ONLINE
NOVEMBER 17, 2003
Official newspaper of the Roman Catholic
Diocese of Oakland, California encompassing all of
Alameda &
Contra Costa counties.

BISHOP
VIGNERON

 

 

 

INSIDE
THIS ISSUE

Family Care ministers say ‘I’ve been there’

Bush signs partial-birth abortion ban
State’s high court
to hear arguments
in Charities case
Local charities deliver holiday wish list
De Staebler’s art inspires praise or criticism
St. Raymond Parish
impresses new pastor
OCO and COR lobby on behalf of local renters
Peaceful dialog: the recipe for a successful future
Retirement collection helps local religious

Orinda parish delivers
130 new dictionaries

St. Elizabeth High chosen
for management program
 
 
 
FRONT PAGE
CRS aid efforts succeed in Basra
Bishops urged to continue outreach
to abuse victims
Bishop calls for plan to address
enrollment drop in urban schools

CRS aid efforts succeed in Basra

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

Iraqis are reclaiming their lives in Basra, in spite of security concerns and years of repression. This is the news from Catholic Relief Service personnel who recently visited the southern Iraqi city, where the aid organization runs a number of development projects.

Although the International Committee of the Red Cross recently announced that it would temporarily close its Basra offices because of security concerns, CRS is planning to stay and move forward with a number of projects.
“The feeling on the streets is that people are trying to rebuild their lives, to have normal lives,” said Christine Tucker, CRS regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, during a telephone interview from her base in Cairo. Local communities have been quick to work with CRS projects, she said, organizing and identifying their priorities.

As a result, Tucker said, CRS met its goal for the first three months of operation – the completion of 25 “quick action” projects to improve water supplies, sanitation, schools, roads, sewage treatment and electrical services. Considering that the organization had to hire staff, identify projects and get them done, she said, the progress has been “astounding.”

Tucker and deputy regional director Kathleen Moynihan made this assessment after spending four days in Basra in late October and early November. They visited the program to see how local people have accepted

CRS and Caritas staff members and to evaluate security risks, especially in light of attacks on UN and International Red Cross offices in Baghdad.

CRS set up the Basra program after the war, Tucker said, when the change in regime opened up a new opportunity for action. But the aid agency had provided financial and technical support to Caritas Iraq programs before the war, such as nutrition centers and maternal health clinics, and these continue today. The agency also distributed food, blankets, medicine and other supplies after the conflict began.

The Basra office includes three expatriate CRS staff members and about 50 Iraqi Caritas workers, who are almost evenly divided among Christians and Muslims. Tucker said “there is a special security concern” that staff members may be targeted as Christians or representatives of a Christian group.

“Fortunately,” she said, “that hasn’t happened,” and although security is “definitely an issue,” the visit to Basra seemed to show that their work did not put CRS staff at high risk. They have a good relationship with the local people, and their unobtrusive approach helps in their success.

“We go in a with a low profile,” Tucker said, “and we try to put an Iraqi face on the program. I think that’s been a big factor in terms of the security.”

CRS and Caritas Iraq also keep their distance from the occupation forces, which in Basra are mainly British. “We want to maintain our neutrality,” Tucker said, although the aid workers do coordinate with the provisional government and troops.

Tucker and Moynihan saw British and Czech soldiers in Basra, and witnessed no tension between the troops and local people. “Actually the people around them seemed to be fairly relaxed,” Tucker said.

In this atmosphere, CRS has been able to work efficiently, and Tucker was especially impressed with the change in one local neighborhood. Where a reeking ditch filled with sewage and garbage once ran the length of the road, the residents now have a dry paved thoroughfare.

She was also struck by the energetic work in a community of farmers. The men had restored water to their land, removing pipes the former regime had installed to divert this essential resource.

“They said the trees were coming back, the birds had returned,” Tucker said, “and they were able to start growing vegetables again. It was almost their own personal statement about reclaiming their lives.”

The area around Basra is heavily Shiite, and it was harshly repressed by the Sunni regime of Saddam Hussein. After the war, Tucker said, the local people found “the world was 180 degrees different.” Now, she said, they are beginning to adapt, to “look beyond themselves and their families” to the wider community.

And they are ready to act. The “quick action” projects require community participation from both men and women and agreement on which needs take highest priority. So many communities have responded to this, Tucker said, that they have proposed 300 projects for the area.

“The goal was to do 100 projects in a year,” she said. Now she is “absolutely” sure that CRS in Basra will far exceed that goal. Funding for these programs comes from a special CRS appeal held immediately after the war began, private foundations and the U.S. government.

Long-term workers in Basra said the situation had improved even in the past two months. Food is available in the markets, and many areas have water service 24 hours a day. “I think it’s indicative of many parts” of Iraq, Tucker said.

But Basra is known as a more stable area than other areas of the country, and Tucker noted that some aid organizations face a more difficult task. The groups “have different levels of success,” she said. “Security is different in different areas. Some have had vehicles stolen.” And high profile groups such as the UN and Red Cross have suffered from direct and lethal attacks.

Even the Basra area has its security problems, she said. Her group had to take an alternate route into Iraq because explosives had been discovered near the border; during her stay in the city, an explosion near CRS offices unnerved staff members; and on her way out of Iraq, more explosives were found in the border area.

But the signs are good, nevertheless. Some Iraqis who had fled to Iran have returned, the local people said, and those who stayed are regaining confidence in their ability to create safe and prosperous communities. In all, Tucker said, the situation is becoming better than it was before the war for the people of Basra.

“I have seen programs in probably 50 countries in the world,” Tucker said, and this one has grown with remarkable speed. After the visit to Iraq, she said, she returned to Cairo “even more enthusiastic” about CRS goals and achievements in the country.

To contribute to CRS efforts in Iraq, donations can be made by calling (800) 736-3467, online at www.catholicrelief.org or by sending checks to Catholic Relief Services, P.O Box 17090, Baltimore, MD 21203-7090.

Bishops urged to continue outreach
to abuse victims

By Kevin Eckstrom
Religion News Service

WASHINGTON— Opening their annual fall meeting last week, Bishop Wilton Gregory of Belleville, Ill., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, urged his fellow bishops to harness the “energy of the whole church” to reach out to victims of clergy sex abuse “with perservance and with love” and pray that they will forgive church leaders who had failed to act decisively against guilty priests.

