MAY 10, 2004


St. Ignatius of Antioch – 25 and still growing

Diocese's ‘campaign of prayer’ for vocations

Rate Your Vocation Potential
Number of seminarians
has dropped slightly
Catholic Charities helps family fight for child’s life
Heroic wife and mother
to be canonized May 16
Two books tell life and love of newest saint
School band theft turns
into a musical windfall
EWTN to air two new
documentaries this month

Pope John Paul reaffirms Church's call to holiness




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




Outrage over school closures

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

Parents of children in three diocesan elementary schools set to close in June reacted with outrage and grief at the news, saying they had been deceived and their hard work to improve the schools had gone for nothing.

The reaction came after parents and school staff members learned on April 30 that St. Augustine and St. Paschal Baylon schools and Sts. Cyril-Louis Bertrand Academy, all in Oakland, are to close at the end of this school year. The schools had suffered from declining enrollment and deficit spending, but all were working to meet a set of goals that would allow them to remain open.

During contentious meetings held at each of the three sites on May 4, parents, grandparents and even neighborhood residents, took diocesan representatives to task for the decision. Several said the action was unchristian, some said it was a breach of contract, and several charged that the diocesan staff were “liars and hypocrites.”

At the Academy, one member of the audience yelled, “We don’t trust you. We don’t have any power,” and the audience hissed and booed. A parent at St. Augustine threatened to take the diocese to court, and another at the Academy said that if the diocese takes away the school, “We’ll take away your Masses.”

At St. Augustine, children came to the mike. Alexandra Wilkie Farnsworth, a first grader, read a statement saying. “St. Augustine is a good school, why close it?” and Jordan Reed stole the heart of the crowd with his appeal. “We got the best students in the whole world,” he said. “We will go on strike.”

Parents from the three schools had also prepared a resolution asking that the diocese rescind the decision and report back with an answer to their appeal by May 11. This was presented to the diocesan team and read aloud at two of the meetings.

But schools superintendent Mark DeMarco said Bishop Allen Vigneron denied the appeal quickly, saying the decision to close the schools was taken after long and careful consideration and on the advice of the College of Consultors, a group of pastors advising the bishop, and it will not be rescinded.

The consultors had been monitoring the schools’ progress since January, when eight diocesan schools were notified that they were at risk of losing their subsidies unless they met the conditions of a “sustainability plan” created by a diocesan task force.

The other schools are St. Joseph the Worker in Berkeley, St. Barnabas in Alameda, Our Lady of the Rosary in Union City, and St. Bernard and St. Martin de Porres, both in Oakland. These schools, DeMarco said, “are still on track.”

The five are not showing “further deterioration or decline,” DeMarco said. “But we’re seeing fairly significant deterioration in these three schools.” This includes loss of current students and continued deficit spending. He said that the parents who objected loudly at the site meetings did not have all the facts at hand.

“I didn’t feel that they had the whole picture,” DeMarco said the following day. “There are some things I’m not going to be able to reveal.” He attended the meetings along with Millie Burns of Catholic Charities of the East Bay, who acted as facilitator; Father Larry Silva, vicar general; Deacon Thom McGowan, director of services and administration; and Holy Names Sister Barbara Bray and Dominican Sister Johnellen Turner, assistant superintendents.

Parents frequently complained that they had been meeting the goals set this past January, and some said the sustainability plan was a contract with the diocese that has now been broken. Several cited a letter from DeMarco dated Jan. 15, which states, “I am happy to share with you that the decision of the Bishop is to keep open all of the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Oakland with the understanding that each school will meet the criteria established by the task force and approved by the Bishop.”

The goals, with target dates, included outreach plans, balanced budgets, credentialed faculty, increases in enrollment and other conditions.
The Academy and St. Paschal were to meet their first enrollment goals by June 30 of this year, and St. Augustine had until March 31, 2005, but DeMarco said that the College of Consultors decided to act now because the downward trends were clear in each of these schools.

“If the next reporting date is June 30 and we already have an indication,” he said, “do we wait? In fairness to the kids and to the faculty and staff we act now.”

Many parents disagreed. “You jumped the gun,” said Patrick McCullough, a St. Augustine parent. “It is nowhere near March 2005. It is reprehensible to bring it up now.”

At St. Paschal, Diana MacDonald, vice president of the parish council and a member of the school board, said, “We were hopeful that we were meeting the timeline. We are disappointed and surprised.”

Parents at the Academy questioned the need to close their school when the diocese is pledging to make up the difference in tuition for parents who enroll in other Catholic schools. One parent asked why not give the money outright to the Academy?

The timing of the announcement has also caused problems for parents who said that if they had known sooner that their schools would close, they would have made other plans for their children. Now it is difficult, they said, and many schools are filled.

DeMarco and Burns insisted that the school department was committed to helping parents place their children in other Catholic schools. He gave them a number to call if they run into problems and said that the department was talking with principals of other diocesan schools to ease the way for the displaced children.

DeMarco said that even though schools may have met some of the goals set on their sustainability plans, they failed to meet the basic principle that guided the decision by the consultors – the ability to provide a quality Catholic education.

The three schools to be closed, he said, were combining classes and some were planning to include three grades in one. They had also been unable to buy adequate textbooks and material. In addition, he said, the cost of maintaining these schools was too great.

But parents at St. Augustine insisted that their children were receiving a quality education. They cited the small classrooms as a bonus and “cutting edge” educational policy.

The three schools will lose a total of $435,000 this year, according to a school department question and answer sheet. This will come to a $1.356 million loss over the past three to four years, DeMarco said.

“We’re spending the other schools’ money at this point,” he said in an interview. “Are we going to take down the entire system?”

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

In notifying parents of the school closures, the school department provided lists of local diocesan schools with maps of their locations and promised to provide vouchers for new uniforms. It also assured families that they would pay the same or lower tuition rates.

