ONLINE
SEPTEMBER 20, 2004

INSIDE
THIS ISSUE

Cemetery fight sparked gang violence that killed three

Generosity flows into
urban Catholic schools

Cup of Fair Trade coffee
gives farmers a fair price

Parishes can now buy
Fair Trade coffee through CRS
Labels help consumers know what are Fair Trade products

Mideast violence slows
pace of biblical archaeology

St. Philip Neri Parish helps rebuild El Salvador church
Philip Mangano to keynote local forum on housing crisis
Town meetings on homeless family shelter in Orinda
Survey finds priests happy
but concerned about morale


Catechetical Congress offers
ministry workshops

Chautauqua XII will honor Mary as Queen of Peace
Knights of Columbus host International Rosary
Local forums examine
ballot propositions
Habitat for Humanity seeks more sponsors

 

 

 

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

BISHOP
VIGNERON

FRONT PAGE
FRONT PAGE

 

State’s bishops issue strong statement
against Prop. 71

By Voice staff

The California Conference of California bishops has come out with a hard-hitting statement in opposition to the embryonic stem cell research initiative, Prop. 71, calling the proposal a “financial boondoggle” that is unethical and “promises what may not happen.” The bishops, however, said they support other forms of stem cell research which could result in medical breakthroughs and offer “new hope to people who are suffering.”

The statement, released on Sept. 7, notes that the proposed research would involve the destruction of human embryos as well as human cloning. “Killing human life is never justified even when the intent is to benefit other humans,” the bishops wrote. “Obtaining even basic goods for oneself at the cost of innocent life is contrary to the deepest ideals of our nation.”

In stating their unequivocal opposition to embryonic stem cell research as “morally wrong”, the bishops clarified that the use of stem cells derived from adults and umbilical-cord blood should be encouraged. They noted that “all the medical breakthroughs have occurred in this area.”

Prop. 71 would initially deny funding for stem cell research that does not require embryos.

It would also create a $3 billion state bureaucracy while vital health, education, police and fire programs are being cut, the bishops said.

The bishops called on scientists and politicians to “strive to discern the right way to use our resources in the important field of medical research.”

They urged resistance to “the temptation to abandon moral principle, in particular the principle that the end never justifies the means. That principle,” they said, “has already been abandoned in the wording of Proposition 71.”


Following is a statement issued Sept. 7 by the California Catholic bishops on Prop. 71:

Proposition 71 involves the technology of human embryonic cloning, cannot be justified from an ethical perspective, promises what may not happen, and is a financial boondoggle. For these reasons, the Catholic bishops of California strongly oppose the Embryo Cloning and Stem Research Bond Act, which will be on the November 2, 2004 ballot.

It should be stated that we are not opposed to stem cell research. We approve and encourage research that uses cells derived from adults and umbilical-cord blood, and we rejoice at the phenomenal cures that some have experienced because of that research. Using the God-given talents of scientists to make breakthroughs like that can be awe-inspiring, and the work of these scientists brings glory to our Creator and new hope to people who are suffering.

However, we oppose this initiative for the following reasons:

Proposition 71 will fund human embryonic stem cell research. Drawing stem cells from an embryo always directly kills that human embryo, and killing human life is never justified even when the intent is to benefit other humans. Obtaining even basic goods for oneself at the cost of innocent life is contrary to the deepest ideals of our nation.

Proposition 71 will fund human embryonic cloning, what scientists call “somatic cell nuclear transfer.” Such a technological procedure amounts to playing God with the mystery of human life, and it is morally wrong.

Proposition 71, in its fine print, initially denies funding for adult and umbilical cord blood stem cell research (an area of research that is morally good), even though all the medical breakthroughs have occurred in this area.

It is socially unjust to launch a $3 billion new state bureaucracy when vital programs for health, education, police and fire services are being cut.

We pray for scientists and politicians as they strive to discern the right way to use our resources in the important field of medical research. We pray that they will resist the temptation to abandon moral principle, in particular the principle that the end never justifies the means. That principle, a cornerstone of our Western civilization, has already been abandoned in the wording of Proposition 71.

For that reason we join with many other groups, liberal and conservative, Republicans and Democrats, medical professionals and stem cell researchers, in urging a no vote on Proposition 71.

Mourning for Beslan

GREG TARCZYNSKI PHOTOS

Above, students at St. Jerome School in El Cerrito hold a prayer chain they made for the Russian families whose children died in a terrorist attack on a school in Beslan. The three-day siege, Sept. 1-3, killed more than 340 people, including at least 156 children. Left, Chermayn Moore, 10, writes a sympathy letter to a Beslan family as part of her fifth grade class outreach project. The letters and prayer chain will be taken to Our Lady of Fatima Russian Church in San Francisco, then delivered to Beslan.

Evidence didn’t prove diocese knew about abuse, judge rules

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

An Oakland judge has thrown out several claims of abuse involving a former priest in the Oakland Diocese, striking a potential blow to other lawsuits that allege Church officials looked the other way while children and young people were molested.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Ronald Sabraw, in a ruling earlier this month, said plaintiffs’ attorneys had not presented any direct evidence that the Church “knew or had reason to know, or were otherwise on notice, of any unlawful conduct” by Father Arthur Ribeiro before the alleged abuse took place.

Several plaintiffs had claimed that Father Ribeiro, who died in October 2000, had molested them while he was at Queen of All Saints Parish in Concord in the early 1960s. The claims were part of a consolidated lawsuit involving 160 complaints against Northern California clergy.

The plaintiffs are asking that the dioceses where the alleged abuse took place pay damages for having failed to protect them from known abusers. Similar consolidated lawsuits are pending in Los Angeles and San Diego.

Judge Sabraw’s ruling dismisses the claims of several plaintiffs who filed suit under a state law passed in 2002. The law rolled back the statute of limitations, allowing alleged victims to file claims against the Church by Dec. 31, 2003.

It also spells out the judge’s standard in deciding other claims that will come before him in the consolidated suit. “It’s a significant ruling,” said Los Angeles attorney Steve McFeely, who represents the Oakland Diocese, “because this judge is telling lawyers representing more than 150 plaintiffs and a dozen defendants…what he thinks the law is and what the template is going to be.”

McFeely also noted that Judge Sabraw was “the first judge to get his arms around the statute” passed in 2002, and trial court judges presiding over consolidated clergy abuse lawsuits in San Diego and Los Angeles will pay attention to his decision.