“We bishops need to reflect on our own need to accept just criticism, to apologize and to forgive,” Bishop Gregory said in his speech to nearly 300 bishops. “Not only in our relationships with the faithful, but in our commerce with one another.”

He said the bishops should realize that their actions within their own dioceses affect all church leaders and that they can “do better” in helping each other service Catholics.

“Rather than being something that divides us, the sexual abuse crisis can and should become a rallying point not only to make the church a safe environment for all children, but our whole society as well,” he said.
Bishop Gregory said victims “have lived with their pain and grief for too long; too many have experienced that some of us did not act like good shepherds when they came to us.”

Across the street from the bishops’ hotel, members of the Boston-based lay reform group Voice of the Faithful said “flawed structures and (a) dysfunctional (church) culture” had slowed the bishops’ response to the crisis.

Bishop Gregory said, “We can do better talking with and listening to one another as members of the church,” but only within the existing structures of the church.
“The church is not something we can re-create or reinvent, either in terms of its apostolic structure or of the faith that has been handed down to us,” he said.

Victim advocates, however, said the bishops have not done enough and held a silent vigil outside the hotel where the bishops were meeting.

The meeting, the fourth national gathering since the abuse crisis erupted in the Boston Archdiocese in January 2002, continued through Nov. 13.

The bishops were scheduled to discuss war and peace, the role of popular devotions such as the rosary, agricultural concerns and guidelines for ethical investments.

In a last-minute addition to their agenda, the bishops were to consider a pastoral statement on the church’s opposition to same-sex unions.

Members of Call to Action and FutureChurch planned to deliver between 6,000 and 7,000 petitions calling for a discussion on mandatory celibacy for priests.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee was expected to be named chairman of the bishops’ priestly life and ministry committee, which would handle the celibacy issue.

Archbishop Dolan said the bishops always encourage informal discussion on the issue, but said the issue has already been “talked to death” and it would be “unfair” to imply the policy “is up for grabs.”

“There’s the impression that there’s a question mark after this, and there isn’t. There’s an exclamation point,” he said.

Coadjutor Bishop Joseph Galante of Dallas also cautioned that the church moves slowly on major decisions.

“To rush headlong into changing totally the discipline of the church isn’t very consistent with how things are done anyway,” he said. “The church, over a long period of time, has moved in measured steps to deal with particular situations.”

In other business, the bishops voted to restore about $265,000 to their Office for Child and Youth Protection. Some bishops proposed cutting the money for 2004 because of falling revenues and tight budgets.

The money will be used to pay for one full-time assistant and two part-time consultants. “Not to give the director what she believes she needs would be a mistake of enormous proportions,” said Bishop John D’Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind.

An oversight panel will issue major reports on the church’s response to the clergy sex abuse crisis within the next three months.
The National Review Board report, expected on Jan. 7, will disclose how many
dioceses are in compliance with new rules to protect children from abusive priests.

A separate report that attempts for the first time to tally the number of accused priests and their victims since 1950 will be released in Washington on Feb. 27

(Rachel Zoll of Associated Press contributed to this story.)

 

Bishop calls for plan to address
enrollment drop in urban schools

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

In response to a drop in enrollment and rising costs, the Diocese of Oakland is developing a plan to maintain Catholic schools in the urban areas of Oakland and Berkeley.

Bishop Allen Vigneron called for the plan, to be developed by a nine-member committee, after enrollment figures in mid-September showed a total loss in diocesan elementary and high schools of more than 600 students since last year. Nearly 250 of these students were in the City of Oakland.

According to Mark DeMarco, diocesan superintendent of schools, this comes to a decrease of nearly 1,200 students in the past two years, or almost 5 percent of enrollment. At the same time, he said, costs have risen with the loss of tuition and other factors.

The enrollment drop mirrors the situation in local public and private schools, according to Holy Names Sister Barbara Bray, assistant superintendent of schools. At the same time, Catholic schools face an additional challenge — to keep costs affordable, especially for those in the inner city.

“Our challenge is to provide a good education with the limited resources available,” said Deacon Thom McGowan, a member of the Bishop’s Administrative Council, who is charged with preparing the plan. It is to be submitted to Bishop Vigneron by the end of the year.

Preliminary research, Sister Bray said, has shown that a lack of affordable housing has forced many families to move and the poor economy has made it difficult for others to meet tuition costs. The presence of charter schools might also be a factor, she said.

The task force will continue to investigate the situation, she said, visiting schools and assessing resources, facilities, parish and community support, enrollment and changing demographics. Its main task, Sister Bray said, is to ensure that quality Catholic education is available and accessible to everyone who wants it.
“We want to look at our range of solutions,” she said.

The economic and demographic problems affect all diocesan schools, Sister Bray said, but inner city schools, with severely limited resources, are most affected. These schools are a special priority, according to Deacon McGowan. “The church has a preferential mission to help the poor and marginalized,” he said.

Even before the enrollment figures were determined at the beginning of this school year, the schools were facing a budget deficit of $1.3 million in spite of a $300,000 contribution from an over-funded unemployment fund and a $1.1 million subsidy from an anonymous foundation. Now, with the decline in enrollment, the schools face an additional $1 million shortfall, bringing the total to over $2 million.

Some of the present shortfall is due to lack of information earlier in the year, De Marco said. Projections in May showed an increase in enrollment, but once school started, the numbers were actually shown to be lower. The schools also had to adopt a budget before the increased costs of employee benefits were known.

The drop of enrollment not only affects individual schools, DeMarco said; the schools department also lost $24,000 in a “head tax” supplied through students’ fees.

The schools have been in the process of rebuilding with the help of Catholic School Management, a Connecticut consulting firm.

It supports schools in their efforts to tighten budgets, increase enrollment, raise funds and adopt strategic plans, but it takes several years to realize the effects of these efforts and the schools have just completed the first year of a three-year plan.

The task force preparing the plan for inner city schools includes a broad range of members: George Shelton of the diocesan pastoral council; Blas Guerrero and Joe Lewis, both of the diocesan school board; Patricia Marino, who has children in diocesan schools and connections with various Bay Area foundations; Patricia Geister, former principal of Moreau Catholic High School; Father Leo Edgerly, member of the Presbyteral Council and pastor of Corpus Christi Parish in Piedmont; Father Dan Danielson, pastor of the Catholic Community of Pleasanton and chairperson of the Presbyteral Council; Millie Burns, director of program planning and development for Catholic Charities of the East Bay; and Heidi Donner with the Hearst Art Gallery at St. Mary’s College in Moraga.