Principals and staff at many of the schools listed said they did have room at their schools for new students. Some are arranging new testing dates and visiting days and waiving application fees for families caught by the closures. In addition, the school department held a fair last Saturday to introduce families to other diocesan schools.

The diocese is also working with staff and faculty to help them find new positions, and DeMarco reported that school principals had been receiving calls from parents and staff members even before the closures were announced because rumors were circulating that the schools would not remain open.

After the diocesan team left the meeting at the Academy, principal Diana Adams told parents that the facility may become a charter school. “The name may change, but the door is not being closed,” she said.

In a press release dated April 30, the diocese blamed the decline in enrollment on “families moving away from their traditional parish schools because of rapidly accelerating housing costs and loss of jobs in the urban corridor.”

DeMarco noted that the loss of students is a nationwide trend. A National Catholic Education Association report for the 2003-2004 school year states that 34 new schools opened in the U.S. and 123 consolidated or closed.
There were 69,000 fewer students, a 2.7 percent drop.

However, the report said, “where public and privately funded scholarship support is available in inner city schools, long waiting lists for lottery-like selections have resulted, indicating the demand for Catholic schools is still high.”

(Sharon Abercrombie contributed to this report.)

Light, openness to distinguish
new Oakland cathedral design

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

Christ the Light Cathedral, now in the planning stages, will be marked by openness – to the light from above, to the community, and to the new era of the 21st century.

With its soaring wooden latticework encased in glass and its portals facing Lake Merritt and an Oakland thoroughfare, the cathedral building “will be thick with meanings,” both Christian and cultural, said Bishop Allen Vigneron during a meeting held April 22 at Holy Names University in Oakland.

And, he said, the design is “appropriately contemporary,” because it embraces the “life of our community, not a life of years gone by, but very much rooted in today.” He added, “It is a building that opens and beckons to everybody in Northern California, in these two counties and to anyone who may come here.”

A model of the cathedral, designed by architect Craig Hartman, was on display at the meeting, which was held for the “Holy Names group,” some 150 persons who met at the college over three nights in 2000 to discuss the cathedral. Bishop Emeritus John Cummins told the group that they provided “great affirmation and assurance” at that time and set the tone of openness and accessibility.

The cathedral, to be located at the corner of Grand Avenue and Harrison Street, is situated at an angle across the point of that intersection. In this way, Hartman said during a PowerPoint presentation, the site captures “the length of the view down the lake” and “allows us to get as much sun and as much daylight as possible.”

Pedestrians will be able to approach the cathedral from several directions – along a “pilgrims’ path” rising gradually from 21st Street, via a walkway from Grand Avenue, and by steps from the lake and Harrison Street.

Hartman said he wanted a building that “expresses the fluidity of the ocean,” and the result is a plan “based on ancient geometrics” known as the vesica pisces, an intersection of two spheres that resembles the outline of a fish.

The spherical segments are “like great wooden vaults,” he said, and the interior will allow the congregation to array around the altar.

Hartman said he included wood in the interior, partly because of the “long tradition of wood in the Bay Area.”

When light filters through the glass and open spaces between the wooden frames, Hartman said, it will resemble a redwood grove and “it will glow in the daytime” and be lit from inside at night.

The glass will be translucent but not transparent, marked with ceramic patterns burned into the material, “almost like a woven veil,” Hartman said, “so there will be some extraordinary and probably unanticipated results of this.”

The wooden latticework will rise from a sturdy base, which will be carved out to include chapels and reconciliation rooms. This base will incorporate “the latest in seismic designs,” he said, and will allow the building to move during an earthquake to avoid damage.

“This building,” Hartman said, “will be here for the next three or four or five centuries.” It will rise 130 feet from the ground, he said, “not a monumental building” but comparable in scale to the cathedrals of Chartres and Notre Dame.

John McDonnell, project manager for the cathedral, said the diocese had hoped for a building to seat 1,800 persons but this was reduced to 1,500 for budget reasons. There are also plans to build a chapel that would hold 200 people for weddings, daily Mass or other events.

“We will at least have the foundations, so we can build it later,” he said.
Hartman has also added a glass bell tower in a spiral shape at the corner of 21st and Harrison, which may also be built in the future.

The present cathedral plans, however, do include gardens, a courtyard, a bishop’s residence and a rectory for priests, chancery buildings, a conference facility, parish hall, social hall, café and retail shop within the complex.

In addition, there will be a mausoleum under the cathedral and a two-level parking garage below street level.

Several speakers noted that a cathedral community already exists at St. Mary-St. Francis de Sales Parish in Oakland. Many members moved there after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake left the former St. Francis de Sales Cathedral at 20th Street damaged beyond repair.

McDonnell said that the project needs the support of “people in our diocese, foundations and corporations.”

One foundation has provided a seed grant and has already given $15 million toward the purchase. It will grant another $50 million if the diocese can raise that same amount on its own.

The project budget is $131 million, McDonnell said, and a full-time fundraiser is working on securing the money needed. “We have about $14 or 15 million pledged or paid,” he said. “This is a pretty good position to be in this early in the game.” The diocese bought the property only last December, he noted.

Glenn Isaacson, an architect working with Hartman at the San Francisco firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, said 80 percent of the schematic drawings were finished, the project is working its way through the city permit process and the construction drawings should be done by May or June of 2005.

“Construction time will be about 27 months,” he said, so it may be possible to celebrate Christmas of 2007 in the new cathedral.

In response to a question from the audience, McDonnell said that the project cannot be built incrementally. The terms of the property sale required that construction be completed within a set time.

