APRIL 12 , 2004


Immigration fraud
traps families

Pres. Bush signs Unborn Victims of Violence Act
Church leaders push
Bush on AIDS funding
How important is faith
in next election?

Opposing nuclear weapons

GTU issues statement
opposing the death penalty
Mercy Sisters give
$1 million Mercy Housing

Celebrating SPRED

Apology service set for
April 19 in Pinole
Blessing of Sacred Oils
Four women honored
for community service
Webcor selected as general contractor for new cathedral

Arrested monk is not
a Roman Catholic priest

‘Ad Limina’ Address
Pope John Paul reflects on role of bishops





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



Fear, worry grow in Iraq

Two U.S. visitors see depth of suffering
among Iraqi citizens


Fear, worry grow in Iraq

Two U.S. visitors see depth of suffering among Iraqi citizens

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

Kara Speltz mingled with Muslim leaders, villagers and professionals during her recent visit to Iraq. Father Jim Barnett spent his time with fellow Dominicans and other Catholic Christians. But both visitors came away with the same conviction – Iraqi society has been devastated by the war and occupation.

Speltz, a parishioner at Holy Spirit/Newman Center in Berkeley, had traveled to Baghdad shortly after the war began last year. But on a 10-day visit in February and March she found the poverty worse than before, the country sinking into chaos, and the occupation forces feared and resented.

Father Barnett, the brother of Mary Lue Daniels, administrative assistant in the diocesan department of Faith and Ministry Formation, made the same discovery when he traveled to Iraq this winter from Purdue University, where he works in campus ministry. He went with three other Dominicans to attend the ordination of an Iraqi priest and a gathering of Dominicans from throughout the country.

Although he spent 13 years working with the poor and marginalized in Central America and has visited many Third World countries, he wrote in a letter to friends and family after his return, “I don’t think I’ve ever been so personally affected as I was with the Catholic Christian community of Iraq.”

“I was not prepared for the depth of suffering, sorrow and powerlessness (the Iraqi people) constantly experience,” he wrote. “Neither was I prepared for the extraordinary caring, hospitality and faith they shared with one another — and with me.”

Speltz also found a warm reception. “I expected to notice a difference in attitude towards the Americans,” she said, referring to her group of eight, who were traveling with the ecumenical organization, Christian Peacemaker Teams. But, she said, “towards us they were as loving as they were last time.”

Clearly, she said, the people “understood that there was a difference between the American government and the American people.”

Father Barnett stayed with members of the thousand-strong community of Dominican priests, Sisters and lay persons in Iraq, and he was told that relations between Christians and Muslims have deteriorated since the war began over a year ago.

He visited a village in the north where Catholics have lived “side-by-side with Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds for generations.” But, he wrote, “since the invasion everything has changed and they, too, are embroiled in the violence.”

“The Christian community is really frightened,” he said in a telephone interview. “If the fundamentalist Muslims get into control they will likely expel the Christians – or worse.”

In a recent publication of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, Dominican Sisters in the Iraqi town of Mosul say they now face harassment because “some Iraqis equate Christianity with the Western world.” Some people shout insults in the streets, and children have climbed the convent walls and defaced the statues of Jesus.

In addition, the Sisters and all Iraqis suffer from what Father Barnett described as “the shocking and awful reality of widespread violence and insecurity, the reality of no work, erratic electricity and power and fuel, no government infrastructure, almost no ministries or agencies for education, medical and social assistance.”

Speltz also said that although the U.S. claims that electricity is “up to prewar standards,” this is not true. “When we were there last year, we had electricity during the war, during the bombardment in Baghdad.

Now electricity is somewhere between 30 and 50 percent of the time in all Iraq. There are no land phones and no mail service throughout the country.”

Both Speltz and Father Barnett heard from Iraqis who were fearful of being detained by the occupying forces. One man remarked to Father Barnett, “We know of people being arrested by the coalition forces and the same thing is happening as under Saddam Hussein. They disappear, and we don’t know what the charges are or where they are.”

During the old regime, the man said, Iraqis “knew where they stood” and what actions would get them into trouble. Now they can be targeted by extremists if they work for the coalition or targeted by the coalition if they speak out against the occupation.

Christian Peacemaker Teams has been working with families of prisoners, helping them find where their loved ones are detained and make contact with them, and Speltz’s group visited Abu Ghraib, the largest prison in Iraq, where they spoke to U.S. soldiers stationed outside.

The soldiers said the only visitors allowed were relatives of prisoners who had been convicted of crimes before the war. Those detained by the coalition, Speltz said, are denied lawyers, visits and even legal hearings.

Her team also visited Abu Siffa, a village in the Sunni Triangle surrounding Baghdad, a farming community of 25 families that lost 81 men, ranging in age from 14 to 70 years of age.

On Dec. 16, Speltz said, coalition forces arrested the men, and the villagers never heard where they were taken or why. Two men, who were away at the time, were spared.