INSIDE STORIES

Family Care ministers say
‘I’ve been there’

By Sharon Abercrombie
Staff writer

Bruce and Marie Gordon’s perfectly healthy 16-year-old son died overnight from a fast-acting blood infection. Monika Klein’s 27-year abusive marriage ended abruptly when her husband walked out.

Although their reasons for grief were different, both the Gordons and Klein shared a common feeling – isolation. “I thought I was the only one who ever had anything like this to happen,” recalled Klein.

Reflected Bruce Gordon, “when Michael died, the whole family thing came crashing down. Both Marie and I felt so alone and we wondered, ‘What now?’” The Gordons knew the statistics, which put the divorce rate at 75 percent among couples who lose a child. They were scared.

But this trio’s fears and isolation began dissolving after they linked up with bereavement and divorce support groups that are part of Family Care Ministry at the Catholic Community of Pleasanton.

Family Care
“I’ve been there, I understand” is the bedrock of the parish’s Family Care, explains Father Padraig Greene, who directs the program. “It is the like-minded ministering to the like-minded. Each has its own focus.”

Teams of caring family ministers helped the Gordons and Klein mend their broken hearts. Then Father Greene invited them to join his training program for new family ministers. They accepted and today are among the 117 family ministers in the community’s diverse collection of support and enrichment groups.

Most of the sessions are held weekly at the community’s two sites — St. Elizabeth Seton and St. Augustine — for a month or two, depending on the type of group and its particular focus. Some of the social groups meet off-site at local pubs and cafés.

There are groups for bereaved families, widows and widowers, divorced and separated, single moms, breast cancer survivors, as well as for those seeking to enrich their lives.

Each group is mentored and guided by these ministers. When the divorce support group meets, for example, there will be at least 15 ministers there to facilitate when the group of up to 60 breaks into smaller sharing circles. Other ministers will be on hand to provide refreshments. Many of the ministers also work one-on- one, especially with people in the bereavement groups.

There are groups for people who aren’t in the midst of a crisis but who hunger for friendship and affirmation —- like isolated, going-up-the-wall moms who have no one to talk to all day but their two-year-olds. When these meetings are held, their husbands get recruited to baby sit. These dads, in turn, are invited to become part of their own social get-together, which eventually turns into a support group.

Blessing of mothers
For expectant couples and their extended families, there are twice yearly Masses that include a blessing of mothers.

Other groups offer support for parents of gay and lesbian children, basic classes in the ‘how to’ parenting of kids from babies to teens, and tips for successful merging of stepfamilies.

Engaged couples meet with veteran marrieds who prepare them for the necessity of moving beyond the romance of the wedding day and into the good, difficult and humdrum of married life.

Gregor Markel and his wife, Michelle, help facilitate this group. As an engaged couple nearly a decade ago, they participated in the parish’s pre-Cana program. When Father Greene introduced his Family Care ministry four years ago, the Markels decided they wanted to give something back to their parish, so they asked if he would train them as family ministers.

Married couples can sign up for a series of maintenance and retooling evenings temptingly titled: “If I’d Only Known,” The Goodbyes of Marriage” and “Where the Rubber Meets the Road.” This program includes a gala Valentine dance, complete with renewal of wedding vows and childcare.

For families in crisis, Father Greene asks the couples to reevaluate the source of their problems, examine the glitches that have developed during the years of their relationship, and identify the dysfunctional behaviors they’ve brought with them from their own families.

“If we do not transform this pain, we will transmit it,” he said. As an example, he cites the cycle of family violence which, as a learned behavior, can be unlearned.

Training
Father Greene trains all the ministers, who must write papers recounting some of their own journeys as part of the training process. They have their own initiation rite the first night they take charge.

Monika Klein recalls her talk when she acknowledged, “I’m German so I didn’t know I had any feelings. After my divorce I was sad for a week, and then I shoved all my sadness into a drawer and shut it. The feelings didn’t come back out, till I started talking to Father Greene.”

Klein had languished in denial for 14 years until she found the family care program four years ago. “Since then I have learned how to deal with the sadness and go on with life. I had thought I was happy then, but now I know I am. But it took a lot of work to get to this place.”

That’s what other family ministers who have “been there” say.
“I now recognize the possibility of having a contented happy life even though I experienced a huge loss,” said Bruce Gordon. His wife, Marie, said the group “helped me not to feel alone, and allowed me to stay in this sad loving, place as long as I needed to.” She also credits the group with “bringing Bruce and me closer together.”

The Pleasanton program is the American counterpart of a project Father Greene piloted 16 years ago in the West Ireland Diocese of Elphin. His bishop had envisioned a diocesan family ministry program based on Pope John Paul II’s 1981 paper on the Family in the Modern World, “Familaris Consortio.”

Father Greene, then dean of students at a Catholic boys’ boarding school, was recruited by his bishop to get a master’s degree in family ministry at Fordham University in New York. Back in Ireland several years later, the priest set up his new program. His first support group for the Boyle Family Life Centre met at a corner table inside the pub of a downtown hotel.

Later, with the aid of government grants, Father Greene purchased a site, which eventually included a residence for battered wives and their children. To date, there are three family life centers operating in the Elphin Diocese.

In 1996, Irish national television devoted its prime time Sunday night slot to the Boyle Family Life Centre. Father Greene came to the United States a few months later to attend a sabbatical program at the School of Applied Theology in Berkeley, and decided to remain in northern California. He brought the Boyle Family Life Centre model to the Catholic Community of Pleasanton in 1999.
What is happening in Pleasanton and West Ireland can happen anywhere, said Father Greene. It involves, training and then supervising a team of committed lay ministers.
“Jesus’ great commandment is to love one another. We enable people to do

that here by helping them to find God in themselves and one another.”
He quotes Albert Schweitzer who, he believes, best sums up the philosophy of family care ministry. “Those who bear the mark of pain are never really free. They owe it to others who are still on the journey.”

Bush signs partial-birth abortion ban,
legal challenges begin immediately

By Michelle Gabriel
Religion News Service

WASHINGTON—Interrupted by standing ovations and shouts of “amen,” President Bush signed the “partial-birth” abortion ban into law Nov. 5. An hour later, a federal judge in Nebraska issued a limitation injunction against the ban on behalf of four doctors.

