ONLINE
AUGUST 9 , 2004

INSIDE
THIS ISSUE

Priest links theatre with Gospel in Ruach Players

Father Keyes returns to
St. Edward Parish as pastor

Father Galvan is new leader
at Assumption Parish
in San Leandro
Castro Valley couple heads to Mexico as lay missioners

Website filled with praise for the late Father Sopke

Sudan crisis continues
to deteriorate
At 25, San Ramon parish continues to grow
Bishop Vigneron to address Catechetical Congress
Newly ordained Salesian Father Steven Francis
New leadership team for Notre Dame de Namur Sisters
Directors of ministry
to troubled marriages

Commentary:

Catholicism and Islam: It’s time to think of a strategic dialogue

 

 

 

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

BISHOP
VIGNERON

FRONT PAGE
 
FRONT PAGE

 

Fear of persecution grows among Catholics in Iraq

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

Even before the recent church bombings in Baghdad and Mosul, Iraqi Christians were leaving the country for fear of persecution, Archbishop Jean Benjamin Sleiman of Baghdad reported during a visit to the U.S last month.

In comments made during a speech at the University of Notre Dame Law School in South Bend, Ind., and in an interview with the Washington Post, Archbishop Sleiman said that under Saddam Hussein Iraqi Christians were left in peace as long as they did not publish or proselytize, but since the war they have suffered from kidnappings and murders and threats against some bishops.

Many, he said, have moved to North America, Europe and Australia, and others are trying to leave out of fear that a Muslim-dominated government will control Iraq. Archbishop Sleiman, a Carmelite, was in the U.S. to attend a conference of his order.

According to news reports, the bombings that left at least 11 people dead have increased the pressure on Iraqi Christians to leave. The blasts occurred Sunday evening, Aug. 1, at five different churches as worshippers attended Mass, injuring dozens of parishioners and nearby residents and killing both Muslims and Christians.

Four churches were damaged by car bombs in Baghdad and one in Mosul. The bombs struck an Armenian Catholic church, an Assyrian church, a Chaldean Catholic seminary and at least one other Chaldean Catholic church.

Mowaffak al Rubaie, Iraq’s national security adviser, said the attacks bore the marks of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant with ties to Al Qaeda, but Zarqawi’s group has not claimed responsibility for the bombings, as it has done after past attacks.

Rubaie also said he was afraid Christians would interpret the bombings as warnings to leave Iraq. This would be devastating to the economy, he said, because Christians contribute to the country through commerce, a high level of education, and ties to the West. The Christian population in Iraq is estimated between 650,000 to 800,000 in a country of 25 million, roughly 3 percent.

According to news reports, a number of Christians said the attacks had convinced them it was time to leave. In some cases, Muslim neighbors and friends tried to console them, saying that the terrorists had also targeted mosques.

In recent weeks Iraq has seen attacks on retail businesses often run by Christians and considered blasphemous by Muslims – liquor stories, beauty parlors and shops selling Western music. The recent bombings, however, were the first openly directed at Christian churches.

Iraqi Muslim groups denounced the church attacks. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s senior Shiite cleric, said, “We condemn and reproach these hideous crimes,” and the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations issued a statement condemning the “vicious attacks in the strongest possible terms” and noting that Islam mandates the protection of churches and synagogues.

In a joint statement released by the Vatican, the co-presidents of the Islamic-Catholic Liaison Committee condemned terrorist acts in Iraq, in particular those “in areas in which are located places of worship” where Muslims and Christians have gathered to pray. Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and Hamid al-Rifaie, head of the International Islamic Forum for Dialogue, issued the joint statement in English and Arabic.

Patriarch Emmanuel Delly of the Chaldean Catholic Chruch said Iraqis of all religions will remain united. “Perhaps they want to divide us from our Muslim brothers,” he said, “but we and the Muslims are one family, one Iraqi family that should be protected by brotherhood and love.”

Pope John Paul II sent Patriarch Delly a telegram of condolence. “The sorrowful news…against various Catholic communities gathered in prayer in their houses of worship struck me deeply,” he wrote.

In the U.S., Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington said the attacks marked a new phase of terrorism in Iraq. He noted that Christians and Muslims have lived together in harmony for hundreds of years in the Middle East.

Archbishop Sleiman said in his Notre Dame speech that Christians made up 20 percent of the Iraqi population in the 1960s, but the numbers have dwindled steadily since then. He now fears that the remaining Christians will desert the country if Iraq becomes an Islamic state.

 

Who are the Christians in Iraq?

By Voice staff

Christians have lived and worshipped in what is now Iraq for nearly 2,000 years and today make up about 3 percent of the country’s population. Since the seventh century A.D., they have been a minority in a region dominated by Islam.

An estimated 650,000 to 800,000 Christians live in Iraq, most of them members of the Chaldean Church.

They are Eastern-rite Catholics with their own liturgy, leadership and church laws, but they recognize the authority of the pope.

Chaldeans trace their lineage to the Babylonian-Mesopotamian nation of Chaldees, where Abraham was born, and today the head of their church, Patriarch Emmanuel Delly, resides in Mosul.

Roman Catholics, who worship with the Latin rite, are also present in Iraq. The community began as a missionary church in the early 17th century and has traditionally served foreigners living in Iraq. Only about 3,000 native Iraqis belong to the Roman church.

The Latin church in Iraq has three parishes and several religious orders – Carmelites, Dominicans, Redemptorists and Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.

Armenian Catholics are also present in Iraq, members of a separate Eastern-rite church in communion with Rome. The country also has Armenian, Greek and Syrian Orthodox churches as well as Presbyterians, Anglicans and evangelicals.

Still another Iraqi Christian church is the Assyrian, which is independent from both the Catholic and Orthodox churches but similar to Catholicism in its liturgy and traditions. The Assyrian church split from Catholicism in the fifth century when it embraced the Nestorian doctrine, deemed to be heresy for denying the full human-divine nature of Christ.


 

Vatican critiques feminism, cites distinct roles of women, men

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

In a document released late last month, the Vatican calls for mutual collaboration between men and women while it warns against efforts to create conflict between the sexes and blur their differences.

The “Letter to Catholic Bishops on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World” was released July 31 by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Archbishop Angelo Amato, congregation prefect and secretary, respectively, after approval by Pope John Paul II.

The letter opposes trends within feminism, which it says have “lethal effects in the structure of the family” and create “a new model of polymorphous sexuality.”

One tendency, the letter says, emphasizes conditions of women’s subordination to men “in order to give rise to antagonism,” and another trend denies sexual differences, insisting instead that the differences are cultural.

As a result, the document says, theories have arisen which “call into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent.”

Bishop Wilton Gregory of Belleville, Ill., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called the document “a timely reminder of both the equality of men and women and also of the distinctive difference between them with which God endowed them in creation.”

Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who heads the bishops’ domestic policy committee, agreed with the letter’s concerns about blurring the differences between the sexes. It is a reminder that “God created men and women as equals, not to oppose each other, but to collaborate and work together,” he said.

Drawing on biblical texts from Genesis to the New Testament, the letter holds that God created men and women as “sexually differentiated” but destined for a peaceful relationship as equal partners. Original sin broke the peace of Eden, according to the document, and left a relationship that is “good but wounded and in need of healing.”