“They came two days later and destroyed three houses,” Speltz said. “So they just devastated this town.”

Father Barnett heard similar stories. “The house of a family in (a friend’s) neighborhood was invaded by a U.S. helicopter in the middle of the night,” he wrote, “and four members of the family were taken to an unknown detention center. The reason? The father of the family once belonged to the Baath Party.”

The terrorists who go after Iraqi civilians also create fear, Father Barnett said. A Dominican now in the U.S. was told by her family in Iraq never to send them letters or any other communication from America. This would make them a target, they said.

With raids by coalition forces, terrorist bombings and general lawlessness, Iraqis live in constant anxiety. “I talked to people who were afraid to leave their neighborhoods,” Father Barnett said. “They hadn’t left their neighborhoods for months and months, since the war.”

Speltz said she has formed a new opinion about U.S. motives for invading Iraq. “Originally I thought the war was about oil,” she said, “but the only building we saw going on were permanent bases. I think what’s been on the mind of the government all along is that we need a place for permanent bases we can control.”

Both Speltz and Father Barnett heard of innocent Iraqis dying at the hands of coalition forces, such as the two seminarians whose car was run over by an American tank and a young man shot 30 times as he drove near an army caravan.

But both also marveled at the resilience and pride the Iraqi people displayed. One Iraqi spoke to Father Barnett of Iraq’s “long and dignified history” but said they were in danger of losing their culture.

Another said Iraqis were glad to see Saddam Hussein gone, but the cost has been too great because they are “humiliated and devastated and occupied by foreigners.”

Father Barnett also said he is angry at the “deception and false reasons that got us into the war” and he is trying to get the word out.
“I’ve been getting good coverage locally and giving a lot of talks, but that doesn’t stretch into the national press.”

Speltz has also made herself available for speaking engagements and interviews, but she has little hope of getting the message into the national news. She titled her letter to friends “Stories from Iraq You Won’t See in the Media.”

But she still maintains hope for the Iraqis. “I left,” she wrote, “truly hopeful that these warm, resilient people would survive and build a strong country for themselves, if we Americans just get out of the way.”

Lawmakers seek funds
to protect churches
from terrorist attacks

By Kevin Eckstrom
Religion News Service

WASHINGTON—A bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled a $100 million bill April 1 that they say will help protect “soft targets” such as churches and synagogues from terrorist attacks.

The High-Risk Non-Profit Security Enhancement Act would open $50 million in government grants to allow hospitals, theaters and houses of worship to beef up security.

The money could not be spent on routine security systems that are “reasonably necessary due to nonterrorist threats,” but instead for concrete barricades, shatter-proofing windows and fortifying entrances.

An additional $50 million would be available for local police departments to provide additional security to areas with high concentrations of at-risk targets, such as hospitals, schools or museums.

“It’s not a question of if, but when, where and at what magnitude our charities ... will face a very catastrophic event,” said Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn. “That is the reality.”

The bill has attracted support from major Jewish organizations and officials say they will seek similar backing from Christian and Muslim groups.

Supporters say the bill protects the separation of church and state by delivering money to middleman contractors who will install the new security measures, and will not directly fund faith-based groups.

Under the plan, applicants would apply first to state homeland security agencies.
If they are deemed “high risk,” their application would be sent on to the federal Department of Homeland Security, which would make the final call.

In order to be considered “high risk,” organizations must demonstrate a threat from international terrorism, show the “symbolic value of the site as a highly recognized United States cultural or historical institution” and be the destination for at least 100 people per month or 500 people per year.

Catholics rally for marriage

By Voice staff

More than 1,000 Catholics were joined by Archbishop William Levada of San Francisco and Bishop Allen Vigneron of Oakland in a Mass and march, April 3, in support of a ban on gay marriage.

They assembled at Saints Peter and Paul Church in San Francisco for the liturgy and then processed through a five-block area of North Beach. Many of the marchers carried signs which read, “Love and Tolerance —Yes; Same-Sex Marriage – No.”

The event, which began with an all-night Eucharistic Adoration, was organized by Your Catholic Voice, a national grassroots political organization of lay Catholics. Ray Flynn, former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican (1993 to 1997) and former mayor of Boston, is president of the organization.

He told the marchers, many of whom were young adults, that their presence in San Francisco “is a laudable example of courage – to take a stand for something important to your future and that of your children.”

Bill May, national vice president, told The Voice the group is not against gays.
“We respect the dignity of all, but stand for what is right regarding marriage,” he said. The group supports the passage of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages and is in the process of forming an Oakland chapter.

In his remarks to rally participants, Archbishop Levada said, “marriage between a man and a woman originated in creation and is the foundation of the family, procreation and the nurturing of children. We join in prayer today for the preservation of this age-old tradition of marriage, while we also pray for all of our brothers and sisters.”