The next day, a federal judge blocked the ban on request of the National Abortion Federation and seven doctors. A San Francisco judge has also scheduled arguments in a similar challenge.

“For years, a terrible form of violence has been directed against children who are inches from birth,” the president told a packed auditorium gathered in Washington’s Ronald Reagan Building for the signing. “Today, at last, the American people and our government have confronted the violence and come to the defense of the innocent child.”

The president cited medical research saying the majority of so-called “partial-birth” abortions are not required by medical emergency. He called the operations, which are used for late-term abortions, “a violation of medical ethics.”

However, U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf said in Lincoln, Neb., “While it is also true that Congress found that a health exception is not needed, it is, at the very least, problematic whether I should defer to such a conclusion when the Supreme Court has found otherwise.”

Before signing the bill, Bush told the audience that his signature was secondary to the power of a higher authority. “The right to life cannot be granted or denied by the government,” he said. “It comes from the creator of life.”

While the more than 400 people in the audience cheered Bush for what they hoped was a step toward reversing the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, about 100 protesters demonstrated outside to defend a woman’s right to abortion.

Although backed by Republicans, the bill attracted some Democratic support when it passed the House 281-142 on Oct. 2, and in a 64-34 vote in the Senate on Oct. 21.

“Partial-birth” abortions are most frequently performed between 20 and 26 weeks, advocates of the law say. The fetus is partially delivered and then aborted—a process the president called “a sudden, violent end to a life.”

The law imposes a two-year prison sentence and fines on any doctor who performs an “overt act” to end a late-term pregnancy.

Cathy Cleaver Ruse, spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ pro-life office, said the ban “has brought the country dramatically into the pro-life position.”

“No one wants to think about abortion—it’s an unpleasant issue no matter where you stand on the issue. But this debate forced people to think about where they stand.”

Throughout the past decade, Catholics have sent about 47 million postcards to Congress, calling for a ban on abortions, she said.

The new law is “a historic moment that no future court action will be able to take away,” Ruse said. “It’s a really beautiful grassroots effort that is culminating in the president’s signature.”

Medical and legal experts from the Center for Reproductive Rights fear the new law could criminalize abortions performed as early as 12 weeks into the pregnancy.

A center spokeswoman said the law could also encompass a number of procedures used to perform abortions. Because “partial-birth” is not a medical term for the outlawed procedure, the ban could be used to persecute doctors for performing a number of different procedures.

Nancy Northup, the center’s president, claimed a “partial-birth” abortion is the safest and most common way to perform a late-term abortion.

“When you ban the safest and most common procedures, women are at increased risk of becoming infertile, getting serious infections, or even dying,” Northup said. “The Supreme Court has already said that a law like this would have ‘tragic health consequences.’ We will do everything in our power to prevent this dangerous ban from taking effect.”

Congress approved similar bans twice in the 1990s, but both bills were vetoed by then-President Bill Clinton.

But Bush said “the executive branch will vigorously ... defend this law against anyone who might try to overturn it in the courts.”

State’s high court to hear arguments
in Charities ‘religious exemption’ case

By Catholic Herald staff

The California Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Dec. 2 in a landmark legal case to determine whether or not Catholic charities, hospitals and universities are religious organizations entitled to constitutional religious freedom guarantees.

The case, Catholic Charities, Inc. v. California Department of Managed Health Care, was filed in July 2000 in response to a change in state law that included most religious institutions in a requirement that employers pay for contraceptives in prescription insurance plans.

The law’s “conscience clause” allows organizations that fit a narrow definition of “religious employer” to be exempted from the requirement. But Catholic Charities and many other of the state’s church-affiliated institutions do not quality for the exemption.

Catholic Charities has argued in its suit that the law should be set aside because it violates the group’s religious freedom. The organization’s lawyers contend that under the religious tenets of Catholicism, “the use of contraception is intrinsically evil and a grave sin.” The 1999 state law, they have argued, burdens Catholic Charities “sincerely held religious beliefs, thereby violating the religious freedom guarantees” of both the federal and state constitutions.

The lawsuit “has very little to do with health insurance and everything to do with our fundamental rights as Americans,” said Martina O’Sullivan, president of Catholic Charities of California, in a press statement issued Nov. 10 by the California Catholic Conference, which represents the state’s bishops in legislative matters.

“It boils down to a very simple question: Under the Constitution, does the state of California have the right to tell its citizens how to practice their religion?” O’Sullivan said.

The two 1999 statutes took effect Jan. 1, 2000 and are known collectively as the “Women’s Contraception Equity Act.” According to the Catholic Conference’s statement, the WCEA’s conscience clause exempts churches and church schools, but otherwise does not apply if the religious organization employs or serves people from other faiths.

“Healing the sick, offering charity to the poor and providing education to the young are fundamental to how Catholics practice their religion,” said Ned Dolejsi, executive director of the conference, in the statement. “We don’t ask people if they are Catholic first.”

The conscience clause exemption applies to employers that meet four criteria. They include:
— The inculcation of religious values is the purpose of the entity.
— The entity primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets.
— The entity primarily serves people who share its religious tenets.
— The entity is classified as a nonprofit organization under the Internal Revenue Code.

Catholic Charities initially filed suit against the state in Sacramento Superior Court, requesting a preliminary injunction to preclude enforcement of the Women’s Contraceptive Equity Act. That request was denied in September 2000.
In November 2000, Catholic Charities filed a petition for a Writ of Mandate to California’s Third District Court of Appeal, to have the proceedings and the rulings of the Sacramento Superior Court reviewed and asking that the Superior Court be instructed to grant the injunction.

In July 2001, a three-justice panel of the Third District Court of Appeal affirmed the lower court’s denial of a preliminary injunction that would have permitted Catholic Charities to provide prescription coverage without contraceptives.
The appellate panel, in upholding the 1999 state law, said it did not force Catholic Charities to endorse contraception, only to treat its male and female employees equally.

The court also rejected Charities’ assertion that the law interfered with religious freedom by exempting the Catholic Church but not a church-affiliated charity that serves the general public. In addition, the appellate court ruled that the exemption was valid in that it applies equally to all religions.