In the Ribeiro complaints, Judge Sabraw held that there was no evidence that diocesan officials could have known about the abuse before August 1963, after the alleged molestations took place. Although a housekeeper – now deceased – witnessed Father Ribeiro taking boys into his room in the rectory, the judge writes, “The present record does not support an inference that the housekeeper had a responsibility to investigate Father Ribeiro.”

He concludes, “The evidence can support many inferences favorable to the plaintiffs…but the court cannot cross the line where inferences turn into speculation, conjecture, imagination, or guesswork.”

James Sweeney, attorney for the Diocese of Sacramento, called Judge Sabraw’s ruling “very substantial.” It shows, he said, “that the courts are willing to give the dioceses a fair hearing, and that’s all we have ever asked for.”

Judge Sabraw also ruled that Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony submit to a private deposition in the trial of a former Stockton priest convicted in a criminal trial of molesting children. The cardinal headed the Diocese of Stockton from 1980 to 1985.

In his order Judge Sabraw agreed to Cardinal Mahony’s request for a private deposition “in a conference room in a secure high-rise office building in Los Angeles.”

It may last no longer than six hours, the judge ruled.

In an earlier, tentative order Judge Sabraw had ruled that Cardinal Mahony appear at the Alameda County Courthouse in Oakland for the deposition. But according to archdiocesan lawyer, Donald Woods, the cardinal objected, saying he feared a media circus if he was forced to come to Oakland.

In other news, an attorney for the Los Angeles Archdiocese said the Church would appeal a decision by Superior Court Judge Thomas F. Nuss ordering the archdiocese to turn over 80 pages of personnel files on two former priests. The men are being investigated by a grand jury on charges of molesting minors.

The judge upheld the archdiocese’s claim that some papers in the files were off limits because they involved psychotherapist privilege, and the Church did not contest the grand jury’s subpoenas for still other papers.

Tod Tamberg, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said the two men in question are “former priests long out of ministry.”

(AP Wire Service contributed to this story.)

INSIDE THIS ISSUE



Fight during Hayward cemetery burials
sparked gang violence that killed three

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

In a violent clash between two groups of mourners at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Hayward on Sept. 13, assailants threw beer bottles and fired shots, and one person was beaten and hospitalized. The violence forced two Catholics schools to lock down and led to further attacks that left three dead and at least eight wounded in Oakland.

Police said that the cemetery fight sparked violence later in the day when shots were fired near Bancroft and 82nd Avenues and the intersection of 94th Avenue and A Street in Oakland. The clashes appeared to be gang-related.
Two burials were in progress at the cemetery, according to Jeffrey Sloan, family service manage for diocesan cemeteries, when the fight broke out about 3:40 p.m.

Both of the deceased were young men in their 20’s, and published reports said one had committed suicide and the other had died from gunshot wounds in Oakland. Police believe one was a member of a Hayward gang called Vario South and the other affiliated to Oakland’s Border Brothers gang.

“We coincidentally happened to have committal ceremonies at the same time within eyesight of each other,” Sloan said of the two funerals.

When an argument broke out between members of the two groups, groundskeepers called the police, Sloan said, while some mourners tried to take cover. One person scaled the fence and fled on Mission Boulevard. Holy Sepulchre is located at 26320 Mission Blvd.

Hayward police officers arrived quickly, Sloan said, and locked the cemetery to prevent anyone from leaving or entering. The assailants, however, had apparently already fled, and police continued to search nearby hills with the help of an East Bay Regional Parks helicopter for several hours.

Sloan said the fight at Holy Sepulchre is especially unnerving. “When violence breaches the boundaries of a sacred place like this,” he said, “it gives the impression that nobody’s safe.” The cemetery provided counseling for staff members after the incident, and Hayward police said they planned to come by frequently on patrol during the next two weeks.

At nearby Moreau Catholic High School, coaches on the football field heard shouts and breaking glass and saw the fight through a chain link fence that separates the field from the cemetery. The coaches evacuated students from the field, according to principal Terry Lee. “It was quick thinking on the part of our coaches,” Lee said. “We train and drill for this kind of problem.”

Moreau students remained in the student center, Lee said, until police gave the all clear. The school cancelled activities planned for that night.

Police also told staff at St. Clement Elementary School to lock down, and some 60 students in extended care were confined to a classroom. Student council members and study hall pupils were locked in other rooms.

Parents were allowed to pick up children and take them home, according to administrative assistant Maryann Harris, until police said a suspect was still at large and no one should leave. “So even the parents were locked in,” Harris said.

Around 5 p.m. police allowed the mourners in the cemetery to leave. The schools were then also given notice that the lockdown was over. But the helicopter search of the hillside continued until dusk.

By that time two people were dead in Oakland. A third victim, a 13-year-old boy, died the following morning.

Police had been called to 82nd and Bancroft Avenues at 5:15 p.m. after shots were fired from a semiautomatic weapon, and a short time later four people with gunshot wounds, including the 13-year-old, were found in a car filled with bullet holes that crashed close to Highland Hospital. Another of the victims was a 19-year-old woman who died at the hospital.

According to police, both the young victims had attended the cemetery service.
Before 7 p.m. more shots rang out near the corner of 94th Avenue and A Street, where a memorial to a recent homicide victim had been set up. Police said several people were near the shrine when a car drove by with someone firing a weapon.

Several persons were taken from the scene to local hospitals, and a 31-year-old man later died. The three deaths brought Oakland’s homicide total for the year to 63.

Generosity flows into
urban Catholic schools

By Sharon Abercrombie
Staff writer

School backpacks arrived, sometimes by the vanload. People phoned out of the blue with offers of tuition money. Parents from two different communities combined elbow grease and paint brushes to spiff up rundown school buildings

These are the kinds of generous deeds that can cause financially strapped inner city parochial school principals to weep with joy and sigh with relief. Fortunately, there’s been an abundance of both emotions the past few weeks – due to the largesse of suburban parishes and individuals who are extending helping hands to needy schools.

Some of these benefactors have been helping for several years. Others are newcomers. Whatever their status, though, they are insuring that kids are receiving the help they need to stay in Catholic schools.

The following stories spell out some examples of their generosity:

St. Anthony School, Oakland
Shortly before school began, Barbara Souza received the kind of news every principal dreads to hear. The family of an incoming eighth grader had suffered a financial emergency. They would have to withdraw their daughter, since paying tuition at St. Anthony’s was now out of the question. Souza’s mind raced. Then, taking a deep breath, she told the mom, “No, let’s keep your daughter here. She has to graduate with her class. We’ll find a way.”

Scant minutes after the family had left, Souza’s phone rang. It was Kathi Balousek from St. Monica Parish in Moraga. A parishioner had just donated $1,000 to the church’s “Shoes That Fit” program – a project that collects money to supply shoes and clothing for inner-city children. “Do you have any other special need, right now?’ Balousek asked. Souza gasped. “We have an eighth grader who needs tuition money.”