Bishop Vigneron was the liturgy homilist. He emphasized that God is at work in society and his purposes will prevail in political concerns as well as other aspects of life.

The group selected San Francisco for their rally because Mayor Gavin Newsom decided in February that the city should issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. About 4,000 were issued between Feb. 12 and March 11 when the state Supreme Court halted the practice.



Immigration fraud traps families

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

Members of the community at Our Lady of the Rosary in Union City rallied around Catalina and Alfredo Negrete last month, signing affidavits in favor of the active and well-liked couple when the family faced deportation to Mexico.
But their efforts to secure a stay of deportation were in vain, and the Negretes were placed on a plane to Mexico along with their two children, 11 and 3 years old.

They left behind employment, schooling, and a network of support they had found here as parishioners at Our Lady of the Rosary and community volunteers who gave generously of their time and talent.

The Negretes had made one serious error during their many years in the United States – they had trusted a consultant who promised to get them legal status, and in this way they joined the thousands of immigrants who fall prey each year to unscrupulous lawyers, notary publics and others who collect fees from their clients but fail to deliver on their promises.

These practitioners “sell hope,” said Miguel Martinez, an organizer with Contra Costa Supporting Community Organization. When immigrants meet someone who feeds on this hope, he said, “They find the money because they’re so eager.” CCISCO has sponsored several community meetings to publicize the problem.

Immigrants who have no legal basis for residency in the U.S. fall into the trap when they find a practitioner who assures them – for various reasons — that they do have a valid case. When the consultant files papers with the immigration service (now under the Department of Homeland Security), the case goes through the process of hearings and appeals, and the government eventually rejects it.

Before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, said Mark Silverman, director of immigration policy for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco, “they weren’t going after people systematically” when they were turned down. Now they issue deportation orders and arrest those who fail to comply.

This is what happened to the Negretes, who were leaders in the local organizing committee of Congregations Organizing for Renewal, which serves southern Alameda County. The government denied their application and eventually had the couple arrested.

Their plight brought an outpouring of support, Silverman said.
“All these COR leaders came over and gave affidavits and these were submitted to the DHS.” It was their last chance to appeal, he said. Their only other alternative was a private bill in Congress, but the chances of winning this were impossibly slim.

The couple drew fervent support because they had worked hard for their community. In addition to serving as a leader with COR, Alfredo volunteered as assistant coach for the Union City Bears youth soccer team, and Catalina worked as a volunteer health promoter out of the Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center.

“He was extremely reliable,” Bears coach Larry Moore said of Alfredo. “He was great with the kids and he did it all volunteer. It’s going to be really hard to replace him.”

Moore was especially concerned about the Negrete’s son Marco, who attended Our Lady of the Rosary School.

“He was getting straight A’s in school, and now he has to go to Mexico where he doesn’t read or write the language,” he said.

“It is a real tragedy,” Silverman said. They can only hope to try again for a residency card when Marco, who was born in the U.S., becomes an adult.
Silverman also said, “The tragedy that hit the Negrete family has also hurt tens of thousands of other immigrants, thousands in the Bay Area.” Other community workers can cite many cases like that of the Negretes.

Carla Cordova, immigration counselor in the Concord office of Catholic Charities Immigration Project, said certain known practitioners are notorious for taking advantage of clients, many of them poor.

She cited the case of a family of five that lived in a garage. The mother paid $1,500 for legal help and lost her case. She is now in hiding, Cordova said.
In Sacramento, community organizer Alberto Velazquez said one family paid $20,000 to an unscrupulous consultant and he knew of four families in one parish who had been cheated by the same practitioner, a man with offices in Oakland.

“Little by little they keep taking away their money,” he said.
And on the other hand, there is the U.S. crackdown, which, he said, “is more inhumane” and “tougher” on immigrants than it was in the past.

Oliba Cardona, a CCISCO organizer, said she tells immigrants that the law leaves most of them without any hope of getting papers.

The solution, she said, is for them to learn about the law and then to lobby for more humane regulations, writing letters and speaking out on behalf of legislation that promises “a little ray of light.”

Avoid deceit on immigration

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

Immigrants in search of help to legalize their status in the U.S. can follow a set of guidelines to protect themselves against unscrupulous consultants who may leave them liable for deportation.

Clients should be wary of consultants who say:
• They can get a work permit immediately;
• Offer no-risk immigration;
• Promise visas in a few weeks;
• Claim to have access to special treatment at the immigration service.

According to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco, all of these claims are lies.

Unscrupulous consultants often tell clients that they can get a residency permit by asking for political asylum, by applying for special work status or by petitioning for legal status under a provision for people who have spent 10 years in the country – called “documentation for the time being.”

But each of these processes applies only to unusual circumstances. Political asylum requires proof of a serious threat against the client in the home country (and almost never applies to Mexicans); work status is reserved for jobs that have specialized requirements, never for gardening or work in construction or
food service.