On Aug. 10, 2001, Catholic Charities filed a petition with the California Supreme Court to review the decision by the state appeals court. On Sept. 26, 2001, the state Supreme Court agreed to review the appeals court decision.

In its Supreme Court appeal, Catholic Charities called the conscience clause exemption “religious gerrymandering” and said the state was meddling in church affairs. The organization’s lawyers wrote that the law requires Catholic Charities to choose between providing contraceptives, which it considers morally abhorrent, and withdrawing all prescription coverage, which it considers a moral duty.

Catholic Charities will be represented in the special session of the state’s high court by attorneys James Sweeney of Sacramento and Paul Gaspari of San Francisco. The session in the Santa Clara County Courthouse in San Jose will be televised.

Local charities deliver holiday wish list

A Friendly Place
A drop-in center for homeless women run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.
Need: Aspirin, cold medicines, spray deodorant, paper napkins, toilet tissue, toothpaste, socks, canned food; unwrapped Christmas gifts for women.
Where: 2298 San Pablo Ave.,
Oakland 94612
Contact: Sister Maureen Lyons, CSJ, (510) 451-8923

Bay Area Crisis Nursery
A 24-hour care center for children (birth through age 11) whose families are in crisis.
Need: Age appropriate books, games, puzzles and crafts for ages up to 12; dolls, books, and videos (G-rated) that reflect all ethnicities and nationalities; new, unused and non-violent toys (no war toys, guns, knives or violent materials including action figures); low-denomination pre-paid phone cards (the Nursery requires parents who are homeless to call the Nursery twice a day while their children are staying at the center). Gifts must be unwrapped.
Where: 1506 Mendocino Dr.,
Concord 94521
Contact: Sandy Hathaway, (925) 685-6633

Birthright
An international pregnancy service that supports pregnant girls and women who need help by providing positive alternatives to abortion.
Need: Cash donations for operating costs, office volunteers, professional people interested in serving as a member of the board of directors, new baby items such as clothing, crib sheets, wash cloths.
Where: 857 Second St., Suite D, Brentwood 94513
Contact: Rose Deitz, (925) 634-1275

Need: Crib blankets, receiving blankets, sleeper bags, baby towels, one-piece stretch outfits.
Where: 2924 Clayton Road, #C, Concord 94519
Contact: Arlene Verdugo, director, (925) 798-7227

Need
: Maternity clothes, baby clothes size 4 or 5, diapers, cash donations and volunteers.
Where: 1520 Catalina Court,
Building C, Livermore 94550
Contact: John M. Kupski, director, (925) 449-5887 or 1 (800) 550-4900

Need: Volunteers; prayer support; cash donations; diapers, baby items that are new or in very good condition, maternity clothes, especially tops, jeans and sweats.
Where: 1048 Grant Ave.,
San Lorenzo 94580
Contact: Edith Krassa, (510) 481-9677

Catholic Charities of the East Bay
Providing help and creating hope for people in need throughout Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.
Where: 433 Jefferson St., Oakland 94607
Contact: (510) 768-3109

• Adopt-A-Family
Holiday gifts for families in need.
Need: Donors who are willing to sponsor a family during the holidays. It is a commitment of approximately $250 per family. Placements are being made in Brentwood, Concord, Oakland and Richmond areas. Financial contributions are also accepted, payable to “Catholic Charities Adopt-A-Family,” 433 Jefferson St., Oakland, CA 94607
Contact: Mary Heckler, (510) 768-3132

• Care to Share

Individuals, parishes, businesses or schools adopt a family in need throughout the year, helping locate furniture, bedding, clothing, housing, and job opportunities.
Need: Long-term sponsorship of a family; financial contributions, payable to “Catholic Charities Care to Share Project,” 433 Jefferson Street, Oakland CA 94607
Contact: Mary Heckler, (510) 768-3132

• Detention Ministry

Pastoral Care to men, women, and children incarcerated in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
Need: Volunteers — to minister in the juvenile halls and adult jails, for administrative work one or two days week, to respond to letters written by inmates.
Contact: Jacqueline Manibusan, (510) 768-3168

• Development and Public Relations
Need: A digital camera (at least 3 megapixel), volunteers skilled in photography, writing, editing and graphic design; and others interested in helping carry out a number of clerical tasks.
Contact: Mary Heckler, (510) 768-3132

• Early Childhood Job Training Project
Job training in early education for limited English speaking adults in West Contra Costa County.
Need: Volunteers to help our participants prepare their income tax returns; small gifts to raffle off at a Dec. 12 holiday party for our clients; office supplies, especially copy paper.
Contact: Lisa Raffel, (510) 234-5110

• Employment and Training Program
Vocational training, job counseling and on-job-training.
Need: Microsoft Office tutorials for the resource center computers, Mavis Beacon typing tutorials, Internet training tutorials; bus passes and tickets for job seekers; fax machine for the resource center.
Contact: David Lyons, (510) 768-3150

• Family Service Centers Brentwood

Need: A good IBM Selectric or similar business typewriter.
Contact: Gustavo Arteaga, (925) 516-3880 Ext. 211

• Family Service Centers Oakland
Need: A good IBM Selectric or similar business typewriter, a computer program that automatically translates English text into Spanish.
Contact: Carol Leahy, (510) 768-3165, Richmond

• Family Service Centers Richmond

Need: An English to Spanish translation program for text.
Contact: Lisa Raffel, (510) 234-5110

• Jazz at the Castle
June fundraiser to benefit CCEB’s Family Service Centers in Brentwood, Concord, Oakland and Richmond.
Need: Contributions for live and silent auctions (heirloom jewelry, fine jewelry, time-shares, cruises, original works of art, sculpture, season tickets to cultural and sporting events, hand-made pottery, quilts, etc.) and a new car for a raffle.
Contact: Mary Heckler, , (510) 768-3132.