But through Christ, it says, “the rivalry, enmity and violence which disfigured the relationship between men and women can be overcome and have been overcome.”

The differences between the sexes are “destined to outlast the present time,” the letter states. “From the first moment of their creation, men and women are distinct and will remain so for all eternity.”

But sexual differences do not mean that procreation is the end of all human kind, according to the document. Celibacy anticipates the transfigured state of humans in eternal life, still male and female but no longer bound to marriage and procreation. And, the letter states, “Virginity refutes any attempt to enclose women in mere biological destiny.”

Although it rejects some trends in feminism, the document upholds the right of women to work and serve the common good outside of the family.

“It means also that women should be present in the world of work and in the organization of society and that women should have access to positions of responsibility which allow them to inspire the policies of nations and to promote innovative solutions to economic and social problems.”

At the same time, it says, women who choose to “devote the totality of their time to the work of the household” should not be stigmatized by society or penalized financially, and those who try to balance work and family “should not have to choose between relinquishing their family life or enduring continual stress, with negative consequences for one’s own equilibrium and the harmony of the family.”

Women bring distinct virtues to bear in their service to the family and society, the letter states. The capacity to give life “structures the female personality in a profound way…A sense and a respect for what is concrete develop in her, opposed to abstractions, which are so often fatal for the existence of individuals and society.”

Women’s role “in all aspects of family and social life involving human relationships,” the document says, is “irreplaceable,” and women have the “fundamental human capacity to live for the other and because of the other.”

Within the Church, Mary presents the feminine virtues of “listening, welcoming, humility, faithfulness, praise and waiting,” the document states. These traits should belong to “every baptized person,” but “women live them with particular intensity and naturalness.” It is women’s role in the Church to recall these virtues to all the faithful.

Although women cannot be priests, the letter continues, this “does not hamper in any way women’s access to the heart of Christian life.” They are, instead, “unique examples and witnesses” within the Church.

Paul Lakeland, a professor at Fairfield University in Connecticut and a specialist on the Catholic Church, said the document might be used by conservatives to condemn any form of advocacy for women. But, he said, “The irony is that this document is, in some ways, a feminist document,” especially in its insistence on the right of women to work outside the home.

Jesuit Father Thomas Reese of the Jesuit magazine America also said that parts of the letter uphold feminist aims. “Although most American feminists would express their theology differently from the Vatican,” he said, “on the practical level they are on the same page in terms of equal opportunity in education, the workplace, in politics – except when it comes to abortion and women priests.”

The full document, which has 37 booklet-size pages, can be found at www.usccb.org. Excerpts are printed on page 12 of this issue of The Voice.

(Religion News Service and Associated Press contributed to this report.)

 

Excerpts from Vatican letter on the collaboration of men and women
in the Church and the world

Below are excerpts from the “Letter to Catholic Bishops on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World,” released July 31 by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Archbishop Angelo Amato, congregation prefect and secretary, respectively, after approval by
Pope John Paul II.

The Question
“2. Recent years have seen new approaches to women’s issues. A first tendency is to emphasize strongly conditions of subordination in order to give rise to antagonism: women, in order to be themselves, must make themselves the adversaries of men. Faced with the abuse of power, the answer for women is to seek power.

“This process leads to opposition between men and women, in which the identity and role of one are emphasized to the disadvantage of the other, leading to harmful confusion regarding the human person, which has its most immediate and lethal effects in the structure of the family.

“A second tendency emerges in the wake of the first. In order to avoid the domination of one sex or the other, their differences tend to be denied, viewed as mere effects of historical and cultural conditioning. In this perspective, physical difference, termed sex, is minimized, while the purely cultural element, termed gender, is emphasized to the maximum and held to be primary.

“The obscuring of the difference or duality of the sexes has enormous consequences on a variety of levels. This theory of the human person, intended to promote prospects for equality of women through liberation from biological determinism, has in reality inspired ideologies which, for example, call into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality.”

“4. In the face of these currents of thought, the Church, enlightened by faith in Jesus Christ, speaks instead of active collaboration between the sexes precisely in the recognition of the difference between man and woman.”

Basic elements of the biblical version of the human person
“The first text (Gn 1:1-2:4) describes the creative power of the Word of God, which makes distinctions in the original chaos. Light and darkness appear, sea and dry land, day and night, grass and trees, fish and birds, “each according to its kind.” An ordered world is born out of differences, carrying with them also the promise of relationships.

“Here we see a sketch of the framework in which the creation of the human race takes place: ‘God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’ (Gn 1:26). And then: ‘God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them’ (Gn1:27).

“From the very beginning, therefore, humanity is described as articulated in the male-female relationship. This is the humanity, sexually differentiated, which is explicitly declared ‘the image of God’”.

“The peaceful vision which concludes the second creation account recalls that ‘indeed it was very good’ (Gn 1:31) at the end of the first account. Here we find the heart of God’s original plan and the deepest truth about man and woman, as willed and created by him. Although God’s original plan for man and woman will later be upset and darkened by sin, it can never be abrogated.”

“From the first moment of their creation, man and woman are distinct, and will remain so for all eternity. Placed within Christ’s Paschal Mystery, they no longer see their difference as a source of discord to be overcome by denial or eradication, but rather as the possibility for collaboration, to be cultivated with mutual respect for their difference. From here, new perspectives open up for a deeper understanding of the dignity of women and their role in human society and in the Church.”

The importance of feminine values in the life of society
“13. Among the fundamental values linked to women’s actual lives is what has been called a “capacity for the other.” Although a certain type of feminist rhetoric makes demands “for ourselves”, women preserve the deep intuition of the goodness in their lives of those actions which elicit life, and contribute to the growth and protection of the other.

“This intuition is linked to women’s physical capacity to give life. Whether lived out or remaining potential, this capacity is a reality that structures the female personality in a profound way. It allows her to acquire maturity very quickly, and gives a sense of the seriousness of life and of its responsibilities. A sense and a respect for what is concrete develop in her, opposed to abstractions which are so often fatal for the existence of individuals and society.

“It is women, in the end, who even in very desperate situations, as attested by history past and present, possess a singular capacity to persevere in adversity, to keep life going even in extreme situations, to hold tenaciously to the future, and finally to remember with tears the value of every human life.”

“14. It is appropriate, however, to recall that the feminine values mentioned here are above all human values: the human condition of man and woman created in the image of God is one and indivisible. It is only because women are more immediately attuned to these values that they are the reminder and the privileged sign of such values.

“But, in the final analysis, every human being, man or woman, is destined to be ‘for the other.’ In this perspective, that which is called ‘femininity’ is more than simply an attribute of the female sex. The word designates indeed the fundamental human capacity to live for the other and because of the other.”

“Without prejudice to the advancement of women’s rights in society and the family, these observations seek to correct the perspective which views men as enemies to be overcome. The proper condition of the male-female relationship cannot be a kind of mistrustful and defensive opposition. Their relationship needs to be lived in peace and in the happiness of shared love.”