“Documentation for the time being” only applies to a person who has received a deportation order. In such cases, illegal immigrants with legal family members living in the U.S. may be able to prevent deportation if they can prove to a judge that they have spent 10 years in the country and would face “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” by returning home.

The center advises immigrants to protect themselves by following these rules:
• Never sign blank application papers.

• Never sign a paper or form that you do not fully understand. (Get someone you trust to translate it for you.)

• Always demand a written contract for immigration services unless you are working with a recognized agency.

• Never sign a contract you do not understand.

• Be wary of anyone who wants you to pay immediately.

• Always get copies of papers pre- pared for you.

• Never let anyone keep your origi- nal documents, such as birth and marriage certificates.

• Get a receipt for any money you paid with your name, the date, the amount and the name of the person or business you paid.

• Never work with someone who will not answer your questions.

Attorneys and qualified consultants are available in the East Bay to help undocumented immigrants, and many of them work in agencies where the cost to the client is minimal.

The Immigration Project of Catholic Charities of the East Bay is a major provider of services, with offices in Oakland, Concord, Brentwood and Richmond. Services are also available through the International Institute in Oakland.

Those seeking private attorneys for legal help can receive lists of qualified lawyers by calling county bar associations or immigration advocacy groups.

Some resources are:
Catholic Charities of the East Bay, Oakland.....................(510) 768-3122
Concord….................(925) 825-3099
Richmond…..............(510) 234-5110
Brentwood.................(925) 516-3880

International Institute...(510) 451-2846

Immigrant Legal Resource Center (415) 255-9499

Alameda County Bar Association (510) 893-8683

Contra Costa County Bar Association...............(925) 825-5700

American Immigration Lawyers Association................(800) 954-0254

Cheating consultants can be prosecute

By Voice staff

Consultants who cheat immigrants out of their hard-won dollars are committing a crime under California law, and the state provides ways to prosecute these persons and sue for the return of their clients’ money.

The Immigrant Legal Resource Center of San Francisco says the quickest remedy for clients of fraudulent consultants is to sue in small claims court for damages. Victims can appear there on their own behalf, but they may collect no more than $5,000 in damages.

The other option is to report the crime to the Office of Immigration Assistance in the state attorney general’s office or to a local district attorney. These offices can bring criminal charges against the consultants, impose fines and help clients get monetary damages. If the adviser is an attorney, the victim should notify the state bar association.

But many who work with immigrants say they are afraid to deal with the legal system.

Nevertheless, the ILRC urges agencies or individuals to take action against fraudulent immigration practitioners. It has prepared a manual in Spanish and English on how to file in small claims court. Information on how to get the manual, where to find competent attorneys, how to check on the status of consultants and other material is available at the center’s website, or through their office at (415) 255-9499.

Lawyers available at April 21 meeting

By Voice staff

Reacting to the deportation of two community leaders who worked with Congregations Organizing for Renewal, the grassroots group is planning an informational meeting at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish Hall on Wed., April 21.

The event will take place from 5:30 to 8 p.m. and will feature 22 lawyers who will be available to consult with participants on their immigration cases. Mark Silverman, director of immigration policy for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco, will take part in the forum.

The meeting will highlight the dangers of relying on unscrupulous practitioners and provide practical advice on how to avoid problems with immigration applications. It will be held in Spanish with translation into English available.
For more information call COR at (510) 727-8833. Our Lady of the Rosary Parish is located at 703 C St., Union City.

Catholic Charities of the East Bay is also available to hold immigration forums at parishes. To arrange a meeting, call Sister Barbara Dawson at (510) 768-3190 or German Martinez at (510) 768-3129.

Pres. Bush signs
Unborn Victims of Violence Act

By Voice staff

WASHINGTON — President Bush signed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act into law April 1. The law calls for a person responsible for the death or injury of a fetus to be charged with a separate offense along with charges related to the mother.

Bush hosted a ceremony in the East Room in the presence of Sharon Rocha and Ron Grantski, the mother and stepfather of Laci Peterson, who was found dead in San Francisco Bay last year along with her unborn son, Conner.

“All who knew Laci Peterson have mourned two deaths, and the law cannot look away and pretend there was just one,” said the president just before signing the law that also is known as Laci and Conner’s Law. “The death of an innocent unborn child has too often been treated as a detail in one crime, but not a crime in itself.”

Cathy Cleaver Rise, spokesperson for the U.S. Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-life Activities, said, “We applaud the President for bringing justice to women and their children who are victims of violent crime.”

“The new law exempts abortion, but the abortion lobby fought it anyway,” said Ruse, “because it commits the unpardonable pro-choice sin: In the words of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, it recognizes that a child in utero is a ‘human being.’”

“Abortion advocates hold up Roe as if it were the standard by which all other laws should be judged, forgetting that legal abortion is the uncomfortable exception, not the rule, when it comes to the way the law treats unborn children,” said Ruse.