The cathedral project team has been holding a series of meetings to inform parishioners about construction plans. Two meetings are yet to be held – on Tuesday, May 11, at St. Anne Parish Hall in Union City and on Thursday, May 13, at Good Shepherd Parish Hall in Pittsburg. Both events begin at 7 p.m. and will last about 90 minutes.

New liturgy guide
focuses on proper observance of Mass

By Voice staff

The Vatican’s highest authority on worship and the sacraments has issued a new instruction on the proper implementation of Vatican II’s reform of the sacred liturgy. The instruction, titled “Redemptionis Sacramentum” (The Sacrament of Redemption) is a follow-up to the pope’s encyclical “Ecclesia de Eucharistia,” published on April 17, 2003, in which Pope John Paul expressed concern about “dark clouds of unacceptable doctrine and practice” threatening to obscure the Eucharist.

The instruction makes no change in already existing liturgical law, but rather addresses violations of the law with respect to the celebration of Mass and the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

There are 186 norms covering such aspects of the Mass as the composition of the bread (pure, unleavened wheat) and wine (pure and not sour fruit of the grape), the time and manner of the exchange of the sign of peace, and the participation of lay persons in a variety of ministries at Mass (acolyte, lector, sacristan, cantor).

It says that only a priest may deliver the homily and that bishops may decide how Communion is to be received.

The Mass “is not to be inserted in any way into the setting of a common meal” or linked to “political or secular events,” the instruction stated. First Communions should not be held on Holy Thursday because this would detract from the commemoration of Christ’s institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper.

The instruction also forbids throwing away consecrated hosts or wine, using unapproved or altered Eucharistic prayers, and celebrating Mass in a non-Christian temple or sacred place.

Bishop Wilton Gregory of Belleville, Ill., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, welcomed the new instruction. “There is no more important work than the care and attention we give the sacred liturgy,” he said. “Fidelity to the liturgy, as given to us by the Church, is fidelity to Christ.”

Archbishop Angelo Amato, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said the new instruction is not a manifestation of any “nostalgia for the past but only the will to put liturgical reform and the Second Vatican Council into practice and to eliminate abuses that are against Catholic doctrine.”

Guidelines for the faithful observance of liturgy are contained in the recently published “General Instruction of the Roman Missal” (GIRM), to which the new document refers. The diocesan bishop, as moderator of the liturgical life of the diocese, is responsible for the implementation of the General Instruction.

Oakland Bishop Allen Vigneron said he is planning “a systematic manner of implementing the new GIRM” in the diocese.

“Because celebrating the liturgy is much more than following a recipe book or a road map to move from one part to the next, it is essential that sound catechesis of priests, deacons, and all the lay faithful accompany any rearrangement of the ritual actions,” he wrote in an open letter to the people of the diocese, April 27.
(The full text of the Bishop’s letter follows.)

In that letter he notes that some liturgical abuses have occurred “in different parts of the world,” and that such abuses are addressed in the new instruction “so that they can be expeditiously corrected.”

He said he will work with the Presbyteral Council and “appropriate diocesan staff” to formulate the plans “as soon as possible.”

The issuance of the guidelines took a controversial turn when Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, said that the Eucharist should be withheld from Catholic lay leaders who take positions at odds with Catholic teaching. Refusing to comment directly on whether this applied to John Kerry, presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, the cardinal said that local bishops must determine how to apply the instruction in specific cases.

“The norm of the church is clear,” he said at a Vatican news conference. “The Catholic Church exists in the United States, and there are bishops there. Let them interpret it.”

(Peggy Polk of Religion News Service contributed to this report.)

April 27, 2004

Dear Priests, Deacons and Faithful of the Diocese:

As you may have heard, the English translation of a document published by the
Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments was released last Friday, April 23, 2004, in the United States of America.

Entitled Redemptionis Sacramentum, it reiterates the centrality of the Eucharist in the life of the Church, and comments on the reasons for a faithful observance of the liturgical norms, especially those found in the recently published General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM). Redemptionis Sacramentum also points out some liturgical abuses that occur in different parts of the world, so that they can be expeditiously corrected.

Because celebrating the liturgy is much more than following a recipe book or a road map to move from one part to the next, it is essential that sound catechesis of priests, deacons, and all the lay faithful accompany any rearrangement of the ritual actions. We must plan this catechesis well so that it will have its optimal effect. Such planning takes time and careful consideration. Therefore, I ask your patience as we plan a systematic manner of implementing the new GIRM in the Diocese of Oakland.

I will be discussing this matter with the Presbyteral Council and appropriate diocesan staff, so that we can formulate our plans as soon as possible. Please keep the intention of the proper renewal of the liturgy in mind in your daily prayers.

Praying God’s richest blessings upon you, I am,

Sincerely yours in Christ,

The Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron
Bishop of Oakland


Meltdown turns guns to peace use

By Sharon Abercrombie
Staff writer

John Horan eyed the A-K 47 through a pair of outsized goggles. The weapon, used widely in war situations as well as street violence, rested on an anvil in front of him. It glowed red-hot. Horan lifted a large sledgehammer above his head and smashed down with all the weight his tall, hefty frame could muster. Just for good measure, he took another five or six wacks.

‘Wow, that felt good,” he grinned. “It’s nice to smash one of these things instead of having it shoot at you.”

That morning, Horan, a member of St. Monica Parish in Moraga, had returned to his boyhood parish — St Elizabeth’s in Oakland — to participate in a gun bake, the 21st century equivalent of the ancient Prophet Isaiah’s dictum to “beat your swords into plowshares.” During such a bake, ordinary people gather around an anvil and a blacksmith furnace to turn violent weapons into tools for peace.

The Franciscan Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Office (JPIC) invited John Ricker, a San Francisco sculptor, to bring his Peaceful Streets/ Guns into Art project to the St. Elizabeth Parish parking lot on April 25. The gun bake is the outgrowth of Ricker’s experiences as a youth in Los Angeles where he lost several friends to gun violence. He started Peaceful Streets in 1998.