The importance of feminine values in the life of the Church
“It is from Mary that the Church always learns the intimacy of Christ. Mary, who carried the small child of Bethlehem in her arms, teaches us to recognize the infinite humility of God. She who received the broken body of Jesus from the Cross shows the Church how to receive all those in this world whose lives have been wounded by violence and sin…”

“In this perspective one understands how the reservation of priestly ordination solely to men does not hamper in any way women’s access to the heart of Christian life. Women are called to be unique examples and witnesses for all Christians of how the Bride is to respond in love to the love of the Bridegroom.”

Conclusion
“…The witness of women’s lives must be received with respect and appreciation, as revealing those values without which humanity would be closed in self-sufficiency, dreams of power and the drama of violence.

“Women too, for their part, need to follow the path of conversion and recognize the unique values and great capacity for loving others which their femininity bears. In both cases, it is a question of humanity’s conversion to God, so that both men and women may come to know God as their ‘helper’, as the Creator full of tenderness, as the Redeemer who ‘so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son’ (Jn 3:16)…”

The full text can be found at www.usccb.org

Diocese to train personnel on ways
to prevent abuse

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

All parish and diocesan employees and volunteers with access to children – including teachers, accountants, priests, coaches, choir directors, housekeepers and many others who serve in the Oakland Diocese — will learn about child abuse and how to protect children under their supervision during a series of workshops scheduled through November of this year.

The series of training sessions in Spanish and English was set to meet the requirements of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Youth adopted by the U.S. Catholic bishops in 2002. The workshops will cover all aspects of child abuse, according to Jennifer Nemecek, coordinator of the diocesan Safe Environment for Children Project at the Department of Faith and Ministry Formation.

Nemecek said volunteers and employees will learn to recognize the signs that indicate a child may suffer from neglect or from physical, verbal or sexual abuse as well as signs that an adult may be an abuser.

A major portion of the sessions, Nemecek said, will cover the recently completed diocesan Code of Conduct. It outlines detailed procedures to insure a safe environment for children in school, at the parish, on the playground and elsewhere.

For example, it states that an adult may never be alone with a child except for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and sets forth specific guidelines for counseling sessions involving minors. It also declares that an unaccompanied minor may never enter a rectory’s living quarters, that at least two adults must be present at youth group trips and at organized sports activities, and that adults are forbidden from serving or supplying alcohol, cigarettes, inappropriate reading material or controlled substances to minors.

All employees and volunteers must review and sign the code annually.
Workshop participants will also learn about the history of the sexual abuse crisis in the Church, mandated reporting laws, and the responses of different ethnic groups to the problem of abuse. Nemecek said some sessions may feature a presentation by a survivor of clergy sexual abuse.

The series of workshops begins on Aug. 10 with a session for parish support staff followed by training for lay ecclesial ministers on Aug. 19. Workshops for priests and deacons will take place on Sept. 16 and 18, two sessions will take place during the diocesan Catechetical Congress in November and other sessions will be announced as they are scheduled.

Nemecek said her department plans to videotape the training sessions and use the tapes to train new employees as they are hired.

In addition, the diocese is requiring that all parish and chancery employees be fingerprinted by Jan. 1, 2005, and that all volunteers undergo a “Megan’s law” investigation of their past records based on social security numbers and other information.

Penny Pendola, diocesan director of human resources, said her office will give employees a list of agencies that conduct fingerprint scans. The scans are sent to the FBI and the California Department of Justice, which usually return the results to the diocese within 48 hours.

Whenever a report indicates that the employee or applicant has had an arrest and conviction, Pendola said, her office either rejects the person outright – depending on the offense — or checks with an attorney before granting a clearance. If any employee is arrested in the future, she said, her office will receive a notice.

In a further effort to complete the Safe Environment for Children Project, the faith and ministry department is developing a curriculum for use in parish religious education programs and Catholic elementary and secondary schools. The curriculum, to be in place by Sept. 1 of this year, will focus on child safety with emphasis on child abuse and its prevention.

The department is also working to create safe environment committees in every parish, encouraging pastors to identify possible members of the committee and developing a job description that parishes can use in selecting members.
For further information on the safe environment project, including the times and places of workshops, call the Department of Faith and Ministry Formation at (510) 273-4981.

A Policy of Expectations and Guidelines for Ministry to Minors
for the Diocese of Oakland

(Below is the policy, promulgated by the Oakland Diocese on June 1, 2004, setting forth explicit guidelines for the proper conduct of Church employees and volunteers in relation to persons under 18 years of age. Its intent is to create a safe, appropriate and Christian environment for minors in their relationships with adults in Church ministry. All diocesan and parish employees and volunteers who work with minors will be required to sign the policy annually. )

Preamble
As leaders in the Church founded by Christ, priests, deacons and lay ministers within our parishes and institutions must always seek to uphold Christian values and conduct. In addition to following the Gospel and its mandates, these individuals will want to act properly at all times in the light of contemporary society and its needs.

This Policy does not presume to provide answers to all the ethical questions facing Church leaders. What it does establish is a set of general guidelines and boundaries when ministering to minors. Further guidance and advice can be sought from the Chancellor of the Diocese of Oakland as needed.

Many items mentioned in this document are applicable to ministry with adults, but in this Policy we are addressing explicitly proper contact with persons under 18 years of age.

The following Policy is applicable to all persons employed by or volunteering in any of the parishes and institutions of the Diocese of Oakland. So that it is clear who must be aware of the contents of this document, the addressees include, but are not limited to: priests, religious (men and women), deacons, pastoral coordinators, school/program administrators, teachers, catechists, youth ministers, support staff, custodial staff, coaches, school program volunteers, seminarians serving internships and lay theology students.

This Policy has been developed to help create a safe, appropriate and Christian environment for minors and their relationships with adults involved in Church ministry.

Background

This Policy was written and published in 2004. It was developed in cooperation with the Oakland Diocesan Presbyteral Council with the assistance of other protocol documents from other dioceses. It is to be considered a working document that will be revised as needed under the direction of the Bishop of Oakland.

Responsibility for adherence to this Policy rests with those involved in Church ministry or service themselves. It is anticipated, however, that disregard of this Policy by such persons will be dealt with by the appropriate employing/appointing organization (e.g. the parish, the religious order, the diocesan bishop). Remedial action may take various forms from counseling to removal from ministry.

The conduct of ministers and employees, both public and private, has the potential to inspire and motivate people or scandalize and tear down their faith. They must be aware of the responsibilities that accompany their ministry. They must also know that God’s goodness and graces support them in their ministry.