On April 5 the California Supreme Court gave a broad reading to California’s fetal murder law, ruling that the killer of a pregnant woman can be convicted of a double murder.

Church leaders push Bush on AIDS funding


By Kevin Eckstrom
Religion News Service

WASHINGTON—A high level delegation of Catholic and Protestant church leaders pressed the White House and Congress on March 25 to fully fund programs to combat AIDS and global poverty.

The group, which included top officials from Catholic, evangelical and mainline Protestant churches, accused both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue of wavering in their commitment to spend $15 billion on global AIDS and $10 billion on Third World development.

“We have three messages,” said Bishop John Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahasee, Fla., head of the international policy committee for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Keep your promises, keep your promises, and keep your promises.”

At issue are President Bush’s twin initiatives to deliver U.S. foreign aid to combat the AIDS pandemic and global poverty, primarily in Africa.

Activists say Bush has not pushed for the $3 billion needed each year for the 5-year, $15 billion AIDS plan. Last year the initiative got $2.4 billion from Congress, and Bush has asked for only $2.8 billion for next year’s budget.

The delegation, sponsored by the ecumenical anti-hunger group Bread for the World, wants to see $3.6 billion in next year’s budget.
“Now the crunch is on to find the money, and the president is not pushing hard enough to keep his own promises,” said the Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World.

Critics say Bush’s Millennium Challenge Account, which promised to spread $10 billion in U.S. aid to key developing countries by 2006, has also been underfunded, with only $1 billion spent last year and $2.5 billion requested by
Bush in next year’s budget. Bread for the World wants to see $3.3 billion.

The church leaders, who claim to represent 80 million Christians, met at the White House with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and on Capitol Hill with Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill. A planned meeting with Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, was canceled because of scheduling conflicts.

At the State Department, the group met with Undersecretary Alan Larson, the interim director of the Millennium Challenge Corp., and Ambassador Randall Tobias, the administration’s global AIDS coordinator.

White House officials say they remain committed to both programs and are “on track” to meet the $10 billion and $15 billion promises, even if the funding does not break down evenly over each year.

“In a time of very tight budgets, these programs are getting double- and triple-digit increases and are both on track to meet the commitments the president laid out,” said Chad Kolton, a spokesman for the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. “We’ll pursue both of these programs very vigorously this year with the Congress.”

In a separate but related development, Church World Service, the independent humanitarian arm for the 36-member communions of the National Council of Churches, on Wednesday approved a multi-year action plan for Africa.

The program will focus on AIDS, children, refugees and women’s issues, starting in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Angola, Sudan and Tanzania. “The Africa Initiative is a statement of recognition of the monumental human suffering, pain and brokenness that is an everyday experience (on the world’s) largest and yet least developed of our continents,” said the Rev. John McCullough, CWS executive director.

How important is faith in next election?

By Jeff Diamant
Religion News Service

In the 1960 presidential campaign, John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, proclaimed his political independence from the Vatican to gain support from wary Protestants.

Now, as another Massachusetts Democrat, John Kerry, prepares to become the first Roman Catholic presidential nominee since Kennedy, the religious dynamics in American politics are still a factor, but along much different lines.

Voter suspicion directed toward Catholic candidates, a political reality in 1960, largely has subsided, political experts say. Now political lines are drawn not between religious denominations but within them, along liberal and conservative lines.

Kerry is likely to face friction from conservative Catholics as well as from other conservatives, said Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

“It’s not Protestant against Catholic, or Jewish against Protestant and Catholic anymore,” Lugo said. “It’s really the more orthodox or traditional wings of those communities making common cause. ... It’s not so much which religious denomination you fall into anymore, but how seriously you take your faith.”

In a poll taken last October, before the presidential primaries got under way, almost two-thirds of registered voters who said they attend religious services more than once a week wanted President Bush re-elected, and almost two-thirds of those who “seldom or never” attend said they would favor the Democratic nominee, according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

That means Kerry, who is less vocal about his faith than Bush, might not win the diverse Catholic vote, and he certainly will not win 80 percent of it, as Kennedy did in 1960, said Laura Olson, a political science professor at Clemson University.
On the other hand, his Catholicism is unlikely to cost Kerry many Protestant
votes, she said. “Will there be some Protestant voters who decide not to vote for him because he’s Catholic? Maybe some,” Olson said. “But those are probably people who are deeply invested in their evangelical Protestant faith to begin with, and 85 percent of them vote Republican anyway.”

The changes in religious voting patterns since 1960 stem from shifting demographics and such contentious issues as abortion and gay rights, which did not present themselves as major national questions until the 1970s, political observers say.

In 1960, Catholics voted overwhelmingly for Democrats, while mainline Protestants voted for Republicans. But those dynamics changed, Lugo said, as Catholic immigrants assimilated and, along with the general population, took sides on the abortion issue after the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade ruling in 1973.