• Operation New Hope

Pre and post release educational program at Alameda County Camp Wilmont Sweeney Juvenile Detention Facility.
Need: Volunteers to conduct life-skills educational sessions in juvenile detention facilities and offer support to youth transitioning into local communities upon release from incarceration.
Contact: Jacqueline Manibusan, (510) 768-3168

• Project Joybells

An annual toy drive for children of CCEB clients.
Need: Financial contributions payable to “Catholic Charities Joybells,” 433 Jefferson Street, Oakland, CA 94607
Contact: Mary Heckler, (510) 768-3132

• Turkey Fund
Distributes Christmas turkeys to agencies, community programs and parishes for families in need.
Need: Contributions, payable to “Catholic Charities Turkey Fund,” 433 Jefferson Street, Oakland CA 94607.
Deadline: Wednesday, Dec. 10.
Contact: Jaime Uribe, (510) 768-3134

Contra Costa Interfaith Coalition

A network of faith-based communities, including several Catholic churches, which assist the needy in Contra Costa County by buying, preparing and distributing food at the Concord Homeless Shelter, and by supporting transitional housing programs that help the homeless to become self-sufficient.
Needs: Cash donations; new or washed blankets, box springs and mattresses; clothing; Safeway or Albertson gift certificates; sleeping bags; volunteers.
Where: 3319 Deerpark Dr., Walnut Creek 94598
Contact: John Krajcir, (925) 937-6742; fax: (925) 937-7075, ext. 51

Elizabeth House
The Catholic Worker house provides a one-year residence for single women and women with children who have experienced homelessness, violence or addiction.
Need: Cash donations for rent and utilities; food; diapers; toiletries; Safeway or Albertson’s scrip; office supplies; heavy-duty cookware and non-breakable cups; kids and adult (female and male) clothing.
Where: 6423 Colby St.,
Oakland 94618.
Contact: Courtenay Redis, (510) 658-1380, e-mail: credis@oakehouse.org

FACE (Family Aid – Catholic Education)
Tuition assistance to low-income families who desire to send their children to Catholic schools in the Oakland Diocese. Over 900 elementary and high school students are currently receiving FACE grants, but 1,200 needy students remain on the waiting list.
Needs: Financial contributions to help students on our waiting list; donations of items for FACE
auction fundraiser; volunteers to assist with mailings and annual auction event.
Where: 3000 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland 94610
Contact: Anne Rynders, executive
director, (510) 628-2169

Family Emergency Shelter Coalition (FESCO)
A local, grassroots nonprofit organization formed by a coalition of churches and community members in 1986 to help serve homeless families and children. The emergency shelter has 24 beds, four units of transitional housing provide for 18-month stays, a new transitional co-housing facility accommodates eight families.
Need: Monetary donations; gift certificates for groceries, clothing or household items, $10-$20 amounts; telephone/answering machines; printer cartridges, copier paper; vacuum cleaner; light use copier; twin-size comforter; coffee maker; elementary level dictionaries, high school thesauruses, college level dictionaries; bedroom clocks; postage stamps.
Where: 22245 Main St. #104, Hayward 94541
Contact: Nubia Giles, (510) 886-5473

Jubilee West
A multi-service center for the poor of west Oakland.
Need: Frozen turkeys or Albertson/Safeway gift certificates for groceries; non-violent toys, books and school supplies. Deliver to center. Can coordinate an “adopt-a-family” match for parishes, families, individuals interested in providing Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner for a family in need.
Where: 1485 Eighth St., Oakland 94607.
Contact: Sister Mina Gaskell, CSJ, or Kriztina Palone, (510) 839-6776

Lasallian Educational Opportunities (LEO) Center
An after-school tutoring and homework help center for 6-12th grade students in north and west Oakland; English language and computer training for adults. Operated by the Christian Brothers.
Need: Sponsorships for needy students to attend monthly field trips ($10 per student); summer enrichment program ($50 per student); we have a list of 120 titles of reference books we would like to purchase (approx. $10 per book); calligraphy pens ($10/student); computer hardware ($400), ink cartridges ($40 each).
Where: 3815 Telegraph Ave., Oakland 94609
Contact: Brother Christopher Bassen, FSC, (510) 450-0747

Loaves & Fishes of Contra Costa
The largest provider of daily meals to the hungry in Contra Costa County serves over 150,000 meals per year at dining rooms in Bay Point, Concord, Martinez and Oakley and at the catering kitchen in Pittsburg. Supported by volunteers from over 60 churches, including Catholic churches, synagogues, service and community organizations.
Need: Cash donations, volunteers.
Where: P.O. Box 3335, Danville, 94526
Contact: (925) 837-8758

Mercy Brown Bag Program

A project sponsored by Mercy Retirement and Care Center which provides bags of free nutritious groceries twice a month to 1400 low income seniors at 13 sites in Alameda County.
Need: Cash donations, volunteers to assist with sorting items in the warehouse, large-sized brown grocery bags.
Where: 3431 Foothill Blvd.,
Oakland 94601
Contact: Joy Clinton, (510) 534-8540, ext. 369

Next Step Learning Center

An adult literacy program operated by the Sisters of the Holy Names.
Need: Cash donations for literacy books; financial assistance for students unable to pay cost of GED examination; tutors.
Where: 2222 Curtis St., Oakland 94607
Contact: Sister Cynthia Canning, SNJM or Sister Rosemary Delaney, SNJM, (510) 251-1731

Nights on the Streets – Catholic Worker
Hospitality to the homeless and needy by providing food, clothing, shelter, assistance, counseling and referral.
Need: Volunteers to prepare and distribute thrice-weekly meals to homeless in Berkeley; canned and dry goods for our food pantry which serves 100-125 persons per month; a house for 8-10 workers and guests with expanded kitchen, a food storage area and extended bathroom/shower facilities; financial support; prayers.
Where: P.O. Box 13468, Berkeley 94712-4468
Contact: J.C. Orton, (510) 845-6151

St. Andrew-St. Joseph Soup Kitchen

Serves daily free meals to the hungry in west and downtown Oakland. Thanksgiving Day meal: 12 - 2 p.m. Christmas Day meal: 12 – 2 p.m.
Need: Cash donations, warm clothing, blankets; fresh fruit, food staples and Christmas dinner fixings including turkeys, hams, yams, turkey stuffing, beans, rice; toys (stuffed animals, dolls, educational toys and supplies); volunteers.
Where: 3220 San Pablo Ave., Oakland 94608
Contact: Mary Lou Stelly, (510) 653-7411; Shirley Weber, (510) 658-6622, soup kitchen.