Guidelines with regard to ministry to minors

1. Any and all involvement with minors is to be approached from the premise that minors should always be viewed – whether in a social or ministerial situation – as restricted individuals, that is, they are not independent. Wherever they are and whatever they do is to be with the explicit knowledge and consent of their parents or guardians.
They are subject to specific civil laws in the State of California, which may prohibit certain activities. They are not adults and are not permitted unfettered decisions.
2. Adults should avoid situations which place them in a position to be alone with a minor in the rectory, parish residence, school, or in a closed room other than a confessional.
3. In meeting and/or pastoral counseling situations involving a minor, excluding Sacramental Reconciliation, the presence or proximity of another adult is encouraged.
However, in those situations where the presence of another adult is not usual or practical (e.g. piano lessons, disciplinary meeting with an administrator, etc.) another adult should be informed that the meeting will be taking place, the meeting place should be accessible and visible with the door where the meeting is taking place left ajar unless there is a clear window built into the door.
4. An unaccompanied minor is allowed only in the professional section of the rectory or parish residence, never in the living quarters.
5. Minors age 16 and over are permitted to work in the rectory, parish residence, school or parish facility, when there would normally be at least two adults present, i.e. over 21 years of age. Minors under age 16 may not be hired to work in any capacity for a parish, school or diocese.
6. At least two adults, one of whom is to be the same sex as the participants, are to be present when a group of minors engages in organized games or sports activities.
7. Adults are to avoid being the only adult in a bathroom, shower room, locker room or other dressing areas whenever minors are using such facilities.
8. Youth group trips of any kind must have a minimum of two adult chaperones, at least one of whom should be of the same sex as the young people. Larger groups must have at least one adult chaperone for every ten minors.
9. While on youth trips, the adults, as well as the minors, may not use alcohol or controlled substances and anyone under the influence of these substances may not participate in the event.
10.One adult alone shall never engage in an overnight trip with a minor or minors.
11. While on youth group trips, clergy or lay leaders are never to stay alone overnight in the same motel/hotel room with a minor or minors.
12. The sacristy door is always to be unlocked whenever minors are present within the sacristy.
13. Comments of a sexual nature are not be made to any minor except in response to specific classroom or otherwise legitimate questions from a minor.
14. Topics or vocabulary such as profanity, cursing and vulgar humor which could not comfortably be used in the presence of parents/guardians or another adult shall not be used in the presence of a minor/minors.
15. Adults are absolutely prohibited from serving or supplying alcohol, cigarettes, inappropriate reading material or controlled substances to minors. Alcoholic beverages shall not be served or consumed at parish or school social activities intended primarily for minors.
16. Audiovisual, music and print resources used in programs must be screened prior to use to ensure their appropriateness for the participants. It is never appropriate to use an “R” rated movie or movies rated with an even stronger designation. Music lyrics should also be reviewed to insure appropriateness.
21. Careful boundaries concerning physical contact with a minor must be observed at all times and (beyond a handshake) should only occur under public circumstances. Prudent discretion and respect must be shown before touching another person in any way.
22. Some adaptation in applying these guidelines when the minor is a relative ought to be the norm, but appearances in public nevertheless need to be maintained.
23. Clear violations of these standards as well as any sexual misconduct should be reported immediately to the appropriate parish, diocesan or civil authority.

Guidelines with regard to the pastoral counseling of minors

A. Pastoral counseling of a minor must take place only in the professional portion of a rectory or parish residence, never in the living quarters.
B. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is to be celebrated in a place so designated for that purpose: reconciliation chapel or confessional. Only extreme inconvenience or impossibility would be an acceptable excuse to deviate from this standard.
C. If possible, offices or classrooms used for pastoral counseling of a minor should have a window in the door or the door is to be left ajar during the counseling session.
D. If possible, another adult should be in close proximity during any counseling session.
E. Unless the subject matter precludes their presence or knowledge, parents or guardians of minors should be made aware of the counseling session.
F. If counseling is expected to extend beyond one session, evaluation of the situation should be made with the parents or guardians.
G. The adult is responsible to recognize any personal/physical attraction to or from a minor. In such a situation, the minor should be immediately referred to another qualified adult or licensed professional.

=============================================

I have read and understand the content of the policy of expectations and guidelines for ministry to minors for the Diocese of Oakland.
I understand that as a pastoral staff member or a volunteer working with children and/or youth, I am subject to a thorough background check including criminal history.

I understand that any action inconsistent with this Policy regarding minors or failure to take action mandated by this Policy may result in my removal as a staff member or a volunteer with children and/or youth.
_______________________________
Name of Parish
_______________________________
Staff person/volunteer’s printed name
________________________
Signature Date

(This signed document is to be placed in an employee’s Personnel file each year. The signed forms of volunteers are to be filed in the parish offices each year. This document is to become a permanent part of the Chancery/Parish Personnel Policy Handbook.)

 

INSIDE STORIES

Priest links theatre with Gospel
in Ruach Players

By Monica Lowy
Special to The Voice

“We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land …., but it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand.”

These lyrics of “All Good Gifts” from the musical “Godspell” vividly capture the birth and development of the Ruach Players, a traveling theatre ensemble founded by Father Mark Wiesner, pastoral administrator of St. Augustine Parish in Oakland, that recently won Outstanding Production Award for the 2003 - 2004 season at the Chanticleers Theatre in Castro Valley.

The Ruach (“breath,” “life,” or “spirit” in Hebrew) Players performed the musical, their first full production, in June at Chanticleers to sold-out crowds. Now they are taking “Godspell” on the road as a fundraiser for parishes, schools, and other charitable organizations.

Father Wiesner has had a passion for theatre since he was a child. As a first grader he played the Frog Prince, and he remained involved in plays throughout elementary school and at De La Salle High School in Concord. He completed a degree in communications at UC Davis and appeared in over 37 productions at several venues including Willows Theatre, Contra Costa Musical Theatre, and Woodminster.

In 1987, two years after graduating from UC Davis, he joined National Evangelization Teams, facilitating retreats for high school students across the country and in Australia. During that time he began discerning a call to the priesthood. He entered St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park in 1990 and was ordained at his home parish of St. Francis of Assisi in Concord in 1995.

His theatre work came to a sudden halt when he became an evangelizer with NET, then a seminarian, and a priest. He did not perform in another show until friends persuaded him to audition at Woodminster for the musical “Evita” in the summer of 2003. He was cast as part of the ensemble. With the support of Father Michael Galvan, the other parochial vicar at Assumption Parish in San Leandro where he was assigned, he was able to coordinate rehearsals, performances, and his ministerial duties.

“After 16 years of not doing a show, I rediscovered how much I loved doing it and realized I had made a mistake,” he recalled. “I have by God’s grace a gift for performance and I have by God’s grace a gift for ministry and I had sacrificed the one for the other, which was not right. It was not honoring all of the gifts that I have. Doing ‘Evita’ actually energized my ministry. My ministry was fed off of doing theatre, which was life-giving for me. My preaching got better (along with) my presiding.”

He asked himself how he might bring these two gifts together and the idea of the Ruach Players was born. He envisioned starting a local theatre ensemble that would effectively bring ministry and faith together.

When he began talking about his vision, many persons involved in ministry and community theatre expressed interest in taking part. Today the Ruach Players are persons of Catholic, non-Catholic Christian, and Jewish faiths.

By October 2003, they had enough people to develop their first project, a cabaret show that includes jazz, show tunes, and other standards as well as eight numbers from “Godspell.” They have performed the cabaret show as a fundraiser for several parishes in the Oakland Diocese, and other Christian churches have contacted the Ruach Players to schedule performances. Some parishes have held the cabaret show in combination with a dinner, providing a delightful evening of food and entertainment for their parish communities.

The overwhelmingly positive reception of the cabaret shows encouraged the Ruach Players to launch a full production. Since they were familiar with its music, “Godspell” was chosen. They purchased production rights and began looking for a venue. When Chanticleers Theatre had its final show of the season, “Forever Plaid,” dropped unexpectedly, the Ruach Players stepped in with “Godspell,” June 4-20.