Greater numbers of conservative Catholics—and evangelicals, for that matter—became Republicans during Ronald Reagan’s presidency in the 1980s.
“In Kennedy’s time, it was the WASP model of American society and the Dwight Eisenhowers against the immigrant Catholics,” said Timothy Thibodeau, a Christian history professor at Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y.

“Now it’s the secularists who don’t want any vestiges of religion in public discourse, against those who think religion has a vital role to play.”
That’s why Kerry, who supports abortion rights, will have political trouble with Catholics who follow the church doctrine that life begins at conception, Thibodeau said.

Already, Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis, has said he would deny Holy Communion to Kerry because of the senator’s position on abortion.
And the national Catholic bishops conference is preparing a document critical of all Catholic politicians who vote against church teaching.

Yet the main struggle involving religion for Kerry may lie in convincing Americans, even fellow Catholics, that he takes his faith seriously, Olson said. Kerry does not often mention religion while campaigning, while Bush frequently makes reference to his beliefs.

“Candidates need to somehow acknowledge religion, though they don’t need to play up their specific religious denominations,” she said.
“Most Americans wouldn’t be able to come up with the fact that George Bush is a United Methodist, but they know he’s religious.”

Kerry, asked about the role he assigns to faith, told the Interfaith Alliance in December: “Maybe it’s a little bit the New Englander in me or something. ... You wear it in your soul, not necessarily on your sleeve.”

He has said it is inappropriate for the Vatican to instruct politicians how to vote. His public comments recalled the sentiment behind Kennedy’s statement to ministers in Houston in 1960, that “I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me.”

Kerry also told the Interfaith Alliance, “If you’re a person of faith, as I am, it’s your guidepost, your sort of moral compass, your sustaining force, if you will, in everything that you do.”

The first paragraph of his biography on his campaign’s Web site notes Kerry “was raised in the Catholic faith and continues to be an active member of the Catholic faith.”

Kerry divorced his first wife in 1984, and it has been reported that he sought an annulment from the Catholic Church before marrying Teresa Heinz in 1995. Kerry has not said whether the annulment was ever granted.

Overall, Kerry’s public tack on religion has been different from that of Bush, a born-again Christian who during a presidential primary debate in 1999 cited Jesus as his favorite political philosopher or thinker, saying, “He changed my heart.”

Asked to explain in more detail for viewers of the debate, Bush said: “Well, if they don’t know, it’s going to be hard to explain. When you turn your heart and your life over to Christ, when you accept Christ as the Savior, it changes your heart. It changes your life.”

Such language wins votes of religious people in America regardless of the speaker’s denomination, Lugo said.

Opposing nuclear weapons

Chelsea Collonge (left), Sarah Harling and Kerstin Keber witness to peace, March 24, at the entrance to the Nevada Weapons Test Site as part of their participation in the Nevada Desert Experience, a Franciscan-based program giving adults first-hand experience of the links between peace, economic justice and ecological balance. Collonge and Harling are peace and conflict studies majors at UC Berkeley. Keber is a student at the Franciscan School of Theology, Berkeley.

Greg Tarczynski photo

GTU schools issue statement
opposing the death penalty

By Voice staff

On Good Friday, three schools of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley issued a joint statement opposing capital punishment. More than 50 members of the Jesuit School of Theology, the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, and the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary signed the statement, saying they do not believe that capital punishment is an answer to increased violence.

“We are missing the message of Jesus when we continue to put more faith in violence than in mercy,” they said.

The statement calls on all Californians to speak out “for an enlightened and humane correctional policy. One death does not overcome another death…There is nothing in our Christian tradition that says the violence of revenge is redemptive.”

Executing criminals “further brutalizes society and makes it easier to take human life in other circumstances” and denies the possibility of reform, they said. It also “signals a disdain for the spiritual dynamism of every human being.”

Issued as California prepares to resume executions after a two-year hiatus, the signers emphasize that capital punishment does not deter homicide. States with high execution rates do not show a proportionately low murder rate, they note.

They suggest such alternatives as stricter sentencing and secure prisons. Pointing out that error and unfairness plague the process of capital sentencing, the statement said, “If we value human life, the prospect that the state might kill in error should scandalize us.”

California spends at least $90 million per year in costs pertaining to capital punishment, “substantially more than lifelong incarceration,” said the signers.

Mercy Sisters give $1 million
to aid Mercy Housing residents

By Voice staff

The Sisters of Mercy of Auburn and Burlingame have donated $1 million to Mercy Housing to provide self-help programs for residents of their affordable housing units.

The organization has built and maintains housing for 5,000 low-income San Franciscans and 44,000 people nationwide.

The money, which comes from the Sisters’ general funds, is designated for such resident programs as English as a Second Language, after-school tutoring, job search, budget workshops, computer training and day care.