Ricker teaches classes in nonviolence on both sides of the Bay. As part of that effort, he brings a team of blacksmiths to community groups and schools. His blacksmiths, assisted by student teen apprentices, transform the melted weapons into memorial park benches, bicycle racks, and peace jewelry.

Blacksmith Jim Baer, one of Ricker’s colleagues, came to St. Elizabeth’s to help people melt down a cache of guns parishioners had recently turned in. Ricker will transform the melted metal into two sculptures for the parish. A peace symbol sculpture for St. Elizabeth Elementary School’s Garden of Learning will include violent toys turned in by children. A second sculpture will be a memorial in front of the church honoring those who have died from gun violence. It will depict a dove emerging from two broken, split apart guns, said Franciscan Brother Martin Ibarra, JPIC staff member.

Anne Symens-Bucher, also from the JPIC, said they chose April 25 for the gun bake because that is World Children’s Day. More than 20,000 people under the age of 20 are killed or injured by gun violence in the U.S. every year, explained Symens-Bucher. Nineteen of Oakland’s 114 homicide victims last year were 20 years of age or younger and guns killed 16 of them.

Symens-Bucher said the parish staff was motivated to bring the meltdown to St. Elizabeth’s after violence once again struck a family in the parish. Jovita Solis, church receptionist, lost her brother to gun violence nine months ago. Rogelio Solis, an autoworker, was trying to help a friend who had been shot when the assailants returned to the scene in their car, firing 50 shots into the crowd gathered around Solis and his friend. Solis was fatally wounded.

The St. Elizabeth staff began preparing the parish for the April gun bake through a series of Sunday homilies on nonviolence in February. Then, they invited people to turn in their violent weapons during March and April.

Parishioner Angelo Sandoval was one of the first to respond. Two young cousins who lived with him kept guns for protection. Sandoval didn’t like having weapons around. So, when he heard a sermon asking people to turn in their guns, Sandoval told the two men he would forgive their $1,000 debt in exchange for the weapons. Then he brought them to Brother Martin’s office for the April gun bake.

As music from Mass wafted across to the parking lot, Sandoval pounded the dreaded weapons. “I hate guns,” he said. “I want to see them all destroyed. When we do things like this, we make a big difference.”

Everybody took a turn, even the kids. After wacking away at a Colt Python, nine-year- old Hector Gonzalez vowed to throw away his water pistol when he went home. “It’s a rule from the church, no playing with guns,” he noted seriously.

But aren’t toy weapons a bit of a stretch in the equation of violence? Not for Symens-Bucher. Even water pistols, she says firmly, “mirror the violence in our culture. We are trying to make the link, the connection between toys guns and real guns.”

Neither Symens-Bucher nor Brother Martin would say now many guns were turned in. “The number is irrelevant,” he said. “The action is what is important. We want to help people realize that the power is in their hands to turn instruments of death into instruments for life.”


St. Ignatius of Antioch – 25 and still growing

By Carrie McClish
Staff writer

Bev Iacona still remembers quite clearly the day in 1979 when she and her friends at Most Holy Rosary Parish in Antioch learned that they were now members of Antioch’s newest faith community, St. Ignatius.

Her pastor, Dominican Father Francisco Vicente, announced that a new parish was starting in southern Antioch and that everybody living on the other side of the freeway now belonged to that parish. Once the shock wore off, Iacona and others rolled up their sleeves and dove into the work of building a parish from the ground up.

“People really pulled together because they knew we needed a building,” recalled Iacona, who established the parish’s religious education program. For nearly seven years, parishioners gathered for Sunday Masses at Park Junior High School and Mission Elementary School.

A core group called the Harvesters focused both on fundraising and community building.

Parish pioneers

These parish pioneers included a group of talented and hardworking women “who got everything going,” said Joan Sieczkowski, who joined St. Ignatius in 1981. The women baked pies, put on fashion shows and organized other social activities to generate income and bring parishioners together. The Holly Fair, a pre-Christmas dinner-auction, was a major event during the early years.

Despite many years in the temporary worship space, parishioners, including Catherine Avitabile, another original member, remained positive and patient. “I knew that the good times would come. I didn’t have any stress over when were we going to get the church – I knew it was coming. It was like being newly wed when you have very little to start out with and you don’t know when things are going to break through, but you know that they will,” she said.

After years of fundraising and the leadership of Father Anthony Harcar, administrator, the parishioners’ efforts culminated in the 1987 construction of a multi-purpose parish center at 3351 Contra Loma Blvd. Later the center was transformed into a permanent church setting with the installation of carpeting and stained glass windows.

New families join every month
The Antioch parish, which started with 600 families in 1979, has increased to 2700 families and is still growing. About 30 to 35 new families are added to the parish rolls every month, said Father Geoffrey Baraan, parochial administrator.

The parish is made up of many young families, he said, and the parish now is much more ethnically diverse than when it was established. Families of European origin make up about 50 percent of the parish and Filipinos about 40 percent. The remaining families are Vietnamese, Nigerian, Latino and African American.

Accompanying the growth of the parish has been an increase of ministries and organizations – and parishioners willing to take responsibility for them, part of the legacy of Father Vince Cotter, who served as pastor from 1993-2001.

Many like Bill Rafferty and his wife, Rose, members of the parish since 1981, have devoted years to what he called “volunteer work.” Rafferty, 86, served as a Eucharistic minister for a number of years. His wife, who set up the parish RCIA program years ago, remains active as a lector. Rafferty described the community as very caring, where members “look after each other.”