Just like that, help had arrived, Souza noted with astonished gratitude. But it’s not the first time such good things have transpired.

The Oakland school and the Moraga parish have had an ongoing relationship for the past five years through the Shoes that Fit program, started in Los Angeles after a school nurse told a group of women about a little boy who would come to her office several times a week complaining that his feet hurt. His shoes were too small, and he had to bend his toes under in order to get the shoes on.

Shoes that Fit is now in more than 200 schools across the country including St. Anthony’s, said Balousek. Each September, St. Monica parishioners choose an index card from the church bulletin board, listing the clothing and shoe size for a child, and purchase these items.. Over the years, the parish has supplied 2500 clothing items to St. Anthony’s.

St. Monica’s has also purchased First Communion clothing, said Balousek. Last spring, one woman bought 100 umbrellas in a sale and gave them to St. Anthony’s. The parish also sends 10 to 15 volunteers to provide weekly one-on-one tutoring to kids during the year, said Maureen Graf, coordinator for the parish tutorial program.

And every kid at St. Anthony is now leafing through a science book, thanks to a St. Monica’s parishioner who works in the Moraga public schools. When she learned that St. Anthony’s didn’t have any science books, she told Balousek that when her district gets new textbooks, the old ones are available to other schools. Parishioners seized the opportunity.

St. Barnabas School, Alameda
“Things are looking up,” rejoices St. Joseph Sister Marie Myers, principal. Several grants including $3800 from the Soda Foundation, $5,000 from another grantor and a third windfall of $6,000 from Art Attacks, a company which makes videos to help teachers teach art, have increased morale substantially, she said. The latter grant means that each teacher now has an art instruction video that is grade appropriate.

Personal donations have been coming in as well. Twenty-four hundred dollars arrived from a friend of Sister Myers who had inherited some money. “I sat there at my desk and cried,” she said.

There are other positive developments, too. A professional graphic designer donated his time to design a brochure as part of the school’s recruit-outreach project. And former students are returning, said Sister Myers.

Six students who left two and three years ago are back at St. Barnabas because they “were unhappy at other schools,” she said.

St. Bernard School, Oakland
Two days before school opened last month, parents and friends of St. Isidore School in Danville joined with their inner-city counterparts at St. Bernard School in Oakland for a work party. Their goal was to scrub walls and floors, wash windows, and paint the school building, inside and out. Priscilla Spencer, the school’s administrator at large, said it was only the second time the facility had been painted since the late 1980’s “and it sure did need it.”

The crew used gallons of paint donated by Office Depot. Their hard-working efforts earned an A-plus from principal Kathy Gannon-Briggs. “It was great,” said Gannon-Briggs, former principal in Danville. Besides refurbishing the school plant, the generous Danville group recruited 200 parish volunteers who chipped in $30 each to assure that each child would have paper, pencils, crayons, scissors, paste, and other classroom essentials, including backpacks.

St. Cornelius School, Richmond
Shelf by shelf, the library at St. Cornelius School in Richmond is gradually growing, thanks to Santa Maria Parish in Orinda. During the past four years, the parish has donated nearly 1,000 books, said parishioner Margaret Govednik. Soon members of the parish liturgy committee will travel to Richmond to help the librarian catalogue the books.

Santa Maria recently gave $6,000 in tuition money, another part of the parish’s ongoing commitment, she said.

There is an air of reciprocity at the school. Eighth grade students have sung at several liturgies at Santa Maria and a few weeks ago, students and their parents helped out at the Orinda parish’s annual fundraiser.

St. Cornelius has a second “twin” who also lends assistance — St. Bonaventure Parish in Concord, said Father Thomas Purayidathi, St. Cornelius principal. Since 2002, the parish has donated art and teacher supplies, as well as computers.

“People working in their offices watch out for when their departments are getting new computers,” said Holy Names Sister Roberta Carson, director of religious education at St. Bonaventure’s. If management says “okay” to passing their old equipment along to another group, parishioner Bob Cartan, the designated delivery person, moves the items to Richmond.

Recently several teachers received near-new desks, thanks to a parishioner who works as a janitor in a large office complex. The man discovered them in the trash and asked if he could have them. “It’s amazing what people throw away,” said Sister Carson.

St. Joseph the Worker School, Berkeley
Natalie Walchuk, principal of St. Joseph the Worker School in Berkeley, was doing some last minute yard cleanup a few weeks ago when a van pulled up. As its driver, Nancy O’Brien, opened the doors, Walchuk could only stare in amazement. The vehicle was brimming with gift boxes filled with backpacks and school supplies. – enough for 145 kids.

Walchuk had known the gifts were coming – one for every child in the school — but the sight of them touched her deeply. O’Brien’s gift was “tremendous, a no-strings selfless gesture, which came out of her faith in us,” Walchuk said.

Nancy O’Brien, a member of Christ the King Parish in Pleasant Hill, was moved to help St. Joseph’s after her dad, Ed O’Brien, reported that St. Joseph’s had accepted 50 students from three Catholic schools which closed in June. Many of the kids were coming from families who were desperately short of financial resources, so they would probably show up at school with empty backpacks.
That is, if they even had backpacks.

So Nancy O’Brien and her sister, Monica O’Brien, a member of St. Theresa Parish in Oakland, began raising funds from friends and acquaintances. Alan Bascacci, owner of AB&I Foundry in Oakland, donated $2500. Robert Hunsinger of Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Concord lent them a van.

Soon the two women had filled up most of O’Brien’s house in Pleasant Hill. By the time the delivery day had arrived, Nancy’s two sons, Josu , 12 and Brendan, 10, were picking their way among stacks of supplies to get from room to room.
The O’Brien sisters had to make two van trips. Nancy O’Brien shrugs off their good deed by saying “It’s no big deal. We did what we did because it was the right thing to do.”

St. Martin de Porres School, Oakland
Sister Barbara Dawson, school president at St. Martin De Porres School, can recite an impressive litany of figures: “We’ve gotten $10,000 from a school volunteer; $25,000 from the Louise Davies Foundation; and, one Sunday, Corpus Christi in Piedmont gave us five percent of its second collection…,” she says breathlessly.

Then there is the $35,000 the nun, a member of the Religious of the Sacred Heart, has raised herself for financial aid, “and I’m not done yet.”

Three weeks ago, three moms from St. Perpetua School in Lafayette showed up at the Oakland school with hula-hoops and volleyballs for the playground. Someone brought backpacks for kids, as well.