The funds will help residents stabilize their lives and “achieve their dreams of a better future for themselves and their children,” said Mercy Sister Lillian Murphy, Mercy Housing president and chief executive officer.

Mercy Housing, which has a reputation for collaborating with lenders, governments and other partners to build well-designed, affordable housing, owns 26 properties of 1759 affordable units in San Francisco, where 60 percent of residents are renters.

The need is urgent, said Jane Graf, president of Mercy Housing California. “We are losing housing stock for the poor and at the same time the number of poor is increasing. Rents here have increased 452 percent from 1979 to 2001. The waiting lists for affordable housing are enormous. For one of our recently opened properties, Presentation Senior Community, the waiting list is 2,600 for 92 units.”

Mercy Sister Dianne Grassilli, vice president of the Burlingame Sisters of Mercy, said the Sisters gave the money “to demonstrate where our heart is” and to mark the community’s 150th anniversary in California.


Celebrating SPRED

After celebrating Mass with participants in SPRED (Special Religious Education), Oakland Bishop Allen Vigneron stands outside Oakland’s St. Paschal Church, March 14, with SPRED director (third from left) Holy Family Sister Aurora Perez and SPRED members from St. Francis of Assist Parish in Concord. They are, from left, Marsha Wong, parish chairperson, Sarah Bonfiglio, Ryan Diermier, Devon Scheer, and Danielle Diermier.

Apology service set for April 19 in Pinole

By Voice staff

The third in a series of apology services for survivors of clergy sexual abuse will be held Monday, April 19, at 7:30 p.m. at St. Joseph Church in Pinole, one of the parishes where abuse took place. Oakland Bishop Allen Vigneron will apologize to the victims and their families for the grave suffering they have endured.
The service will include adoration of the cross.

St. Joseph Church is located at 837 Tennent Ave. in Pinole. The service is open to all who wish to attend.

Blessing of Sacred Oils

Oil of the Sick, Oil of Catechumens and Sacred Chrism on the table were blessed at the Chrism Mass Thursday, April 1, at St. Felicitas Church, San Leandro, and were distributed to the parishes of the Oakland Diocese. The three oils are used for: initiation as at Baptism (Oil of Catechumens), healing (Oil of the Sick), and anointing (Chrism) at Baptism, Confirmation and Ordinations. During the Mass, the priests of the Oakland Diocese renewed their promise of obedience to Bishop Allen Vigneron.
Oakland Bishop Allen Vigneron consecrates the Chrism which has been brought up by Deacon Mark Amaral and Sandy Walton of St. Felicitas Parish. Louise Ridsdale of St. Michael Parish, Livermore, (left) and Nora Petersen, resource specialist for Small Christian Communities, distribute the Sacred Oils after the Blessing to Alice McGaugh, a member of the Liturgy Committee of St. Columba Parish, Oakland.

Michele Walsh of St. Joachim Parish, Hayward, leads the Dismissal of the Elect during the Chrism Mass. The elect and candidates were baptized and received into the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday.

Mary Dominguez, Communion minister to the Sick, (left) and Eki Henshaw, a nurse at St. Rose Hospital, bring up the Oil of the Sick for blessing during the Chrism Mass.


Concord honors four women
for community service

By Voice staff

Four Concord Catholic women will receive awards from the Concord Human Relations Commission at the organization’s annual dinner April 17.

The honorees are Joan Germany, an educator for deaf youth-at-risk at St. Joseph’s Center for the Deaf; Elaine Shingleton, an oncology nurse and member of St. Bonaventure Parish; Carondelet Sister Dorothy Stack of Carondelet High School, and Shauna Yandell, student body president at Carondelet High.

Joan Germany

Germany, the recipient of the Education and Awareness for Youth Award, offers deaf youth, teen parents and their families assistance in such areas as self-acceptance, identity, social skills, problem solving, conflict resolution, and independent living skills.

She’s a certified expressive arts therapist, Baby-Talk practitioner and educator, and a teacher of American Sign Language at local Bay Area colleges. Part of Germany’s work is providing teen parents with skills for responsible care of themselves and their children. All of Germany’s teachings are geared to reducing high-risk behaviors among deaf youth.

Germany, a native of New Jersey, was graduated from the Kazenbach School for the Deaf. She moved to the Bay Area 31 years ago and is the mother of two hearing children.

Germany discovered the value of art therapy while working as a teacher’s aid in the Oakland School District. One student was a deaf and disabled eight grader who had difficulty expressing and comprehending language. One day, Germany handed the student a piece of paper and pencil.

To Germany’s amazement, the youngster began adding amazing details to her drawing. The student then communicated at length about what she had drawn. Germany realized that art might help deaf youth express themselves. So she returned to school to earn an MA in Arts and Consciousness from JFK University in Orinda.

Germany said she often wishes there were similar programs available when she was a young person and a new parent.

Elaine Shingleton
Elaine Shingleton is receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award for demonstrating “a lifetime of commitment to the betterment of human relations,” said Marla Parada, a Concord City employee.