St. David’s Food Pantry
An outreach ministry that provides food for low-income families every Friday. Conducted by St. David Parish in Richmond in cooperation with other area parishes and churches.
Needs: Cash donations, volunteers, prayers for the ministry.
Contact: (510) 237-1531
Where: St. Mark Church, 159 Harbour Way, Richmond 94801

St. Mary’s Center
A multi-service center for the poor in downtown Oakland.
Need: Volunteers to “Adopt-A-Family” and provide Christmas gifts and dinner for that family. This includes a gift for each child and monetary donation to St. Mary’s Center marked “Christmas Food” to cover a $75-100 food voucher for your adopted family; volunteers to prepare and/or serve evening meals for 25 homeless seniors in emergency Winter Shelter, December through April.
Where: 635 – 22nd St., Oakland 94612
Contact: Sister Marilyn Medau, PBVM, (510) 893-4723, ext. 202

St. Vincent de Paul Society of Alameda County


• St. Vincent de Paul Free Dining Room

Daily free meal to men, women and children in downtown Oakland, 10:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Managed by Daughters of Charity.
Need: Cash donations, turkeys, hams; volunteers.
Where: 675 – 23rd St., Oakland 94612 (on 23rd at San Pablo).
Contact: Sister Mark Sandy, DC, (510) 451-7676

• St. Vincent de Paul Visitation Center

Drop-in center for women and children with showers, laundry, distribution of infant, children’s and women’s clothing, resource and referral services available. Managed by Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.
Need: New children’s clothes, new toys.
Where: 2060 San Pablo Ave., Oakland 94612 (between 23rd and West Grand)
Contact: Sister Marion Bill, DC, (510) 444-3790

• St. Vincent de Paul Champion Guidance Center for Men

Drop-in center for men with showers, laundry, clothing, games, TV, resource and referral services available; AA meetings Tues., 8 a.m.; NA meeting, Thurs., 8 a.m.
Need: Men’s clothing and shoes.
Where: 2080 San Pablo Ave., Oakland, 94612 (between 23rd and West Grand)
Contact: Steve Krank, (510) 444-0264

Shelter, Inc. of Contra Costa County
An independent charitable nonprofit corporation to help alleviate the plight of the homeless in the County.
Needs: Food, gift certificates from Safeway or Albertson for a holiday meal; clothing, blankets, diapers and other items for newborn and older babies. Can coordinate an “adopt-a-family” match for individuals and groups who would like to provide gifts and help make the holiday merrier for a family in need.
Where: 1815 Arnold Dr., Martinez 94553.
Contact: Michele Beasley, (925) 335-0698, ext.

101Tri-City Volunteers
A community-based organization that provides food baskets for 2,000 needy families in the Fremont, Union City and Newark area.
Need: Cash donations to buy food; hams, turkeys, turkey trimmings including cranberries, stuffing, canned fruit, pasta, rice; baby diapers; new toys for children; gifts for teens and senior citizens; volunteers to help sort food and do other tasks.
Where: 37350 Joseph St., Fremont 94536
Contact: Blanca Zepeda, (510) 793-4583

West County Resource Center
A multi-service program for people who are homeless, sponsored by the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program (GRIP) that includes 30 West Contra Costa churches including Catholic parishes.
Needs: Cash donations; baby high chairs; baby food; diapers; women’s hygiene products; winter coats of all sizes; travel-size soaps, shampoos and other products in travel-size containers.
Where: 165-22nd St., Richmond 94801
Contact: Donna Borden, (510) 236-7386

De Staebler’s art inspires
praise or criticism

By Diane Weddington
Special to The Voice

The mutilated human figures comprising the core of sculptor Stephen De Staebler’s work either repel or fascinate those who see them. Broken or distorted limbs spring upward from oversized feet. Instead of shoulders, torsos sprout partial wings resembling other broken human forms. Nothing is complete.

“The first thing some people say is, ‘Well, it has no head.’ That bothers them,” explains Doug Adams, Pacific School of Religion professor of art, preaching and worship, referring to a De Staebler sculpture at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.

“But it’s intentional. If you see a face, with eyes open, that’s all you’ll see. He wants to call attention to the body.” Thus De Staebler’s figures deliberately defy convention.

Western culture idealizes the body depicted in Graeco-Roman art, Adams says, but no one really has that young adolescent’s perfect body. Trying to reach that ideal or seeking it in others leaves many people miserable, he adds.

De Staebler intentionally depicts a completely different kind of body. “Sometimes there’s only one leg, or one arm. It’s his way of saying the body is incomplete, and if we recognize the incompleteness in ourselves, we can accept it in others,” Adams says.

De Staebler’s interest in the human spirit began when he was 19 and went to Assisi, Italy. There he became fascinated with the life of St. Francis, “who helped the rest of us realize the divine spark in all walks of life,” he says. He wrote his senior thesis at Princeton about St. Francis and planned to do graduate studies in the history of religion.

“He was ahead of the environmental movement in many ways,” says Adams. “His work is connected to the earth, as was St. Francis. His sculptures are literally an extension of the earth. The feet and lower legs are younger than the upper parts, seeming to say that keeping in touch with the earth keeps one young.”

Instead of pursuing academic religion, DeStaebler returned to California, where he met and married his wife. He began studying sculpture at UC-Berkeley with Peter Voulkos, known for sculptures made from broken ceramic vessels.

Though he says Voulkos “made every student feel he was the center of the universe, in the sense of making you feel that you were what you wanted to be,” De Staebler says he had stronger influences. Surprisingly, those are not Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore and Alberto Giacometti, the sculptors to whom he is most often compared.

“While I appreciate them … and am glad Moore discovered the organic form … my real influences go to childhood,” he says. “My art teacher at Washington School in St. Louis knew I had a hunger to be an artist and treated me as such even though I was only 5. He gave me real oil paints in tubes, watercolors, easel, palette. He told me things I did not fully understand then but have always remembered.”

Experiencing artistic block even at such a young age, De Staebler turned to his teacher. “I had trouble getting started. He told me every artist needs two people. The first one comes along when you are stalled, smears paint on the canvas, and you start. The second comes along when you ought to stop, hits you over the head and stops you.”

As an 8th grader still experiencing block, he worked with his second great influence, another teacher. “I said, ‘I’m not in the mood,’ and she told me, ‘There’s no such thing as mood. Get to work.’ I did. Like Alistair Cooke, I now believe professionals are the people who do some of their best work when they don’t feel like it.”

Art was synonymous with painting when he was a child, De Staebler says. Although he sculpted horses, dogs and human figures once in a childhood summer class, he did not envision himself as a sculptor.