But there is another chapter to St. Martin De Porres’ success — community organizing. Last winter, Sister Dawson brought in three assistants to help her with outreach to increase enrollment – German Martinez, a part-time coordinator for the California Interfaith Energy Assistance Project at Catholic Charities of the East Bay and a well-known community organizer; Bobby Johnson, a business student at USF; and Julie Merrill, whose expertise is special events, outreach and volunteer coordination.

The three began door-to-door distribution of flyers about the school. They stood in front of two nearby public schools that were closing and talked to parents about choosing St. Martin de Porres.

Martinez trained St. Martin’s older students in public speaking and sent them out to local churches to spread their good news.

“One Sunday I went to Church at St. Andrew-St. Joseph and there were five of our girls prepared to speak after Mass,” said Sister Dawson.

As a result, St. Martin DePorres opened its doors this fall to 140 students, a 48 percent increase from last spring. “We’re a success,” Sister Dawson said, but her joy is counterbalanced by hard reality. Only 14 families at St. Martin’s pay full tuition, so it is up to her and her team to raise the additional funds. Many of the students receive BASIC and FACE grants, but they do not cover full tuition, she said.

 

Cup of Fair Trade coffee gives farmers
a fair price

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

In the student union at St. Mary’s College, Moraga, and in parish halls from Concord to Hayward, coffee drinkers are imbibing a lesson in social justice with every cup.

Catholics throughout the Oakland Diocese are learning that they have a choice in coffee that goes beyond flavor and roasts. They can choose a brew with the fair trade label, a guarantee that farmers receive a just price for their beans.

With fair trade prices, farm families can acquire basic necessities such as schoolbooks, medicine and running water. Without it, many Third World coffee farmers are going into debt, losing their land and moving to urban slums in search of jobs.

Last November Catholic Relief Services in Baltimore made a giant step toward helping these farmers when it launched a program to sell fair trade coffee to parishes, but even before the CRS program was underway, individuals in the Oakland Diocese had heard the news and introduced fair trade to their communities.

Mary Vue, a recent graduate of St. Mary’s College, became hooked on fair trade during a January term course where she learned about plummeting coffee prices on the world market and the effects on small farmers.

“My concern and passion for fair trade then blossomed into a campaign to change the coffee on campus last year,” Vue said, and she took up the cause with Matt Carroll who manages the dining vendor on campus. As a result, St. Mary’s began serving 100 percent fair trade coffee - Seattle’s Best decaffeinated and regular - at the beginning of the 2003-2004 school year.

At St. Mary’s — as in many parishes, religious orders and other communities — the presence of fair trade coffee is the work of one or more dedicated individuals.
Some of them, such as Gregory Rienzo at All Saints Parish in Hayward and Molleen Dupree, former pastoral associate at St. Mary-St. Francis de Sales in Oakland, have visited the communities that supply the coffee.

Rienzo has been selling Nicaraguan fair trade beans from Somoto – supplied through a Merced sister city program - since he moved to the Bay Area in 1994, and Dupree began promoting Guatemalan fair trade coffee after she traveled to San Lucas Toliman in 2002 with a class from the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley.

Both of them have sent profits from the sales back to the communities.
Dupree and others who insist on fair trade have learned what a difference they can make by choosing brews with the fair trade certified label.

Coffee with the label is most often organic and shade-grown, and it is always produced by members of a cooperative run on democratic principles. Fair trade farmers are paid a minimum of $1.26 per pound for conventional coffee and $1.41 per pound for organic beans no matter how low the market price falls.

Small farmers supply 70 percent of the world’s coffee, and most of them receive little for their effort. On the international market, non-organic coffee fetches about 42 cents a pound and organic between 65 and 85 cents a pound, below the cost of production for many farmers. Some farmers, desperate to sell their crops, have received no more than 15 to 20 cents a pound.

Conventional coffee farmers sell to middlemen, the first in a string of traders such as processors, exporters and brokers. Well up the chain are large companies such as Starbucks, which have profited from the drop in prices.

Coffee prices fell on the international market after Vietnam entered the coffee producing business with government subsidies and large plantations.

| By 2001 the slump was hitting small farmers in Central America especially hard, and in Nicaragua – where a third of the work force is at least partly dependent on coffee – production dropped by more than half.

According to CRS, the crisis “resulted in entire crops left to rot on coffee bushes in Kenya and Guatemala; 30,000 farm jobs slashed just before El Salvador’s harvest season; farms held for generations in Nicaragua were abandoned or sold and families moved to urban shantytowns in search of work.”

Tom Wilde, western division manager for Equal Exchange, the coffee supplier for the CRS program, said he has visited coffee producing countries and noticed the difference in co-op farms.

“You can tell by the housing,” he said, because co-op families have replaced their homes of thatched roofs and mud walls with houses made of zinc roofing and adobe or concrete block walls.

The co-ops also bring help in other ways – education on child nutrition, pumps to bring spring water into the home and support in times of crisis.

Juana Pezo Suero, a Peruvian widow with three children, saw the benefits of co-
op membership, Wilde said, when her husband died and the group helped her formalize her title to the land. Her eldest son has found work in the co-op nursery, and when a wall of her house washed out in a flood, the co-op lent her the money for repairs. She paid off her debt with coffee.

Wilde quoted the remarks of Arnaldo Neyra Camizan, the co-founder of a fair trade certified co-op in Peru called CEPICAFE: “Before we were organized, most of the kids of coffee farmers only got through primary school. Now that we’re organized and don’t have to sell to intermediaries at whatever price they are paying, most of the children are completing secondary school, and of the 1,640 members of CEPICAFE, there are 30 with kids studying at the university level.”

It is testimony like this that has prompted Catholics in the diocese to choose fair trade coffee. At St. Jerome Parish in El Cerrito, Judy Valladao of the social ministry committee has purchased CRS fair trade coffee and hopes to introduce it to the community. Christine Curran at Our Lady of Lourdes in Oakland bought fair trade coffee for the parish’s Lenten series this year “because it fit the topic” — Catholic social teaching.

Sue Felton at St. Bonaventure in Concord has been serving and selling Thanksgiving fair trade coffee at her parish for several years, and Susan Gindy of St. Monica Parish in Moraga reports that the community “has been using fair trade coffee for a number of years for all our parish functions.”

In the diocesan offices, social justice resource specialist Mary Doyle convinced the organizers of the annual catechetical congress to serve fair trade coffee. “And I’ve been serving it at all my meetings,” she said. “I get it at Peet’s or Uncommon Grounds.”