Based upon Matthew’s Gospel, “Godspell” was written in 1970 by John Michael Tebelak, to fulfill his masters’ thesis requirement at Carnegie Mellon University. The music and lyrics are by Stephen Schwartz.

Ruach Player Donna Bates, who performed in “Godspell” 30 year ago in Costa Rica, is excited about performing again. “”It brings back memories. It’s so much fun to be reliving it, with new friends. I’m thrilled to be doing it.”

Amanda Gelender, who just completed her junior year at Castro Valley High School, took part in an earlier “Godspell” production with a younger cast and says she’s happy being able “to bring more of myself to my character” this time around.

Sebastian Romeo first saw “Godspell” in San Francisco when he was a high school freshman. It hooked him on theater, but he didn’t get involved in productions until 19 years later when he became part of community theatre. Now, 30 years after seeing “Godspell,” he is playing the role of Jesus, portraying him not only as a prophet, teacher, and mentor, but also as a friend to each of his disciples, including Judas, played by Father Wiesner. The priest also plays the role of John the Baptist.

This “Godspell” production strives to spread the message of the Gospels by “bringing back new life into an old story,” said cast member Ron Tanon. “You’re pulling things out of the stories that you did not realize were in there or that you did not see before.”

Audience reaction tells the players that they are succeeding.

“It was marvelous remembering the Gospels, following the Bible in a new way,” said one woman. Another woman sent Father Wiesner an e-mail telling him that her teenage son found the crucifixion scene “more moving and powerful than any other (dramatization of the) crucifixion he had seen, including Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ.’”

Father Wiesner said many people alienated from the Church have expressed a desire to return after seeing the show.

He acknowledges that the show has taken on a life of its own, far bigger than he ever imagined due to the support of many and the working of the Holy Spirit. “The grace and the gift that has brought us this far so fast will see us through,” he said.


Ruach Players available as fundraiser
for parishes, schools, organizations

The Ruach Players is taking its cabaret show to parishes, schools and other charitable organizations this fall. They will be performing “Godspell” again beginning in January.

The Ruach Players ask for $200 - $250 per performance (no organization will be turned away due to lack of funds, however) to cover the rights of the show, equipment, and other expenses. The hosting organization is responsible for selling tickets for the performance, the entire profits of which they are able to keep.

To book the Ruach Players or for more information, please contact Father Mark Wiesner by visiting his website, www.fathermark.net, by e-mail at Marrcutio@hotmail.com or (510) 653-8631, ext. 110.

Currently scheduled Cabaret Show performances are:
Saturday, August 28, 2:00 p.m.
St. Augustine Parish Festival
400 Alcatraz Ave. at Colby, Oakland
(510) 653-8631 for more information.

Friday, November 5, 7:00 p.m.
All Saints Parish
22824 Second St. at D St., Hayward
(510) 581-2570 for more information.

Saturday, November 13, 6:00 p.m.
St. Philip Neri Parish
3108 Van Buren Street, Alameda
(510) 522-2299 for more information.

“Godspell” performance:
Friday, January 28, 2005, 7:00 p.m.
St. Philip Neri Parish
3108 Van Buren Street, Alameda
(510) 522-2299 for more information.

Father Jeffrey Keyes returns to
St. Edward Parish as pastor

By Carrie McClish
Staff writer

Sixteen years after he served as director of music ministry at St. Edward Parish in Newark, Precious Blood Father Jeffrey Keyes returned to the parish, Aug. 1, as pastor.

Father Keyes described his assignment as a pleasant surprise that is also a homecoming. “In many ways I see St. Edward as the birthplace of my vocation as a missionary of the Precious Blood,” he said.

“I still vividly remember a homily of Precious Blood Father Marvin Steffes (pastor at St. Edward from 1979-91) on Holy Thursday of 1987 that provided an insight into the mystery of the Lamb and its importance and the need to share it.” He entered the Precious Blood formation program in April of the following year.

After spending several years traveling and preaching missions in Texas, Arizona, Utah, North Carolina and other places across the country, Father Keyes said he is most looking forward to being in one place where he can spend time with “the people of God” and share in their joys and sorrows. Short-term missions “do not allow the opportunity to enter into long-term relationships or to celebrate baptisms, weddings and funerals,” he said.

Father Keyes spent seven years as pastor at St. Barnabas Parish in Alameda (1994-2001), where, under his leadership, the parish expanded its services and outreach, added to its educational and formation programs, and focused on vibrant and reverent liturgies. His music ministry has included concerts and prayer services in the Oakland Diocese as part of Vineyard Pastoral Music Ministry.

Born in Oakland in 1953, Father Keyes grew up in Oakland and Hayward. A 1971 graduate of Moreau High School, he attended the University of St. Thomas in Houston, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. He did graduate work in theology and public administration at the University of San Francisco, in theology at St. Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park, in music at Bradley University in Peoria, IL, and in liturgy and music at St. Joseph College in Rensselaer, IN. He earned a master in divinity degree from the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley and was ordained to the priesthood in October 1991.

He currently serves on the Provincial Council of the Pacific Province of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood and is the Provincial Secretary. Since 1992 he has served as the chaplain for Retrouvaille of Oakland and he is a member of the International Coordinating Team for Retrouvaille International with Jeff and Donna Heusler of San Leandro.

Father Michael Galvan is new leader
at Assumption Parish in San Leandro

By Sharon Abercrombie
Staff writer

Father Michael Galvan, parochial vicar at Assumption Parish in San Leandro for the past two years, became its parochial administrator on June 21. He succeeds Msgr. Michael Lucid, pastor, who died Feb. 1.

Father Galvan, 53, has been a priest for 27 years. Ordained in 1977 at St. Lawrence O’Toole Parish in Oakland, he has served as associate pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Fremont and St. Francis de Sales Cathedral, as director of the diocesan office of Clergy/Ministerial Formation, as pastor of St. Monica Parish in Moraga and St. Joseph Parish in Pinole, and as parochial vicar of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Concord.

A native of Pittsburg, he graduated from St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park and also has a doctorate in spirituality from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.

Of Ohlone descent, Father Galvan has served as chair of the ministry task force of The Tekawitha Conference, an organization of native Catholics and non-native missionaries which helps indigenous peoples integrate their native culture with
Roman Catholicism, and missionaries to understand native cultures.

Father Galvan’s native heritage remains an integral part of his Catholicism.
In homilies he frequently reminds Assumption parishioners that respecting Earth is “the whole context of life, and human beings exist not as the pinnacle of creation, but as part of a God-filled and gracious universe. As human beings we are made in God’s image, which calls for us to be like God and support and nurture Earth.”

Two years ago, in an article he wrote for The Voice on his 25th anniversary, Father Galvan defined priesthood as “encouraging us to help one another find God… in many a parishioner I have seen the Lord.” In what he refers to as a “mutuality of ministry,” Father Galvan credited parishioners then for offering him support, love and compassion when he went into recovery for alcoholism in May 1999.

Those words continue to be as true today as they were then, he said recently, because “my recovery keeps me alive.”