The parish also boasts a variety of outreach ministries including the Filipino American Society group, a Knights of Columbus Council, bereavement ministry, small Christian communities, and a peace and justice group. The parish is also involved in the local Habitat for Humanity chapter and a shelter program for homeless families.

However, this good news is tempered by the lack of space. “We are operating in one building — the church. So during our faith formation classes kids are in the kitchen, in the corners of the church, all over the place,” Father Baraan said. “We have over 600 kids in the faith formation program.”

To accommodate the large numbers, classes are staggered throughout the week and meetings for other programs and committees are carefully scheduled. The parish has plans to build a Family Life Center to create more space. While pledges have been taken, no firm date for construction has been set.

Healing from sex abuse
Like many current members of St. Ignatius Parish, Joan Sieczkowski did not know the founding pastor, Father Robert Ponciroli, who served there until 1983. But she learned more about the priest when allegations of sex abuse came to light a few years ago and he was permanently removed from all ministry.

When a victim of the pastor came to the church one Sunday morning last year, Sieczkowski was not surprised that Father Baraan embraced the man and greeted him with compassion. “Father Geoffrey does have that gift; he is a very welcoming person,” she said.

Although the reported abuse happened many years ago, Father Baraan said it was important for the parish, which responded positively to the presence of the survivor, to come to terms with the human toll caused by the allegations.

An apology service organized by the diocese and held at the parish in January focused on healing within the parish. “It was very moving,” said Bev Iacona. “It helped me a lot because I felt like a victim myself, but I wasn’t.”

Time has also helped the community work through its pain, Iacona said. “We got through that and we are stronger because of it. And we are a better parish.”

Antioch parish observes its jubilee
with celebrations

By Voice staff

St. Ignatius Parish in Antioch is marking its 25th anniversary with a series of weekend events.

Reflecting the theme, “We Are the Harvest of the Lord in Charity, Love, Hope, Faith and Joy,” each weekend highlights an aspect of parish life.

“Love” is the focus on May 15-16, celebrating the parish’s diversity. “Hope” during the weekend of May 22-23 honors parish youth.

“Faith” the weekend of May 29-30 is a tribute to deceased parishioners. “Joy” coincides with the parish anniversary on June 4.

Bishop Allen Vigneron will preside at the anniversary Mass at 7 p.m. An outdoor dinner dance on the parish grounds will follow.


Diocese focuses on ‘campaign of prayer’
for vocations

By Father Larry D’Anjou
Special to The Voice

“My heartfelt wish is that prayer for vocations be intensified ever more,” says Pope John Paul II in his address for World Day of Prayer for Vocations 2004.

Indeed, it is prayer for vocations that Jesus specifically asks of us in the Gospels. “Pray that the master of the harvest send out workers for his harvest” (Mt 9:38).

Clearly then, fostering prayer for vocations ought to be a key component of the ministry of our diocesan vocations office. To do this we have put together a
“Campaign of Prayer” for vocations, which I share with pastors and parish leaders during my weekend visits to parishes.

The Vocation Cross program is one component of our prayer campaign. Families or individuals sign up to participate. At the end of Sunday Mass, the priest or deacon invites them forward and commissions them to pray for vocations during the week.

They take the cross home, pray daily for vocations and return the cross at the end of the week. Then another individual or family receives the cross for the next week.

I like the Vocation Cross because it not only fosters prayer for vocations, but also raises awareness of vocations among the assembly gathered together.
Information about the Vocation Cross program is available by clicking on the “Vocations” link at the Diocese of Oakland website (

Many of our parishes have a regular Holy Hour and we encourage them to include prayers for vocations during that time. With the assistance of the diocesan liturgy office we have put together a Holy Hour for Vocations worship aid with a selection of hymns, Scripture readings and intercessory vocations prayers.

For parishes that desire a Holy Hour including exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction, we offer a variation that includes these as well.
They are also available by clicking on the “Vocations” link of the diocesan website.

The next component of our prayer campaign is directed toward the sick and homebound. In his address on World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Pope John Paul II reminds us that offering one’s sufferings is a very effective form of intercessory prayer. In his address, the Holy Father refers to his own suffering and invites others to join him in offering their sufferings for holy vocations.

To this end, we have created a special holy card for the sick. At my parish visits, I ask that these holy cards be shared with our suffering brothers and sisters so that their suffering and prayers might be lifted up for vocations.

The Vocations Office also provides the parishes with Prayers of the Faithful for vocations as another component of our prayer campaign. Parishes receive these prayers in English and Spanish each month for use at Sunday liturgies.

So how is our “Campaign of Prayer” being received at the parishes?

I’m happy to say that at my 12 visits so far, nearly all pastors and parish leaders have committed to implementing at least one component and many parishes are working on implementing more than one. “The more the better,” I say!

These prayers are definitely contributing to our work.

In terms of vocations to the priesthood, which are dearly needed, there is hopeful news. Four seminarians are to be ordained priests on May 28 and interest in the priesthood seems to be on the rise. Currently seven men are considering entering seminary this fall.

The master of the harvest always hears our prayers; so let’s continue to foster prayers for vocations!

(Father Larry D’Anjou is director of the diocesan vocations office. He can be reached at (510) 267-8356 or

Prayer of the Sick
for Vocations

you are a good and loving Father,
so I have great confidence that you
are listening to me. Today we need
many priests, deacons, religious
and lay ecclesial ministers to serve
your Church.

I offer my sufferings, my illness
and my personal inconveniences
for your greater honor and glory.
Give a spirit of generosity to the
faithful, and give them your vision
of how to serve your Church.

I make my prayer through Jesus
Christ, our Lord. Amen

Office of Vocations, Diocese of Oakland

Rate Your Vocation Potential

Below are a series of statements to help a Catholic discern a vocation to the priesthood or religious life:

• I am in love with Jesus. I have a personal relationship with him. I want what Jesus wants. His teachings and truth are a real part of my life.