Beyond the offices and churches of the diocese, individuals are also demanding fair trade coffee, ordering it from companies such as Uncommon Grounds in Berkeley or Thanksgiving Coffee in Ft. Bragg, which both carry a number of fair trade products, or at large coffee outlets, such as Starbucks and Peet’s, which offer one fair trade product among many others that lack the label.

“The justice issue is what got me to try it,” said Leona Jay, a parishioner at Holy Spirit in Fremont. She has been searching for the fair trade brand that best pleases herself and her husband. Fair trade, she said, “is a little pricier, but it’s worth it.”

Through faith-based initiatives like the CRS coffee project and Lutheran World Services, more Americans are learning about conditions among coffee farmers abroad and looking for the fair trade label. As a result, fair trade coffee sales grew by 80 percent between 1998 and 2002 and 90 percent in 2003 alone, while some coffee roasters and retailers are also recognizing the justice in fair trade as well as the growing demand.

Mike McLaughlin, a roaster based in Emeryville, said of fair trade, “I fell for it the first time I heard of it.” Some 15 percent of his coffee is now fair trade, he said, while 30 percent is organic, and both percentages are increasing.

McLaughlin has never forgotten a visit he made to coffee and tea producing regions in Southeast Asia 10 years ago. “I met the sources and saw these people working so hard for so little,” he said. “This was before I got into fair trade. I can still see the faces of those young gals in Sumatra picking tea.”

Wilde of Equal Exchange has also seen the benefits for struggling small farmers, and he challenges coffee drinkers to remember this when they are filling their shopping carts. “You can buy our coffee or corporate coffee, the same quality, the same price,” he said, “but the income the farmer receives would be two to three times greater if you buy it from Equal Exchange.”

 

Catholic parishes can now buy
Fair Trade coffee through CRS

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

When Catholic Relief Services launched its fair trade coffee program in November 2003, it was in response to a growing crisis in the field.

“We were providing emergency food to coffee pickers,” said Karen Smith, former CRS coordinator for the program, “primarily the landless coffee pickers.” The aid organization’s field workers, especially those in Nicaragua, were seeing first hand the suffering caused by a worldwide plunge in coffee prices.

By the fall of 2002 a glut on the market and the loss of international price controls had devastated coffee economies in many Third World countries, where small farmers produce 70 percent of the world’s coffee beans. Crops were left to rot in the field, pickers were begging for food, and farmers were earning low returns for their coffee.

CRS staff “started to look around,” Smith said, and began to focus on the challenges small coffee farmers face in marketing their products. “We said we could do that marketing piece,” she said, “and reach out to the millions of Catholics in the United States who take their faith seriously, who say, ‘I’m going to live my faith in solidarity with my brothers and sisters in Guatemala and Nicaragua.’”

Fortunately for CRS, Equal Exchange, a 100 percent fair trade company located in Massachusetts, already had an interfaith coffee program in operation. It included Lutheran World Relief, Presbyterians, Methodists and other denominations, and CRS chose to join them.

Equal Exchange works with farmers in Africa, Latin America and Asia who are members of democratic cooperatives owned by the farmers themselves. They buy directly from the co-ops and provide advance credit to farmers between harvests. The advance loans allow farmers to improve their techniques and materials, to buy necessities for their families and to stay out of debt. In addition, Equal Exchange helps farmers produce organic, shade-grown coffee and supports community initiatives such as processing plants and reforestation programs.

Some 200 Catholic parishes had already been ordering from Equal Exchange before the CRS program began last November, and since that time about 625 more have joined the effort. Parishes can order a variety of coffees to serve or to sell – pillow packs, percolator or drip grinds, flavored coffees, organic, decaffeinated and conventional coffees, blends and coffees from Haiti, El Salvador, Tanzania, Colombia, Nicaragua and elsewhere.

Parishes and individuals can also order beans in bulk for buying clubs and organic fair trade tea or hot cocoa mix from Equal Exchange. All of their products bear the Transfair label, which guarantees that farmers have been paid just prices.

Shoppers can find fair trade coffee elsewhere –in some supermarkets and large coffee retailers – and Smith of CRS said, “A lot of people have asked us why they should buy through the CRS project.” She tells them that “the advantage for Catholic groups to buy through CRS is that for every sale made through the project we get 10 to 15 cents per package that’s donated back to a restricted fund at CRS for development programs for small scale farmers in coffee growing countries.”

This money is used to help farmers who don’t yet belong to fair trade sponsored co-ops or to support projects in the local co-operatives. CRS is also helping farmers diversify, Smith said, so they are no longer dependent on world coffee prices. “We want to get them into something that’s going to be stable over the long haul,” she said.

The CRS effort is aimed not only at the small farmer in coffee regions but also at Catholics in the pews. The program has held workshops in some parishes, has prepared brochures and is considering videos. “We’re letting people know what fair trade is,” Smith said, “how it benefits coffee growers and how it relates to our Catholic faith.”

For more information on the CRS coffee project, visit the web site www.CRSFairTrade.org or call CRS at (410) 951-7459. Information is also available at Equal Exchange, www.equalexchange.com or (781) 830-0303, Ext. 228.

 

Labels help consumers know what are Fair Trade products

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

Consumers with a conscience, those who insist on fair trade for farmers and craftsmen and those who also want to preserve the environment, are faced with a growing number of claims in the marketplace, labels that proclaim Fair Trade Certified, Dolphin Safe, environmentally friendly, Bird Friendly, Free Farmed or any of dozens of logos insisting on organic purity.

Faced with a choice in retail stores, buyers have no time for research, but they can learn a few basic tips to help them decide wisely. First, there is Fair Trade Certified, a logo provided by Transfair U.S.A. Workers in the fair trade movement agree that any product with this logo is genuine fair trade, that the producer received a just price - $1.26 per pound for conventional coffee beans, for instance, and $1.41 for organic.

Beyond that, the Fair Trade Certified label tells consumers that the farmer belonged to a democratically run co-operative and was able to receive advance credit and other kinds of support from a fair trade agency. Transfair itself checks on the co-ops and tracks their products from farm to manufacturer.

Outside of the United States – especially in Europe, which has a long history of fair trade movements – other groups fulfill the role of Transfair. Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International, based in Germany, oversees “national initiatives,” groups that have met FLO’s criteria to act as the sole certifying agency in their countries.

In the United States, Transfair is the only independent organization that certifies fair trade products, but – to make it more confusing for consumers – the lack of a Fair Trade Certified label does not necessarily mean that the product was not fairly traded.

