many enhancements he has brought to the program at St. Patrick Seminary, and we thank him for his selfless service,” Archbishop Levada said.

The Sulpician Provincial Council, in collaboration with Archbishop Levada, will initiate a search for a new president-rector. The Sulpicians, whose ministry is the initial and ongoing formation of priests, has administered St. Patrick Seminary since it was founded in 1898.

St. Patrick Seminary, an entity of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, is overseen by a board of trustees composed of clergy, religious and laity, and chaired by Archbishop Levada.

Seminarians come from dioceses throughout California, including Oakland, as well as other parts of the Pacific.

Leaders cite progress towards new
ecumenical coalition of Christians

By Kevin Eckstrom
Religion News Service

Organizers of a fledgling coalition of evangelical, Catholic, mainline Protestant and Orthodox Christians said the group should be up and running by May 2005 — the first time most U.S. Christians have come together around a common table.

The new group, Christian Churches Together in the USA, will bring together Christian bodies that for a half-century have not been able to overcome deep theological and political differences.

“Never before in the history of the United States has this broad and widely representative group of churches come together in this way,” said a statement issued following a Jan. 7-9 meeting of more than 50 church leaders at a conference center outside Houston.

It was the fourth time the group had met since talks began in Baltimore in September 2001.

“It gave everyone there more of a sense that this really could happen and that this really should happen,” said the Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, general secretary of the Reformed Church in America and chairman of the group’s 15-member steering committee.

The group would be comprised of representatives from five church “families” —Roman Catholic, evangelical/Pentecostal, historic (mainline) Protestant, racial/ethnic churches and Orthodox.

Officials said they expect to have the required 25-member communions representing all five “families” on board by next spring. Participants at the Texas meeting “identified and achieved consensus on all major issues” for the group’s structure.

Granberg-Michaelson said the body would have a “very, very minimal infrastructure” with a skeleton staff. “People don’t want to set up another bureaucracy,” he said.

The nation’s Catholic bishops, whose endorsement is key to the group’s viability, were presented with a membership proposal last fall and are expected to consider joining at their annual meeting next November.
Missing from the new group, however, appears to be the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, who sent observers to last year’s meeting but did not participate in the Houston meeting.

Southern Baptists have typically been reluctant to join ecumenical groups — they have never joined the 36-member National Council of Churches and appear on the verge of withdrawing from the Baptist World Alliance.
“They are very welcome,” said Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action, who has worked as a liaison to wary evangelical groups. “There was no indication in terms of participation that the Southern Baptists were engaged.”

Catholic Bishop Tod Brown of Orange, Calif., an early supporter of CCTUSA, said, “I wish they would be present, but I don’t think their absence negates the organization.”

Mormons, one of the nation’s fastest-growing religious groups, also are not likely to participate because of deep doctrinal differences. CCTUSA participants would have to agree by consensus to admit new members.
Officials hope to attract more interest from historically black churches that have been willing to join ecumenical groups but traditionally have taken a less active role.

“I think it’s fair to say we’ve been in conversation with them,” Granberg-Michaelson said. “In the next year we want to deepen that engagement. We see that as a challenge.”

Leaders were careful to lower expectations on what the group could accomplish, given deep differences in individual polity, doctrinal beliefs and a history of frosty relations between some groups.

The first step, Sider said, is for groups to simply get better acquainted, and find ways to work together. But do not expect policy statements or press releases on hot-button social issues, he said.

“It’s right that we will, in the early period, not be doing any significant activities in the area of outreach beyond the church,” he said.
Several topics that could be addressedinclude global poverty and HIV/AIDS.

 

New Jersey parish plans monument
for victims of clergy sex abuse

By Jeff Diamant
Religion News Service

No one knows whether James Kelly’s suicide last October in front of an NJ Transit train in Morristown, N.J., stemmed from the childhood sexual abuse he endured by a priest or from other personal problems.

Still, while gathered after his funeral on the grounds of St. Joseph’s Church in Mendham — where the abuse occurred more than two decades ago — people who were abused by the same priest discussed naming their support group chapter after Kelly, a 37-year-old telecommunications salesman from Morristown who had recently been laid off.

“We were just kind of having an open table discussion,” recalled Bill Crane, who, like Kelly, was sexually abused by the former Father James Hanley.
“And it dawned on me that something really needs to take place that is tangible, to bring to light the seriousness of what we endured as children, so it won’t be forgotten.”

Crane suggested erecting a small monument, and received approval from the group and the church’s pastor, Father Kenneth Lasch. When dedicated in April outside the church’s Pax Christi Center, the 400-pound basalt monument shaped like a millstone will evoke a biblical saying that is meaningful to Christians who were sexually abused as children.

In the passage, from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus addresses those who would harm children, saying, “It would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

The monument apparently would be the only one to victims of the clergy sex abuse crisis in the country at a church, and Father Lasch said it could help victims feel the Church will not forget what happened to them there.
“I’m very interested in the notion of having a tribute,” said Father Lasch, who has been praised by Hanley’s victims for an attitude they say is an antidote to negative experiences with many other clergy.

“The millstone is symbolic of the burden they have carried because of sexual abuse. It also stands as a warning to anyone who would hurt children.”
The monument, sculpted by Mark McLean, a Portland, Ore., artist engaged by Crane, measures about 2 feet by 2 feet and seems more like a marker than a monument, Father Lasch said.

Individual donations will cover the approximately $5,000 cost of the project, and a local landscaper has offered to prepare church grounds for the monument free of charge.

For all the good feelings that talk of the monument has inspired among victims and their supporters at St. Joseph’s, a low-key debate has arisen over an inscription for an accompanying plaque.