• I am a believing, practicing Catholic. I believe in the truths taught by the Catholic Church. I go to Mass every Sunday and on Holy Days.

• I live and/or desire a life of service. I have been active in my Church and community serving others.

• I live and/or desire a life of prayer. I sometimes attend daily Mass or make visits to the Blessed Sacrament. I frequently make use of the Sacrament of Confession. I read the Bible and take time for personal prayer.

• I have zeal for the Faith. I love my Catholic faith and I am willing to spend myself to bring it to others.

• I am open to the will of God in my life. I believe that God has a plan for me. I truly desire to discover and follow God’s plan for my life.

According to vocation directors, strong agreement with these statements might indicate a religious vocation. Persons are encouraged to call the diocesan vocations office to discuss this further. Father Larry D’Anjou, diocesan vocations director, can be reached at (510) 267-8356 and Holy Family Sister Kathy Littrell, associate vocations director, at (510) 267-8374.

Report says number of seminarians has dropped slightly from last year

By Kevin Eckstrom
Religion News Service

The number of seminarians studying to be Catholic priests dropped four percent from last year, for a total of 3,285 men enrolled at 47 graduate-level seminaries.

Although the number of seminarians fell slightly, the levels are roughly the same as the 3,371 reported a decade ago, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, affiliated with Georgetown University. In 1965, some 8,325 men were enrolled as Catholic seminarians.

The CARA research also showed that of the 704 men who enrolled in 1999, 509 remained in their programs at the end of the 2002-2003 school year.

The vast majority — 71 percent—of seminarians are preparing for ordination by dioceses, while 29 percent are studying in religious orders, such as the Jesuits, Franciscans or Dominicans.

Just under half — 49 percent — of seminarians are under the age of 35, and two-thirds are white. Representing an influx of minority and foreign-born candidates, 14 percent are Hispanic and 12 percent are Asian. More than one in five are foreign-born, with the most coming from Mexico, Poland, the Philippines and Vietnam.

The 3,285 seminarians do not include an additional 1,153 men enrolled in undergraduate seminary programs or 761 high school students on a seminary track.

There are 16 graduate-level seminarians studying for the priesthood for the Oakland Diocese, among whom are four deacons who will be ordained to the priesthood May 28. Of the other 12, four are in their pastoral year, working in parishes of the diocese; four are in their third year of theological studies, one in second and three in the first year.

Seven are of Asian heritage, five Hispanic, and four of European descent. Their average age is 37. Thirteen have studied at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park and three at Assumption Seminary in San Antonio, Texas.

Catholic Charities of the East Bay

Agency helps family fight
for their child’s life

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

Maria Isabel Bueso Barrera sits patiently on her mother’s lap, asking from time to time only for help to breathe. And then she waits patiently while her mother suctions her windpipe with a vacuum pump and allows her again to draw a normal breath.

It is a routine that mother and daughter repeat uncounted times a day, both of them with a kind of gentle tenacity, the fruits of their struggle with a rare genetic disease. Isabel suffers from Maroteaux-Lamy Syndrome, a disorder that affects only one in 215,000 newborns. It was to keep their daughter alive that Karla and
Alberto Bueso came to the Bay Area from Guatemala in search of treatment.
It has been a long journey, beginning shortly after Isabel’s birth nearly nine years ago, and it is thanks to the support of family, friends, a pharmaceutical company, Children’s Hospital and Catholic Charities of the East Bay that the Bueso family has been able to remain here in hopes of keeping the girl alive.

Catholic Charities helped the family with a rental deposit when they needed an apartment, and recently the couple has gone to the organization for help in getting a visa that will allow them to work and support themselves in the United States. It is only here that Isabel can receive the enzyme replacement therapy that gives her hope, and this treatment, Karla said, “is for life.”

Isabel was born in Guatemala City, seemingly normal and healthy until she was three weeks old and began to suffer from a series of ailments – ear infections, respiratory illness, urinary infections. But no one knew the source of the problems until x-rays showed abnormalities in her bones.

Doctors in Guatemala suspected Maroteaux-Lamy Syndrome (which is also known as Mucopolysaccaridosis VI, usually shortened to MPS VI). Patients with the disease lack an enzyme that prevents damage to cells in the body, and as a result they are short in stature and often have pain in their joints, heart and liver problems, blindness, deafness, breathing difficulties and a host of other symptoms depending on the severity of the disease.

In Miami, doctors confirmed the diagnosis and said that the only treatment available was a bone marrow transplant, far too expensive for the family’s resources. But, said Karla, “God is beautiful and gave me strength.” She searched for a solution and discovered that St. Jude Hospital in Memphis would provide the transplant free.

Thus began a series of twice-a-year trips to Memphis in hopes that a bone marrow donor would be available. Over five years the family traveled between Guatemala and Tennessee – “Each time traveling with hope,” Karla said - but with no results.
The hospital never found a good match for Isabel.

Karla and Alberto, however, never quit searching, and when they learned of an enzyme replacement therapy on trial in Children’s Hospital of the East Bay, they applied, Isabel was accepted and the child went through the first phase of the trial. When she was turned down for the second phase – because she was walking and therefore less gravely ill than the other candidates – her mother wrote persistently to the doctor in charge until he relented and let her in.

Now Isabel visits the hospital once a week for intravenous infusions of the enzyme replacement. Her mother sees improvement – she can walk with less pain and her appetite has improved. Nevertheless, Isabel has been through several crises in her short life, and the most recent, this past November, left her with a tracheotomy, an opening through her throat that helps her to breathe.

But with the new therapy her parents hope to stop the progress of the disease, and they are convinced that she can lead a decent life only if she stays in California. It is impossible to ship the medicine to Guatemala.