A group of small 100 percent fair trade coffee companies in the U.S. recently withdrew from Transfair. They charged that large coffee retailers offering only one fair trade product were using the label to burnish their images as socially concerned citizens of the world. Since these retailers have no real commitment to fair trade, the protestors claimed, the Transfair label had become misleading and they opted out.

So how is a consumer to know? A spokesman at Equal Exchange, the largest 100 percent fair trade coffee retailer in the U.S., which is remaining with Transfair, said buyers can look for a Fair Trade Federation seal, which guarantees that the company conducts its business on fair trade standards. If consumers want to look further, they can call up the company or seek out its web site and check on its fair trade standards, which should be short, concise and clear.

Rodney North of Equal Exchange notes that some large retailers are trying to cash in on the fair trade and organic movements by creating the impression that they are committed to these goals.

“You can read press releases from these companies that are participating minimally,” he said, “and you can see it would be hard for consumers to know what is going on.” He notes that the Transfair logo only applies to a particular product, not to a company.

North credits Catholic Relief Service, which has initiated a fair trade coffee program, with “making it easy for Catholics across the country” to support genuine fair trade. CRS is selling coffee to parishes through Equal Exchange’s Interfaith Program. “They’ve done due diligence on us,” North said. “They’ve looked at us upside down and backwards, and they’re introducing us to the parishes.”

He also notes that the Equal Exchange logo itself guarantees that any product with that brand is fairly traded.

And then there are environmental claims, organic certifications from state governments, environmental groups and the federal government. A majority of fair trade products - such as bananas, which are now available in the East Bay - are also organic. Equal Exchange relies on one trustworthy certifier, Oregon Tilth, to guarantee its products.

As an aid to buyers, Consumers Union maintains an Eco-label section on its web site at www.consumersunion.org. There it lists certifiers and logos and provides “label report cards” on dozens of certifications, from organic produce to sustainable forestry.

Consumers Union has given its approval to two California certifiers – California Certified Organic Farmers and the California Organic Farmers Association. Both receive high marks for reliable labels on food products. At the same time, Consumers Union has posted a warning about the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture), which, it claims, is subverting the standards for organic produce.

Outside of food products, other companies are guaranteeing fair trade for craftspeople. One of these organizations is SERRV, which sells handcrafts and food products through churches and other non-profit groups. Individuals and parishes can order a variety of goods – bags, carvings, toys, fabric, rugs, coffee and tea, dried fruits, nuts and more – from the web site www.serrv.org or by phone at (800) 422-5915.

 

Mideast violence slows pace of
biblical archaeology

By Michele Chabin
Religion News Service

JERUSALEM—Increased violence in Israel and Palestine has forced local archaeologists, many of them working on sites alluded to in the Bible, to scale back or even cancel their digs.

That’s because the threat of continued violence has kept foreign professors and students from providing assistance at large digs.

Twin bus bombings that killed 16 people in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba on Aug. 31 did nothing to calm skittish scholars and nervous insurance companies.
But archaeologists are still hopeful that the attraction of biblical history—especially the discovery of a cave said to be John the Baptist’s—will lure academics and tourists alike.
“The intifada has definitely had an effect on Israeli archaeology, including our dig,” said Shimon Gibson, the archaeologist who excavated the “John the Baptist cave.”

Gibson announced in mid-August that he had found a cave that he believes was used by John the Baptist to anoint some of his followers. The news received international media attention.

Then came more bus bombings.

“Prior to the intifada we had many students from the (United) States,” said Gibson in an interview. “When the intifada began, the U.S. State Department advised Americans not to travel here, and ever since then we’ve had to rely on smaller and smaller groups. It’s been a bit of a nightmare, actually.”

A major problem is that American institutions, especially federally funded ones, find it difficult to obtain insurance for anyone they send to the region, said Gideon Avni, director of the excavations service department at the Israel Antiquities Authority.

From the mid-1990s through the year 2000, Avni said, approximately 45 foreign academic institutions, two-thirds of them American, ran or co-ran digs in Israel. That number dwindled to five in 2003.

With a lull in the violence before the bus bombings, the situation improved.
“We have 12 American excavations,” said Avni. “We hope the trend will continue despite the recent attacks.”
|Avni stressed that even when the foreigners stopped coming, Israeli teams tried to persevere.

Even during the intifada years, he said, Israelis carried out 15 to 20 large-scale excavations and about 200 mostly short-term “rescue” digs on sites uncovered in the course of modern-day sewer repairs and road construction.

Gibson, a senior fellow at the American Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, said he managed to continue his dig because the cave he excavated is so small, fitting only 20 workers at a time.

For larger digs, needing 100 or more people, “the lack of volunteers was disastrous,” said Gibson.

To compensate for the loss of his younger university students, Gibson began to utilize the services of older volunteers from the United States and Europe as well as Israeli volunteers of all ages.

“We had pensioners who always wanted to work a dig,” Gibson said. “We could have employed paid workers, but where’s the educational value in that?”

While the excavations have suffered, so have archaeology students. “For the first time,” said Gibson, “students studying the archaeology of Israel aren’t always able to gain field experience. How can a student learn how to excavate unless he’s actually doing it?”
Some of the last foreign students to help Gibson hailed from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

“The intifada forced us to make some adjustments,” said James Tabor, a UNC archaeologist who helped excavate the John the Baptist cave.

“In 2001, even after the intifada began, we sent students to Israel, but only those over the age of 21. They made their own decision as adults and we required them to procure their own insurance and to sign a waiver of liability.”

Tabor said he reluctantly decided not to send students in 2002 – young or old—“because my classes have students of all ages and limiting Israeli excavations to those over 21 was problematic.”

“Personally, I travel to Israel often and feel quite safe,” Tabor said from his North Carolina base.

Excavations at the northern fortress of Megiddo, the great biblical battlefield, managed to continue “because we had Israeli students and some paid volunteers from the Parks Authority,” said Yisrael Finkelstein, a Tel Aviv University archaeologist who has been
excavating the site for years.

When the number of excavators dropped from 200 in 2000 to just 50 in 2002, “we considered stopping the dig,” Finkelstein said. “It was that bad. But then we decided that if the Israeli people could go on with their lives during this time, we would, too.”

Some of the excavations that managed to survive the intifada years have unearthed some remarkable finds. In June of this year an Israeli team discovered what is believed to be the Biblical Pool of Siloam, the main water reservoir for Jerusalem dwellers two millennia ago. It is fed by the nearby Gihon Spring, which has been under excavation for decades.

“A sewage pipe was being repaired, and as often happens in Jerusalem, something ancient was uncovered,” said Reich.