Among the issues: Might the inclusion of Jesus’ words about drowning offenders be too harsh at a church devoted to healing and reconciliation? And, would it be wise to install a monument that permanently brings attention to such an unpleasant subject?

“As a parish, we don’t want to be known just as the place where sexual abuse took place by one priest,” Father Lasch said.

He wrote, on the parish’s Internet site, “We want to affirm (victims’) thirst for justice but we also want to affirm our desire for reconciliation and will continue to discuss the details of this tribute to assure that the message is a positive expression of healing and hope.”

Crane said Jesus’ words about the millstone belonged on the inscription, and that people should view them metaphorically, not literally. “I don’t think it’s Christ communicating it as a commandment to be taken in a wooden, literal sense that we go around with millstones and sink people,” Crane said.
“I’d like to communicate that it’s a divine illustration. It’s something we can connect visually in our own mind-set and relate to. It’s very sobering.”

Comedian traces roots as performer to St. Felicitas School

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.)

New cathedral site to be blessed
on Feb. 15

By Voice staff

Bishop Allen Vigneron will bless the site of the new Cathedral of Christ the Light on Sunday, Feb. 15 at 4 p.m. The cathedral will be built at the northwest end of Lake Merritt on the corner of Grand Avenue and Harrison Street.

The property was purchased Dec. 5 for $31.5 million. San Francisco architect Craig Hartman of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill will design the cathedral and several other church-related buildings planned for the 2.5 acre site, which currently serves as a parking lot for tenants in adjacent buildings.

His design features a 17-story, 33,000-square-foot elliptical structure made of native woods, stone, steel and glass, with permanent seating for 1,500. It will be pillar free and conform to the liturgical directives of the Second Vatican Council.

The complex will also include parish offices and rectory, meeting rooms and a conference center, the diocesan Chancery, a bishop’s residence, and a café and bookstore.

The new cathedral replaces St. Francis de Sales Cathedral which was severely damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and razed in October 1993.

An independently funded, non-profit organization is overseeing the project, including raising the funds to complete the $131 million complex. No funds from the diocese’s budget will be tapped for the project, Bishop Vigneron said. Completion of the cathedral is expected in early 2008.

The site blessing is open to the public. Parking will be available on the site and adjacent streets.

U.S. bishops’ film office ranks
their top 10 movies for 2003

By Amanda Mantone
Religion News Service

WASHINGTON — “Mystic River” and “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” are two of the movies named by U.S. bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting as among the top 10 films of 2003.
The bishops’ office ranked this years films on artistic merit and entertainment value, as well as for their positive messages.
“There were some truly exceptional films, reminding us that movies have the power to inspire and uplift rather than just dehumanize and debase,”said OFB Director Gerri Pare in a statement, adding that “2003 also saw its share of over-hyped sequels and pointless remakes, mindless action pictures and witless comedies.”
The OFB uses its own classification system for films, often allowing R-rated movies a place on the list. A-I is approved for general patronage; A-II for adults and adolescents; A-III for adults; L is for limited adult audiences, and O signifies morally offensive.

The full top 10 list:
• “Big Fish,” starring Albert Finney and Ewan McGregor, rated PG-13 and
A-II, acceptable for adults and adolescents.

• “In America,” starring Samantha Morton, rated PG-13 and A-III, for
adults only.

• “Mystic River,”
starring Sean Penn and Lawrence Fishburne, rated R
and A-III, for adults.

• “The Lord of The Rings: Return of The King,” starring Elijah Wood, rated PG-13 and A-III for adult audiences.

•“Seabiscuit,” starring Tobey Maguire and Jeff Bridges, rated PG-13
and A-III, for adults.

• “Secret Lives: Hidden Children,”
a documentary directed by Aviva
Slesin, unrated but classified as A-II, for adult and adolescent audiences.

• “Spellbound,” a documentary directed by Jeff Blitz, rated G
and A-I, acceptable for general
patronage.

• “Together,” starring Tang Yun, rated PG and A-II for adults and
adolescents.

• “Whale Rider,”
an independent film starring Keisha Castle-Hughes,
rated PG-13 and A-II, for adults and adolescents.

• “Winged Migration,”
a documentary charting migratory birds, directed
by Jacques Perri, rated G and A-I, acceptable for general audiences.

“Mystic River,” “Seabiscuit” and “Return of the King” are also all nominated for Best Drama by the Golden Globe Awards, and “Big Fish” is competing for a Golden Globe as Best Musical or Comedy.

The OFB has compiled its Ten Best Films List yearly since 1965, and also previews and evaluates television programs for the Catholic public as part of the bishops’ communication campaign.

OFB movie reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies, or through the toll-free movie line at 1-800-311-4222.

 

U.S. bishops’ film office ranks
their top 10 movies for 2003

 

By Amanda Mantone
Religion News Service

WASHINGTON — “Mystic River” and “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” are two of the movies named by U.S. bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting as among the top 10 films of 2003.
The bishops’ office ranked this years films on artistic merit and entertainment value, as well as for their positive messages.
“There were some truly exceptional films, reminding us that movies have the power to inspire and uplift rather than just dehumanize and debase,”said OFB Director Gerri Pare in a statement, adding that “2003 also saw its share of over-hyped sequels and pointless remakes, mindless action pictures and witless comedies.”
The OFB uses its own classification system for films, often allowing R-rated movies a place on the list. A-I is approved for general patronage; A-II for adults and adolescents; A-III for adults; L is for limited adult audiences, and O signifies morally offensive.

The full top 10 list:
• “Big Fish,” starring Albert Finney and Ewan McGregor, rated PG-13 and
A-II, acceptable for adults and adolescents.

• “In America,” starring Samantha Morton, rated PG-13 and A-III, for
adults only.