After high school, Shingleton wanted to go to nursing school, but a period of what she calls “misdirection” ruled out her dream. She got married, moved to California, and had two daughters. When the relationship with her husband turned abusive, she got a divorce. Later, after he died, she sought help for her children through the Contact Care Center in Lafayette. She subsequently became a volunteer telephone counselor there. “I knew I was making a difference.”

In 1982, she had the opportunity to go to nursing school, and did a clinical rotation at Mt. Diablo Medical Center in the Oncology Unit. “I immediately knew this is where I wanted to work.” Shingleton said she went into cancer nursing as a ministry. “I had several special encounters with patients that really deepened and touched my faith.”

Today, the faith deepening continues. At St. Bonaventure’s she is involved in the Cursillo movement and prison ministry through Kairos, and volunteers for Kids and the Power of Work, (KAPOW), visiting schools to teach children about working and going to school to learn a profession. She was recently invited to become the board chair for Wingz to Fly, a group which assists foster children who become emancipated at age 18.

In addition, she is board president-elect of the local chapter of the Oncology Nursing Society, and sits on the professional and quality advisory committee for Hospice and Palliative Care of Contra Costa.

Sister Dorothy Stack, CSJ
Last year, when Carondelet Sister Dorothy Stack heard that the Cambridge Crisis Center in Concord had closed, she promptly came to the organization’s rescue. She gathered a small group of concerned citizens including members of the Soroptomist International to see what they could do to get the emergency food pantry’s service to low-income families reopened.

Under Sister Stack’s leadership, the group agreed to sponsor it as a non-profit and work toward securing its legal status. Thanks to her ongoing efforts, the pantry, newly named Monument Crisis Center, received $10,000 from Safeway, $15,000 from the Salvation Army, and $3,000 from Carondelet High School. St. Mary’s College in Moraga donated some office furniture.

Sister Stack also convinced Carondelet’s principal, Sister James Marien Dyer, to send one of the school’s administrative assistants to the Center as its part-time program manager.

Daily at least five students from Carondelet, and neighboring De La Salle and Mt. Diablo High Schools volunteer at the Center, which has also become a faculty-student project at Carondelet. The school’s “Lenten Journey of the Heart” challenged the academic community to raise $3600, enough to provide 450 households with a three-day emergency supply of food for a month.

For her work, Sister Stack received the Community Involvement Award.

Shauna Yandell
The Concord Human Relations Commission has added a “Youth Creating Community” Award this year, and Shauna Yandell is its first recipient. Yandell is a senior at Carondelet and president of its student body. Sarah Daniel, the school’s activities director, nominated Yandell for the award.

“From day one at Carondelet High School, Shauna has made her mark and distinguished herself as the consummate leader in an exceptional class. Shauna is a leader and a role model who truly believes in giving back,” said Daniel. Shauna Yandell also volunteers at John Muir Hospital.



Webcor selected as
general contractor
for new cathedral

By Voice staff

Webcor Builders of San Mateo will serve as the general contractor for the new Christ the Light Cathedral, according to a recent announcement by the project’s construction committee.

The company, with offices in Hayward, will begin with pre-construction services, including estimates, budgeting, schedules, and evaluations of methods and materials. Webcor has designated Tom Mead, a member of St. Theresa Parish in Oakland and a vice president of the company, as project executive.

The selection of Webcor was unanimous. “We are pleased to have a local contractor and look forward to working with Andy Ball and his team to build our cathedral center on time and on budget,” said Steve Oliver, co-chairman of the construction committee. Ball is the president and CEO of Webcor.

The construction committee invited 55 Bay Area firms to bid for the job, and 16 responded. Six of this group were invited to give specific staffing and budget proposals, and volunteers from the committee, the project manager and its architects appraised the presentations.

Groundbreaking for the $131 million project is expected to take place in late spring of 2005. It will include the Cathedral of Christ the Light, a central plaza, diocesan offices, a conference center with café and retail store, parish facilities and underground parking facilities.

The cathedral will be located near Lake Merritt at the corner of Grand Avenue and Harrison Streets in Oakland. Funding for the project comes from foundation grants, individual donations and loans. No funds are provided from the diocesan budget.

(The Dec. 15, 2003 Catholic Voice detailed cathedral plans. The edition can be read at December 15, 2003 issue.)

Arrested monk is not
a Roman Catholic priest

The Rev. Donald Weeks, leader of a monastery/halfway house in East Oakland who was arraigned April 2 for having unlawful sex with a minor, is not a priest in the Roman Catholic Church.

He is a member of the Old Catholic church of the Netherlands. This denomination does not accept the doctrine of papal infallibility, views clerical celibacy as optional, allows divorce and remarriage in the church, considers contraception a personal matter between spouses, and holds that such matters as sexual orientation, ethnicity, or politics are non-issues.