St. Philip Neri Parish helps rebuild
church in Asuchillo, El Salvador

By Voice staff

Parishioners from St. Philip Neri in Alameda joined their sister community in Asuchillo, El Salvador, this summer to celebrate the fruits of their work together – a new church to replace a building damaged by earthquake in 2001.

Father Vince Cotter, pastor, and four parishioners traveled to the rural community to take part in the blessing of San Jose Catholic Church in Asuchillo. Father Cotter was joined by Frank Matarrese, Guillermo Gonzalez, Tony Gonzalez and Mary Ellen Waite Gonzalez. Diana Buran, a parishioner at St. Isidore in Danville who has lived in El Salvador, acted as guide for the group.

A delegation from St. Philip Neri visited Asuchillo last year to assess the needs of the community and returned to organize a fund raising drive for the new church. Parishioners helped sell crafts and Salvadoran food and showed a documentary film about the community to raise money for construction.
St. Philip Neri has had a sister relationship with Asuchillo since 1994.

In El Salvador the community of Asuchillo also made sacrifices. The residents attended Mass on the soccer field while work progressed, and many community members donated time and labor to build the church. It was completed this summer and blessed by Auxiliary Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chavez of San Salvador on July 24 during a community-wide celebration.

St. Philip Neri, together with St. Isidore School in Danville, Christ the King Parish in Pleasant Hill, and Resurrection Lutheran Church in Oakland, raised $22,000 for the cost of construction. St. Philip parishioners also contributed linens and a monstrance to the new church and presented these to the Asuchillo community during the celebration.

Mary Ellen Waite Gonzalez said the blessing ceremony was an event filled with joy and lively festivities. “Joy was present in the sights and sounds of the celebration – guitar music, fireworks, children dancing and the ubiquitous butterflies reminding us of the power of transformation.”

She also said that the project helped unify the Asuchillo community. It “gave them a sense of common purpose, respect from nearby communities and energy to continue” a bigger and more complex water project sponsored by a group from Spain, Gonzalez said.

“For us,” she said, “sharing in these sacrifices and joys brought us closer to our sisters and brothers in El Salvador.”

St. Philip Neri has also exchanged visits and gifts with the community of Asuchillo in past years. The Alameda parish kept in close contact and gave support to its Salvadoran friends as they struggled to rebuild after the earthquake. Two years after the temblor struck the rural area of El Salvador, the residents of Asuchillo had managed to construct a new pre-school building and enroll 37 children, and St. Philip Neri parishioners shared their joy in the accomplishment.

In October of 2002 a delegation from Asuchillo visited St. Philip Neri Parish and elementary school. Eighth grade students at St. Philip Neri School met with Maria Magdalena Echeverria and Juana de Jesus Sanchez to present them with several books. The gift was intended to help the community establish a small library.

St. Isidore School and Christ the King Parish have also contributed funds and supplies to Asuchillo over the years.

 

National homeless czar Philip Mangano
to keynote local forum on housing crisis

By Voice staff

Philip Mangano, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, will deliver the keynote address on ending homelessness at a community forum, Friday, Oct. 1, at Hillcrest Congregational Church in Pleasant Hill. The conference is co-sponsored by Catholic Housing Initiative of the East Bay and other faith-based and community housing projects.

Prior to his appointment by President Bush in 2002 to head the Interagency Council, Mangano was executive director of the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance, a statewide coalition of 80 agencies operating over 200 programs. He is widely recognized for his front door/back door model of advocacy.

Before joining MHSA he participated in the creation and development of community-based organizations, including a social justice group in Los Angeles and Social Action Ministries of Greater Boston. For several years he was a volunteer on St. Anthony’s breadline in downtown Boston and subsequently became Director of Homeless Services for the City of Cambridge.

In addition to Mangano, more than a dozen community leaders and housing advocates will offer workshops on a wide range of housing-related topics during the daylong forum.

Attorney Richard Marcantonio of Public Advocates will explain the Housing Element Law requiring cities and counties to plan for their “fair share” of affordable housing.

Cassandra Benjamin, program officer with the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, and Kelly Hemphill of the Emergency Housing Consortium of San Jose, will describe how programs that rapidly re-house homeless families are more cost-effective and achieve better client outcomes than traditional shelter models.

Linda Best, executive director of the Contra Costa Economic Partnership, will explore the housing crisis for low-income wage earners.

Virginia Luchetti, clinical director of homeless services with Phoenix Programs Inc., will discuss effective techniques for linking chronically homeless people with housing, treatment and services.

Other workshops will cover such topics as gaining community acceptance of affordable housing, connecting housing with social services, forming a housing trust fund to prevent homelessness, and training low-income adults to become advocates for affordable housing in their communities.

Forum participants will be able to attend two workshops in addition to the keynote address.

There is no charge for the conference. Registration is requested. Call (925) 335-0689, ext. 106; email Merlinw@shelterincofccc.org.
Further information is available at www.ccreach.org.

Interfaith Council to host town meetings
on homeless family shelter in Orinda

By Voice staff

The Homeless Summit of the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County is scheduling a series of town meetings to get citizen-input around the possible use of a former library in Orinda for a homeless family shelter this winter.

The meetings are scheduled for Sept. 21, at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 66 St. Stephen’s Drive; Sept. 28 at Santa Maria Church, 40 Santa Maria Way, and Oct. 5 at Orinda Community Church, 10 Irwin Way. All three sessions begin at 7 p.m.

The Coalition said it is planning to apply the city for a temporary land use permit to operate the shelter, but before doing so wants to hear the concerns of Orinda citizens.

The Coalition also will address reasons for placing a shelter in Orinda. According to available estimates, says the Coalition, the number of homeless persons in Contra Costa County far exceeds the number of available shelter beds.

The county board of supervisors voted Sept. 14 to allow community groups to take over management of family homeless shelters in Martinez and Concord. A task force led by Shelter Inc. and the Interfaith Council will lease the county-owned facilities and assume full responsibility for the two shelters with 50 beds. The board also voted to maintain 30 of the 75 beds available at Concord’s single-adult shelter. That facility usually has a waiting list of up to 3,000 people.

The Homeless Summit includes 25 congregations, Loaves & Fishes, county government staffers, the League of Women Voters of Diablo Valley, and SHELTER, Inc.

Survey finds priests happy
but concerned about morale

By Kevin Eckstrom
Religion News Service

Two and a half years after the clergy sex abuse scandal erupted in the United States, Catholic priests continue to be satisfied with their ministries, but they still worry about declining morale in the priesthood, according to a new survey by the director of a treatment center for troubled clergy.