At Assumption Parish, this mutuality of ministry bore itself out in a series of recently completed town hall meetings to set forth a five-year plan for the parish.

 

Castro Valley couple heads to Mexico
as lay missioners

By Sharon Abercrombie
Staff writer

In typical family scenarios, it’s the young adults who head for exotic lands in search of adventure. Not so with Castro Valley residents Steve and Mary Hicken.

At the end of July, it’s Mom and Dad who left for Oaxaca, Mexico. Their two youngest sons – Jonathan, 18, and Joshua, 9, accompanied them, while Joe, 20, and Chris, 23, stayed in California to study and work. That’s how family life can go when you’re members of the Maryknoll Lay Volunteers.

Steve and Mary Hicken, longtime Maryknollers and members of Transfiguration Parish in Castro Valley, will be taking on a new ministry in the southern Mexico city with the Catholic Diocese there — Niño a Niño – Child to Child, a peer education project which “teaches kids how to take healthcare tips back to their friends in rural communities,” said Steve Hicken.

They’ll be leaving a missionary legacy behind in the East Bay. During their 14 years here, Steve has worked for Maryknoll in fund raising and donor relations; Mary has coordinated mission education in local parishes and recruited other volunteers; and in the year 2000 the couple embarked on a program created by Steve, Friends Across Borders.

The program immerses participants in Third World cultures and poor communities in the U.S. for up to 14 days. It focuses on creating friendships and building relationships, and it stresses “how we are brothers and sisters, and how we can learn from our hosts,” said Hicken.

Over the past four years, the couple has taken 150 people to the Philippines, Central America, and Africa, among other sites. During the 2004 Holy Week, they led a group to El Paso, Texas, to experience the rituals and celebrations of the Mexican population there.

The El Paso trip brought back memories of another Holy Week journey for Steve Hicken — one that set the direction of his life.

In 1979, while a student at Gonzaga Universty in Spokane, Wash., the San Rafael native met an angel. Hicken had traveled to Cairo to celebrate Easter in the Middle East, and one day bumped into a young man who offered to take him on a “real tour” of the Egyptian city.

On their walk through Cairo they met little kids with bloated bellies and big smiles and people who had lost fingers and eyes. Despite the wretchedness of the impoverished lives he witnessed, “families welcomed us into their homes and shared what they had, even if it was only an orange,” he recalled.

When Hicken returned to his comfortable hotel room, the seeds for his life’s work had been planted. His heart had opened. He now wanted to work with the poor. “I had encountered God in the middle of their world,” he explained.

And his guide? “He just vanished. I never even knew his last name,” Hicken mused recently. But he says he owes the man an immense amount of gratitude. “One definition of an angel,” he noted, “is a being who is sent by God to lead you to your life’s work.”

Hicken has also had a little help from his college sweetheart, Mary Mallahan, now Mary Hicken, who grew up with copies of Maryknoll Magazine in her family’s Seattle home.

“Every Friday during Lent my mother would serve us a mission meal of white rice, and she’d send the savings from the grocery money to the Maryknoll Missions,” Mary said. By ninth grade, Mary considered Mother Theresa a beloved role model, but mostly in theory. “I was in love with a lot of boys then,” she laughed. Later on, while in college, Mary got what she describes as “the call” to work in the missions.

After their marriage in 1981, Mary and Steve waited a year before linking up with Maryknoll as lay missioners. They arrived in Caracas, Venezuela, with three-month old Chris. The young couple worked on the pastoral team of a huge barrio parish, taking young people on outings, retreats and reflection days. They did community organizing, collecting signatures on petitions to get pay phones into the neighborhood.

The drive succeeded – sort of. “We got three phones but only one worked,” she remembers with amusement.

The Hickens moved to the East Bay in 1990, and in 1997 Steve enrolled in a course on cross-cultural ministry at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley. He was also an active participant with diocesan Small Christian Communities and co-authored a study booklet for RENEW entitled “Reading the Signs of the Times.”

All but the youngest Hicken son, Josh, have experienced life in the Third World, so when the Hickens were considering going overseas one more time, their older sons urged them to take Josh along. Jonathan, a recent graduate of Castro Valley High School, will be with them in Mexico for a year, then return to California to attend college.

True to family custom, the boys have grown up with Maryknoll Magazine in their home. And at Christmas, says their Mom, “we put out brochures from a bunch of organizations, and each kid decides what he wants to donate to.”

Not surprisingly, this second generation of Hickens has become involved with missionary efforts. In June 2003, Chris volunteered for three months in Tanzania, teaching computer skills to high school teachers.

Joe, 20, a junior at University of California in San Diego, traveled with friends to Tijuana during a school break this past spring. When they returned, the friends built a Tijuana-style shack on a major walkway on campus. They slept in it overnight and handed out leaflets to raise awareness about conditions in the impoverished city.

During his junior year at Castro Valley High School, Jonathan set up a local Friends Across Borders program, creating an exchange program among students at Tennyson, Logan, Castro Valley, and Arroyo high schools in an effort to get better acquainted with one another.

In looking back, would Steve and Mary Hicken trade a moment of their lives with Maryknoll for something more lucrative? No way, says Mary. Maryknoll has been “an amazing gift for our family. It has flung open what could have been a narrow faith box, to something far larger,” she said. “I have seen how the physical, spiritual and economic realities of life are all related.”

“I stay a Catholic because of this experience,” she said. “ Jesus started his ministry to set the captives free. Today, Maryknoll provides a wonderful place to do that from.”

Friends Across Borders will continue its mission from the Midwest, coordinated by Cecilia Espinosa. For further information, phone her at (414) 967-1055.


Website filled with praise for
the late Father Sopke

By Carrie McClish
Staff writer

It is a virtual love letter – a website collection of comments, memories, and reflections by people whose lives were changed by Holy Cross Father Philip Sopke. More than 200 letters were posted over a two-month period as the priest fought a rapidly debilitating illness that resulted in his death, July 21, at the age of 49.

“Our hearts are breaking because you are ill,” wrote Ruby Pantalone from Keizer, Oregon, where the priest had been pastor since leaving St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Concord last year.

“You are much loved and adored, Phil. Your life is a powerful testimony to truth and purpose. Keep the courage, friend. I hold you in hope and love,” read a post from Petria Malone, County Offaly, Ireland.

The Sopke family created the website, www.thecoryfamily.com to let the priest know how much he was loved and supported. When he was well enough, he read the messages; when he was too ill, others read them to him.

“You have been in our prayers since we heard of your illness,” said the Sullivan Family from Fremont.

Ann Gilmore of Hayward recalled a First Communion liturgy with Father Sopke in 1988. “The school children gave you a vestment with handprints all over it. You wore it for the communion Mass much to the delight of the kids,” she wrote.

The Filipino-American community at Concord’s St. Francis of Assisi Parish sent a message of gratitude. “You were very instrumental in bringing the Filipino community of St. Francis of Assisi Parish together. You guided and supported us in our growing process. From the ‘Simbang Gabi’ (Mass at dawn) to all our fundraising events, you were our inspiration. Don’t you miss the ‘salabat” (ginger tea) and ‘bibingka’ (rice cake)?”