For the first six months of their stay, the pharmaceutical company testing the medicine paid for the family’s lodging, but when that period ran out, they had to find an apartment on their own. It was then that they applied to the Oakland Family Service Center of Catholic Charities for help.

Now, Isabel lives in an apartment with her parents and an 11-year-old sister, Ana Lucia, who attends public school. She can read and write; she loves to play with Barbie dolls, and she specializes in drawing angels. Like many MPS VI children she is bright and appealing.

But the family’s life here can’t last, her mother said, because they are running out of funds. Only with a work visa can they remain in the U.S. indefinitely. For now, they are depending on a tourist visa, renewed every six months with a letter from the hospital.

A counselor at Catholic Charities immigration services has told them that there is no law that would allow them a work visa, so Karla is appealing to elected officials, writing letters and asking for their help. So far they have had no response.

“I am just a small voice,” Karla said, hoping to find someone with more influence in the halls of government. “We have come to the U.S. fighting for our daughter’s life,” she said. “If there were a treatment in China or on Mars, I’d go there. At least I’d try.”

Family Service Centers
provide one-stop help
for families in crisis

By Voice staff

The plight of the Bueso family is typical of families who come to Catholic Charities of the East Bay, says Patricia Toscano, a case worker at CCEB’s Oakland Family Service Center.

“We often see families who have been doing well, then a medical crisis or sudden unemployment pushes them over the edge,” she said. When such a family arrives at one of the agency’s four service centers, they have access to various types of assistance, all delivered in a “one-stop” format.

Each client receives a comprehensive needs assessment, then is offered custom-designed assistance, be it help with housing, family counseling, immigration and refugee services, job training or food and utility vouchers.

All the help is geared towards helping the family regain self-sufficiency, said Toscano. ”We don’t want our clients to become dependent on agencies.”

Toscano said her clients are marked by their “motivation to rise above their situation,” and that CCEB’s mission is to give them “the helping hand to overcome poverty.”

Housing is often a major issue, made more difficult by the lack of affordable rentals for the working poor.

Catholic Charities administers $225,000 in housing assistance each year, giving up to $500 to a client, usually for a security deposit or first month’s rent. Half of the housing budget is earmarked for persons living with HIV/AIDS.

The Family Service Centers’ locations are:
433 Jefferson St., Oakland
(510) 768-3100

760 1st Street, Brentwood
(925) 516-3880

2350 Pacheco Street, Concord
(925) 825-3099

2369 Barrett Avenue, Richmond
(510) 234-5110


Volunteers needed at Catholic Charities

Volunteers are always in demand to assist in various programs and services sponsored by Catholic Charities of the East Bay (CCEB).

Individuals who are fluent in Spanish are needed in the immigration departments of the Concord Family Service Center, at 2350 Pacheco St., and at the Oakland office at 433 Jefferson St. to assist the lawyers and law clerks, said Mary Heckler, CCEB’s volunteer coordinator.

Volunteers are also needed to mentor young men who are leaving the prison system through Project New Hope and to visit prisoners through the detention ministry program.

Contact Heckler at (510) 763-3132.

Heroic wife and mother
to be canonized May 16

By Diane Lynch

How do you measure a mother’s love? A mother who makes a decision to save the life of her child, against any odds? A mother who, as a doctor herself, knows full well the possible consequences of this decision to her own life and health?

In 1962, at the age of 39, Gianna Beretta Molla could envision a wonderful future: she had an adoring husband, three beautiful children, and a promising career as a physician. An enthusiastic downhill skier, an experienced mountain climber, a painter, a pianist, an opera afcionada, Gianna knew herself to be both fortunate and blessed.

Then, two months into her fourth pregnancy, Gianna was faced with an unexpected dilemma when her doctors discovered a large tumor growing alongside her uterus. For her, the choice was a simple one: her first priority would be to continue the pregnancy and ensure that her baby would be born.

Gianna underwent a dangerous surgical operation in order to ensure that her pregnancy would continue, knowing all the while that serious complications could arise at any time point. Sustained by her unfailing faith, supported by her husband and family, she managed to carry the child to term.

But a few days after her daughter was born via caesarean section, Gianna unexpectedly developed septic peritonitis. A week after holding her beloved baby girl in her arms for the first time, she was dead. Her quietly heroic choice – to protect the life of her child – could not, ultimately, ensure her own.

On May 16, 2004, Pope John Paul II will declare Gianna Molla Beretta a saint at a canonization ceremony in St. Peter’s Square.

In 1994, at the beatification ceremony declaring her “blessed,” the Pope offered her as a role model for mothers everywhere saying “A woman of heroic love, an outstanding wife and mother, she gave dedicated witness to the demanding values of the gospel in her daily life…We thank you for the intrepid trust in God and in his love. All over the world, her inspiring example of love, based on a sanctity that is simple and accessible to everyone, has given hope and strength to thousands of women.”

How do you measure a mother’s love? In the words of Dr. Gianna Emmanuela Molla, St. Gianna’s youngest child, now a physician herself:

“Dear Momma, thank you for having given me life two times, when you conceived me and when you allowed me to be born…My life seems to be the natural continuation of your life, of your joy of living, of your enthusiasm. I discovered my life’s full meaning in dedicating myself to whoever lives in suffering.”
How do you measure a mother’s love? Perhaps in the end, by the legacy of love it brings into being: by the love it leaves behind.

(Editor’s note: For further information, check out: “Blessed Gianna Molla Beretta: A Woman’s Life,” by Giuliana Pelucchi and “Love Letters to My Husband,” a collection of St. Gianna’s letters edited by Elio Guerriero. Both are available from Pauline Books and Media in Boston at (800) 876-4463, or at


Book Review

Two books tell life and love
of newest saint

“Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla: A Woman’s Life, 1922-1962,” by Giuliana Pelucchi. Foreword by Antoinette Bosco. Pauline Books & Media (Boston, 2002). 150 pp. $14.95.