The survey of 834 priests in 11 dioceses was conducted by Father Stephen Rossetti, president of the St. Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Md. Father Rossetti also serves as a consultant to a bishops’ committee on sexual abuse.

Father Rossetti said 92 percent of priests were happy as priests, only 6 percent were considering leaving the priesthood and 83 percent said they would make the same choices if they had to do it all over again.

Those findings were roughly in line with a 2001 survey by the National Federation of Priests’ Councils and a 2002 study by the Los Angeles Times.

Father Rossetti’s survey was conducted between September 2003 and last
March.

“Despite all that has happened, these men are resilient and are proud to be priests today,” Rossetti wrote in the Sept. 13 edition of America magazine, a Jesuit weekly.

While 83 percent of priests reported personal satisfaction, only 40 percent agreed with the statement that “morale in the priesthood is good.”

Three-quarters of priests reported a good relationship with their bishops, but only 26 percent thought priests accused of abuse were treated fairly.

Strong numbers of priests also reported overwhelming workloads, and little more than half — 55 percent—supported mandatory celibacy for priests. However, 74 percent would encourage their nephews to enter the priesthood.

“In short, priests like doing what priests do and find great satisfaction in it,” Father Rossetti said. “Their lives are filled with sacraments, preaching and being with the people, and they find it intensely rewarding. This was true before the crisis, it was true during the crisis and it is true after the crisis.”

 

 

Catechetical Congress
to offer full range of
ministry workshops

 

Kathleen O'Connell Chesto

Bill Huebsch

Brian Singer-Towns

By Voice staff

The annual diocesan Catechetical Congress, to be held Nov. 20 at Carondelet High School in Concord, will feature workshops on the Gospel of Matthew, a keynote address by Bishop Allen Vigneron, and speakers known for their work in family spirituality, youth ministry and “whole community” catechesis.

Kathleen O’Connell Chesto, who has received awards for her books, articles and videos on family ministry and spirituality, will present two one-hour sessions on family prayer and ritual during the congress. Brian Singer Towns, author of “The Catholic Youth Bible” and “The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth,” will offer two sessions for catechists working with Catholic youth.

Catechist and writer Bill Huebsch, who has developed a model called “whole community catechesis,” is scheduled to present a two-part session directed at pastors, school principals, deacons and directors of religious education. He will speak on his model of faith formation that includes youth, adults and children.

In addition, the congress will feature other sessions in English and Spanish on catechetics, liturgy, culture, youth ministry, Scripture, family spirituality and social justice.

There will also be all-day workshops in English, Spanish and Vietnamese 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 the scheduled speakers.

Brochures for the Congress will be available in parishes by the end of September. For information, call Melissa Hyatt at (510) 267-8370. For information on the programs in Spanish, call Jessy Lira at (510) 267-8352.

 

Chautauqua XII
will honor
Mary as Queen of Peace

Chautauqua XII, the Oakland Diocese’s annual celebration of ethnic diversity, will take place Oct. 9 at St. Anne Parish, 32223 Cabello St. in Union City.

The theme for this year’s gathering is “Mary, Lead Us to Peace!” The festivities begin at 10 a.m. and include a multi-lingual Mass with hymns and music reflecting the cultures and traditions of the diocese’s 14 ethnic pastoral centers — African American, Asian-Indian, Brazilian, Chinese, Filipino, Ge’ez, Haitian, Indonesian, Kmhmu’, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Tongan and Vietnamese.

Bishop Allen Vigneron will preside at the liturgy and Bishop Emeritus John Cummins will be in attendance.

Following the liturgy, there will be cultural entertainment and a variety of ethnic foods for sale. All members of the diocese are invited to attend.

Knights of Columbus host International Rosary in various languages next month in Danville

By Voice staff

Catholics throughout the East Bay are invited to pray the International Rosary on Oct. 10 at St. Isidore Church, 440 LaGonda Way in Danville, from 1:30 – 3 p.m.

During an international Rosary, participants pray the rosary in different languages. Last year, Italian, Chinese, Spanish, English, Polish and Lebanese were among the languages used. The Knights of Columbus Council 4060 in Danville is sponsoring the event that it started three years ago.

Pope John Paul II has called for renewed devotion to the Rosary, a series of prayers recited with the help of sets of beads. As these prayers are recited, Catholics contemplate four periods or mysteries of Christ’s life.

These are the “joyous mysteries” that surround His birth, the “sorrowful mysteries” surrounding his death, the “glorious mysteries” of his resurrection, and the recently added “mysteries of light” that focus on the public ministry of Christ.

 

Local forums examine
ballot propositions

By Voice staff

A forum on Prop. 71, the Embryonic Stem Cell Research Bond Act, will be held on Sept. 26, from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at St. Joan of Arc Church in San Ramon.

Paulist Father Richard Sparks, a moral theologian and pastor of Holy Spirit/Newman Parish in Berkeley, will present the Church’s position against embryonic stem cell research. Representatives of the League of Women Voters will present the pros and cons of the proposition.

All are welcome to attend. The church is located at 2601 San Ramon Valley Blvd. in San Ramon

St. Mary’s Center in Oakland is hosting a workshop on the November ballot propositions on Oct. 2, 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Speakers will include Social Service Sister Simone Campbell of Jericho, a Catholic lobby group in Sacramento, and Barry Stenger, executive director of Franciscan Charities and former director of the Center for Ethics and Social Policy at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. A free will donation of $10 will be requested at the door.

St. Mary’s Center is located at 635- 22nd Street in Oakland.

 

Habitat for Humanity seeks
more sponsors

By Voice Staff

Mt. Diablo Habitat for Humanity celebrated its annual Building on Faith Week Sept.12- 19 by calling on 450 East Bay Area faith communities to sponsor one Habitat house for a local low-income family. Building on Faith Week is a yearly celebration of church partnerships with Habitat.

Faith communities are being asked to raise the money this year, and to begin construction of the house next year. Small communities can pledge as little as $140 to become a part of this effort, but the overall goal is to raise $70,000 for a three- bedroom home, said Marge Perez, director of public and church relations for Habitat.

St. Bonaventure Parish in Concord has already contributed $2,000 to the effort. Six of the 50 homes completed by Habitat in past years have been sponsored by individual churches or groups of churches, said Perez, who added that nearly every Catholic parish in Contra Costa County has contributed money and volunteers.

Next year, during Building on Faith Week, churches can donate building materials, send volunteer labor and provide lunches at the construction site.
Mt. Diablo Habitat for Humanity builds simple, decent and affordable homes for needy low income families. Selected families contribute 500 hours of “sweat equity”. For further information contact Marge Perez at (925) 288-0112, ext. 18.