Many writers like Nikki Ocampo of Union City told the priest about the personal impact he had had in their lives. “I owe you so much for listening to me when the rest of the world seemed to be shouting; for being patient with me when I couldn’t even stand myself; for guiding me through the hard times, yet not letting me depend on you but letting me grow,” she said.

“I don’t think that anyone here can think of you without a smile and a laugh at the many moments that you shared with all of us,” said Bill Ford, a member of St. Clement Parish in Hayward where Father Sopke was pastor from 1998-2001. Ford, director of the diocesan Youth Department and CYO (Catholic Youth Organization), recalled the parish church being decorated with mops and buckets for Ash Wednesday and numerous origami doves for Pentecost.

“I think that knowing you and being friends with you was a sign that there is always a light-hearted side to our God. God is love, knowing God is also joy and you have showed us that joyful face of God,” he wrote.

A native of Portland, Oregon, Father Sopke earned a degree in American Studies at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga in 1978. He worked at the Xerox Corporation in Portland before joining the Congregation of the Holy Cross in 1982. He studied theology at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., where he made his final vows in 1987 and was ordained to the priesthood in April 1988.

Father Sopke served as a deacon and associate pastor at St. Clement Parish in Hayward from 1987-91 before being assigned as director of volunteer services and campus ministry at the University of Portland. In 1998 he returned to the Oakland Diocese to serve as pastor at St. Clement Parish. He became administrator at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Concord in 2001. In July 2003 he moved back to Oregon to be near his ailing mother and was appointed pastor at St. Edward Parish in Keizer.

Survivors include his mother, Adelaide Sopke, sisters Monica Cory and Dolores Madzelan, and a brother Robert Sopke.

The funeral Mass was held July 27 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Portland, followed by burial at Mt. Calvary Cemetery. Some parishioners from both St. Francis of Assisi and St. Clement attended the funeral. Oakland Bishop Allen Vigneron presided at a memorial Mass at St. Francis of Assisi on July 28 and a memorial Mass was held July 29 at St. Clement. A memorial Mass was also celebrated on July 28 at St. Edward Church in Keizer.

Gifts in Father Sopke’s memory may be made to St. Francis of Assisi School, 866 Oak Grove Road, Concord 94518 (Attn: Marijewel Borges) and St. Clement School, 790 Calhoun St., Hayward 94544 (Attn: Mary Pult).

 

Sudan crisis continues to deteriorate

By Peggy Polk
Religion News Service

VATICAN CITY — Accusing the Khartoum government of failing to keep its promises, the Catholic bishop who oversees Darfur has called for intensified international pressure on Sudan to halt Arab militia attacks on African Sudanese.

“The international community must exert much more pressure than it is doing on Sudan because the Khartoum government continues to promise without keeping its word,” Bishop Antonio Menegazzo told the missionary news agency MISNA.

A MISNA representative said agency staff spoke by telephone July 28 to Bishop Menegazzo, a member of the Comboni missionary order who has worked in Sudan for more than 45 years.

As apostolic administrator of El Obeid, Bishop Menegazzo, 72, oversees an area of 900,000 square kilometers, including Darfur in western Sudan near the border with Chad. The population of 8.9 million includes 140,000 Catholics.

Attacks by the Arab Janjaweed militias to root out rebels in Darfur have forced more than 1 million people to flee their homes since February 2003 and killed at least 30,000. The government has not yet acted on promises to withdraw the militias.

“The situation is continuing to deteriorate” Bishop Menegazzo said. “The Janjaweed militias have not stopped attacking villages, burning houses and sacking the black Muslim population who live there.”

The bishop said that while the government is insisting that the displaced people return to their villages, “the conditions are not there. Only yesterday the Khartoum government asked more time to disarm the Janjaweed militiamen.”

Bishop Menegazzo said that local officials have tried to discourage visits by international delegations and were reluctant to cooperate with Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, who traveled to Darfur in late July as the personal representative of Pope John Paul II. Archbishop Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, coordinates Catholic aid worldwide.

But the bishop said locally based Catholic and Protestant aid groups, who are working together, had “fewer bureaucratic problems than international humanitarian agencies.”

At Nyala, where some 10,000 people have taken refuge, Archbishop Cordes’ visit resulted in freer access for aid workers, Bishop Menegazzo said.

“Officials of the Nyala parish told me of having easily distributed humanitarian aid, tents, soap, food and clothes to the displaced people in the refugee camp where the military usually makes access difficult,” he said.

.

At 25, San Ramon parish
continues to grow

 

 

 

 

This 14-foot bronze statue of St. Joan of Arc was placed outside the church in 1985.

JOHN WRIGHT PHOTO

Bishop John Cummins (left) and founding pastor, Father Michael Joyce, help three-year-old Thomas Scheid at the groundbreaking for St. Joan of Arc Church in April 1982. The church was dedicated on Dec. 11, 1983.

Parishioners pray for their new pastor, Father Fred Riccio, at his installation on Oct. 31, 1994.


JOHN WRIGHT PHOTOS

Kelly Condon, left, and TJ Smith concentrate on an activity during the Son Games 2004 vacation bible school at St. Joan of Arc Parish, June 21-25. A liturgy and potluck dinner concluded the week’s activities.

Jessica Osantowski, left, reads with Nicole Lynch during the vacation bible school. One hundred fifty children in preschool through Grade 6 participated. Forty-five teens and 25 adults assisted with the program.

GREG TARXCYNSKI PHOTOS

By Sharon Abercrombie
Staff writer

Every weekend at St. Joan of Arc Parish in San Ramon, there was a great schlepping of chairs. On Saturdays volunteers moved folding chairs by the hundreds from the gym at John Baldwin School to the library. On Sunday they moved them back.

For five years, until the new church building was completed in late 1983, the community made its headquarters at the local public elementary school. Willing helpers from the newly formed parish came together each weekend, setting up a temporary altar for Masses in the library and hauling the chairs through the halls of the school.

“Putting up the chairs week after week helped to build community from the very beginning,” said Pat Grady, who has served as pastoral minister since the founding of the parish. Those early years also set the tone of the community as a warm and welcoming parish.

St. Joan’s was established in 1979 from the fast-growing communities around St. Isidore in Danville and St. Raymond in Dublin. Father Michael Joyce served as first pastor until 1994, when Father Fred Riccio succeeded him as present pastor.

Today, as the parish celebrates its 25th anniversary, the community continues to build on the spirit of cheerful volunteering that marked the early days. St. Joan now offers a range of programs, from a vibrant religious education program to Bible study groups, an expanding pastoral care ministry and several programs serving the wider community with food, shelter, prayer support and other ministries.

Wendy Behrend Thompson, who used to help her mother set up chairs in the John Baldwin library, opens her home every Monday afternoon for a religious education class for up to 10 energetic second graders. She fixes snacks, sets out the shrinky dink dough for crafts, and develops and teachers the weekly lesson.

This past spring, as Pentecost approached, Thompson and her co-teacher, Kathy Gyulai, placed little symbols representing the Holy Spirit – doves, flames, and clouds, into boxes and hid them around the backyard for the kids to find in a kind of catechetical scavenger hunt.

Thompson and Gyulai belong to a cadre of 120-140 St. Joan of Arc volunteers who keep the thriving religious ed program going, teaching some 1200 kids in preschool through grade eight, Monday through Saturday, at the parish site and in homes.