“Love Letters to My Husband: Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla,” edited by Elio Guerriero. Foreword by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini. Pauline Books & Media (Boston, 2002). 162 pp. $11.95.

When you think of a saint, what image comes to your mind? Do you picture a woman studying medicine and setting up a private practice, in a time when that was uncommon? Do you think of a courageous mother, one who refused an abortion that would have saved her life, in order to save the life of her unborn baby?

Giuliana Pelucchi’s book, “A Woman’s Life,” relates the true story of just such a saint, Gianna Beretta Molla (1922-1962), the Italian doctor, wife, and mother of four who will be canonized on May 16.

Pelucchi paints Gianna as a faithful Catholic, filled with joy, humility, prayerfulness, eagerness to do God’s will, and a zest for life. Her husband, Pietro Molla, explains, “My wife had infinite faith in God, but I never realized I was living with a ‘saint.’
Gianna was a woman who was full of the joy of living. She loved her family, her profession as a physician. She loved her home, music, mountains, flowers…all the beautiful gifts that God has given.”

The photos in “A Woman’s Life” are unlike any photos or drawings I’ve ever seen of saints. We see Gianna skiing, mountain climbing, and volunteering in a parish camp for children. Gianna, the bride, in her elegant satin dress, poses as if about to throw her wedding bouquet. Gianna, the mother, is pictured pushing the baby stroller, lying in bed with her newborn, and sledding with her toddlers.

“Love Letters to My Husband” is a collection of letters Gianna wrote to Pietro during their engagement and later during their married years when he was away on business trips. She writes of the ordinary yet important details of family living: notes about the children’s health and their antics, grocery lists, and gentle admonitions to her husband to get plenty of rest. The letters also reveal Gianna’s determination to live a virtuous life and her incredible love for her “treasures,” Pietro and the children.

These books uncover the lived reality of a married couple who devote themselves to making their home “a little cenacle where Jesus will reign over all our affections, desires, and actions.” Gianna and Pietro remind us that marriage is both vocation and sacrament.

“A Woman’s Life” and “Love Letters to My Husband” are inspiring reading for all who long to imitate Christ, especially married couples and parents. In her ability to juggle career, marriage, community service, and child-rearing, Gianna is the model Christian woman for today. In laying down her own life for the sake of her unborn child, Gianna is a living sign of the self-emptying love of Christ, who laid down his life on the cross so that others might live.

Reviewed by Julie McCarty, a freelance writer whose column on prayer appears in several diocesan newspapers, including The Catholic Voice. E-mail her at


St. Joseph the Worker School band
theft turns into a musical windfall

By Voice staff

Natalie Tovani -Walchuk, principal of St. Joseph the Worker School in Berkeley, can attest to Shakespeare’s wisdom that “all’s well that ends well.”

It all started around noon on Thursday, April 29. The school band had been rehearsing in the church for the parish’s big 125th anniversary Masses — a “warm-up” school liturgy on Friday and the official celebration on Saturday, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. When the kids took a 15-minute lunch break and returned for more practice, a flute, saxophone and trumpet had mysteriously vanished.

This sorry state of affairs was serious on two levels – the instruments belonged to the students so the school insurance didn’t cover the loss and the Mass was less than 24 hours away. After phoning police, Tovani-Walchuk contacted KTVU Channel 2 and asked them to do a story.

About the time news of the robbery was being televised, Alameda police picked up a homeless man who had some outstanding warrants against him. He also had very unusual items in his shopping cart — a trumpet and a saxophone. The guy’s explanation: they were his, left over from high school days. But since he was 40 years old and the instruments looked new and shiny, the cops were suspicious.

After arresting him, they learned about the Channel 2 story, which was picked up by other stations. By Friday morning, Tovani-Walchuk was identifying musical instruments inside the Alameda Police headquarters. When she inquired about the flute, the cops rechecked the man’s shopping cart. There it was, wedged into a corner of the cart inside a crumpled plastic bag. Unfortunately, both the flute and the trumpet were damaged. But Tovani-Walchuk needn’t have worried.

People had been watching television. By the time she arrived back at St. Joseph’s, a Berkeley music store had stepped in with replacements, rent-free. A woman had driven from Redwood City to donate a flute. A retired man had walked from the Berkeley BART station with another flute.

Theirs weren’t the only gifts. During the course of the weekend, the band received five flutes, one trumpet, and two guitars, “which we hadn’t even lost,” plus $1,000 in donations to repair the damaged instruments.

This windfall means that next year, kids who can’t afford their own musical instruments will be able to participate in the band. Some will be able to take flute lessons, which are offered at the school.

“People have just been incredible,” Natalie Tovani-Walchuk said gratefully.

EWTN to air two new
documentaries this month

By Voice staff

Two new documentaries, one on the restoration of an American cathedral and the other on life at the Vatican, will be aired this month on EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network), the 24-hour Catholic TV network.

The hour-long Vatican documentary, scheduled for May 23 at 4 p.m., highlights daily activities and events at the Church’s tiny city-state in the midst of Rome. The documentary will be rebroadcast at 10 a.m. on May 25.

The program on the restoration of St. Paul Cathedral in Minnesota will air on May 25 at 3 p.m. This special includes interviews and rare photographs that bring to life the cathedral’s past, its first archbishop, John Ireland, and its original architect, Emmanuel Masqueray.

Now widely available in the Bay Area, EWTN is carried on Comcast Digital channel 229, DISH Satellite channel 261, and DirecTV channel 422.
Launched in 1981, EWTN is the largest religious media network in the world. It transmits programming 24 hours a day to more than 85 million homes in 110 countries and 16 territories.