Maureen Tiffany, religious education director for the past six years, is grateful for their dedication. “I couldn’t run this program without all their willingness and enthusiasm,” she said.

An additional 480 high school students meet weekly at the church and in homes, said Bob Cummings, director of the youth ministry office. Cummings, another old timer — 25 years in the parish, 18 years as youth director — has up to 40 teaching volunteers. He has seen kids who go through his program return later to become part of the teaching staff.

Wendy Thompson was one of them. In fact, Thompson met her future husband, Dave, when both began volunteering at St. Joan’s after college.

“This place is family. When I would come home from college on breaks, I really didn’t feel I was home till I went to St. Joan’s,” said Thompson, now mom to Johnny, 10, Hailey, 8, and Trent, 5.

Youth programs, however, are only one of the many ministries of the parish, which Father Riccio describes as an “active, alive community that celebrates and lives out its faith in a variety of ways.”

“Whether we are concerned for a local person in need, or for people in the area and even across the globe, the members of St. Joan’s show their support and concern for the needs of people continually,” he said.

This outreach involves many St. Joan parishioners. David and Bonnie Kilzer head up a 15-member team of cooks who provide Sunday dinners four times a year at St. Mary’s Senior Center in Oakland.
Volunteers also collect and distribute canned goods and other supplies through its “Food for Friends” program, which benefits a number of Bay Area organizations.

When a St. Vincent De Paul “rotating shelter” was in operation several years ago, another cadre of volunteers helped provide temporary havens for homeless families, supplying space, food and transportation. Groups and individuals signed up to serve as hosts, and children decorated place mats for the tables, remembers Father Riccio.

In spring of 2001, St. Joan’s was one of 13 parishes and organizations that helped furnish four new apartments in Antioch for formerly homeless families. The project was sponsored by SHELTER, Inc.
Father Riccio said parishioners have also been very generous in their response to special collections for the poorest of the poor living in Africa, South America, Mexico and Eastern Europe.

Each spring, the fifth grade CCD classes and Cub Scout Troop 472 add fringe decorations to fleece blankets sewn by the San Ramon Valley Women’s Club and given to the California Highway Patrol for use at traffic collisions and other emergencies. This year the kids gave 141 blankets to the “Blanket Buddies,” program.

“Each patrol car carries two of them,” said Molly Renalds, project coordinator. When an officer dropped by recently to pick up a load of blankets, he told the kids about wrapping a sick baby in one of their blankets. “Because of the work that you did on this blanket, we had sweet dreams all night long,” he said.

The blankets also go to the local fire department, a battered women’s shelter, a home for pregnant women, and to Watsonville farm workers, many of whom live in their cars.

Renalds brought the “Blanket Buddies” concept with her from a San Jose parish she attended many years ago. She began the project there when she heard about the extreme poverty of some women living in the area. “They would wrap their newborns in paper towels because they didn’t have blankets,” she said.

Pastoral minister Pat Grady said the parish is also expanding its pastoral care ministry to homebound parishioners and those hospitalized at San Ramon Regional Hospital. Beginning this fall, it will begin a monthly drop-in support group for grieving parishioners and another for people who are chronically ill. Both are based on programs developed by the Catholic Community of Pleasanton.

To accommodate the growing parish, which currently has 4,500 registered families, a three-phase building program is on the drawing board. Phase one calls for a $3.5 million education center with new offices for religious education directors, a dividable meeting room, and three individual meeting rooms which can serve as classrooms.

Phase two calls for a $2 million hospitality hall with a kitchenette, directly off the main vestibule of the church, making access easier, especially for children’s Liturgy of the Word.

The third phase calls for a $2 million remodeling of the church, adding seats through a reconfiguration of existing pews and updating the audio/visual systems and lighting.

Father Riccio said a capital campaign will start soon with the hope that the parish can begin construction in 2006.

Bishop Vigneron
to address Catechetical Congress

 By Voice staff

Bishop Allen Vigneron will be the keynote speaker at the annual diocesan Cathechetical Congress to be held Nov. 20 at Carondelet High School in Concord.
The event, “Inheritance of the Saints, His Kingdom of Light,” will offer training for cathechists, priests, deacons and pastoral ministers.

Participants can attend an in-depth, four-hour workshop or three sessions on different topics. Three of the in-depth sessions will offer reflections on the Gospel of Matthew.

Father Warren Holleran, professor of Sacred Scripture at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, Father Martin Tran, professor at St. Patrick’s Seminary, and Father Jorge Dominguez from Mexico are scheduled to offer workshops on the Gospel of
Matthew in English, Vietnamese and Spanish, respectively.

An additional in-depth workshop, “Catechetics 101,” will offer training for people who are interested in becoming cathechists. Carmen Gilson and Kathleen Kennedy will present the session in English. Rebecca Salem will facilitate the workshop in Spanish.

Participants may also attend shorter, 90-minute sessions such as “Whole Community Catechesis” with catechist and writer, Bill Huebsch.

More than a dozen other topics will be offered, including workshops on social justice, young adults, first communion liturgies, and cultural sensitivity in working with the Hispanic, Vietnamese or Filipino communities.

Registration brochures will be available in parishes beginning in September.
For more information about the Congress, contact Melissa Hyatt at 510-267-8370. For information on the offerings in Spanish, contact Jessy Lira at 510-267-8352.

 

Newly ordained

Salesian Father Steven Francis Way, ordained to the priesthood on June 12 in Bellflower, is joining the faculty of Salesian High School in Richmond. He earned a Master of Divinity degree from the Dominican School of Theology and Philosophy at Berkeley in May and holds a B.A. in French/Spanish literature from the University of Denver. He served as a deacon at St. Ambrose Parish in Berkeley.

 

New leadership team

 

Notre Dame de Namur Sister Theresa Linehan (center), former teacher and principal at St. Joseph School in Alameda, is one of the newly elected members of the leadership team for the Sisters of Notre Dame, headquartered in Belmont. She has been working as a family nurse practitioner in Pajaro and Salinas. The other team members are Sister Louise O’Reilly (left), pastoral associate at St. John the Evangelist Parish in San Francisco, and Sister Kathryn Keenan, assistant principal at Mission Dolores School in San Francisco and a counselor at Catholic Charities of San Francisco. Sister Keenan previously served as a counselor at Pediatricare in Oakland.

 

Directors of ministry
to troubled marriages

Oakland Bishop Allen Vigneron, seated, joins with members of the International Board of Directors for Retrouvaille, a ministry to troubled marriages, when the group met recently in the Oakland Diocese. Seated with him are Betty Squier of Detroit, left, and Donna Heusler of San Leandro. Top row, from left, are Precious Blood Father Jeffrey Keyes of St. Edward Parish in Newark, Father Jerry Foley of Minnesota, Father Jim Boyd of San Diego, Mark Squier, Benedictine Father Julian Gnall of San Diego, Barbara and Doug Winston of Monterey, Jeffrey Heusler, and Father Peter Lafferty of Durban, South Africa. The Heuslers are members of St. Felicitas Parish in San Leandro. They, along with Father Keyes, serve as the international coordinating team for Retrouvaille.