“It was only when I grew up and entered my graduate program at UC that I first saw sculpture as a full art form.” De Staebler still paints, but he prefers to work in clay or even bronze. “I’ve tried to paint in a serious way, but it’s difficult. What comes so quickly is quickly destroyed. It’s very difficult to know when to stop.”

The message of De Staebler’s work is “in its incompletion or concavity,” Adams says. “The void, the negative space, allows for ‘the hope for things unseen.’ The concavities are like caves, or wombs or tombs. Shapes emerge from the tops, maybe wings, or flames. Most of his figures are ambiguous. This void allows us to interpret the works with our own eyes of faith, not necessarily explicitly Christian.”
Adams likens De Staebler’s forms to Egyptian sculptures or Christian icons. “His images are frontal, and that frontality has to do with transcendence,” Adams says.

“It’s the difference in a cocktail and a dinner party. At the cocktail party, I look over your shoulder hoping someone better is coming along. If I have to look at you face-to-face, as at a dinner party, we have to speak, if not agree.”

One of De Staebler’s more controversial projects is the chapel at Holy Spirit Parish/Newman Hall in Berkeley, which he designed in 1967. The altar, lectern, crucifix, tabernacle and celebrant’s chair, all his work, have been both praised and derided.

Adams believes the work is an ideal embodiment of the union of images of the suffering Christ and the resurrected Savior, which have alternated dominance throughout Christian history.

“Vatican II emphasized that the crucifix is more about resurrection than crucifixion, and it was jarring for many, who were used only to a suffering Christ,” Adams says. “(Newman Hall) was one of the first places built when Vatican II was coming in. It was a very congenial time for him to have both in his design.”

Few people know De Staebler turned his own studio into a working model of the chapel as he designed it. He says, “It dawned on me, as (the priest) went through his sequence of the Mass, that it formed a crucifix. That determined the shape and the floor plan (of the Center). I’ve always sorry when people have trouble with the cruciform, because it’s highly natural.”

The Hearst Art Gallery at St. Mary’s College in Moraga has selected De Staebler for its sixth Master Artist Tribute exhibition (Nov. 12-Dec. 14).

The exhibit includes only work he has done since 1973. “That is when I made the transition from landscape to figure. All the pieces are figurative. But from the beginning, my work embodied the human figure. There is a progression in the imagery, but a strong continuity. It’s a question of how recognizable the figures are.”

He dismisses questions about future work. “It’s all by the grace of God. For now, my daughter Arianna, whose adoption was completed last year, is the priority of my life. I’ve had a complete restructuring of my life.” He laughs, as Arianna tugs at his clothes and demands to be held and heard. “She’s a complete wonder.”

St. Mary’s lecture to explore
De Staebler’s winged figures

The De Staebler exhibit at the Hearst Art Gallery at St. Mary’s College Hearst Art Gallery runs through Dec. 14. Gallery hours are Wed. through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Suggested donation is $2. There is free parking.

On Dec. 2, Doug Adams, professor at the Graduate Theological Union, will give a public slide lecture, “Art with Space for Faiths: Stephen De Staebler’s Family of Winged Figures,” at 7:30 p.m. in the campus Soda Center.

De Staebler will be present at the lecture, which is being co-sponsored by the college’s John S. Cummins Catholic Institute, the religious studies dept. and campus ministry. Donation is $5.

Generosity of St. Raymond Parish
impresses Dublin’s new pastor

 

By Carrie McClish
Staff writer

Since he was named pastor at Dublin’s St. Raymond Parish on Aug. 1, Father Robert McCann has been doing a lot of listening and he is delighted by what he’s hearing about a community that is as active and welcoming as it is large.

“There are over 72 different activities, ministries and groups that meet here on a regular basis,” he said about the parish, which covers all of Dublin and parts of San Ramon and Pleasanton and has between 2500 and 3000 families. “A marvelous staff coordinates and directs these programs and the opportunities and challenges of the Gospel are taken very seriously in everyday life.”

But the parish is not solely focused on its own needs. For years, St. Raymond has gifted 10 percent of its plate collection to parishes and ministries in other parts of the diocese and region. Parishioners, for example, contribute to a variety of programs, from helping prepare and serve meals at Oakland’s St. Vincent de
Paul Dining Room to participating with Habitat for Humanity.

The community is also deeply dedicated in supporting one another in their journey of faith. “People are very committed to the Gospel message,” Father McCann said. “There are several adult spirituality groups and many small Christian communities that I have not witnessed in other parishes I have been
associated with.”

He plans to learn as much as he can about his new community and work with the staff, which includes Father Terence O’Malley, who recently joined the parish as parochial vicar.

His new parishioners are also learning about the various gifts and credentials Father McCann, 49, brings with him to their community. A native of Hicksville, NY, he has a master’s degree in philosophy from the Catholic University of America and a master of divinity degree from St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park. He also holds a licentiate in canon law (JCL) from the Catholic University of America.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1981 by Bishop John Cummins, Father McCann served as associate pastor at All Saints Parish in Hayward for five years before being appointed pastor at St. Cyril Parish in Oakland in 1986.

The priest returned to All Saints Parish as pastor in 1990, a position he held until 2001. During that time he also served as dean for the South Alameda deanery and, beginning in 1993, as a judge and adjutant judicial vicar in the diocesan Canon Law Department.

He is a member of the Diocesan Review Board dealing with accusations of clergy sexual misconduct, and of the steering committee for Christ the Light Cathedral. He is the Northern California Province representative for 10 dioceses to the National Federation of Priests’ Councils and is a NFPC executive board member.

He welcomes his return to parish ministry because it allows him to grow in his faith and experience the faith of others.

“I meet many parishioners and am very often welcomed immediately into their family lives and faith experience,” he said. “My own faith journey is so enriched when I encounter many parishioners striving to follow the Gospel message in their own lives.”

His goal as pastor, he said, is “to serve the people here in a way that will always remind them of God’s unconditional love and invitation to life and life to the fullest.”

OCO and COR lobby
on behalf of local renters

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

Parishioners in Oakland and San Lorenzo went to bat recently for local renters, taking their fight for fair prices and safe housing to council members and county supervisors.

In an action meeting held at St. Anthony Parish in Oakland Nov. 3, leaders in Oakland Community Organizations secured commitments from Oakland City Council president Ignacio De La Fuente and council member Danny Wan to improve the code inspection process for rental property. The meeting was held after OCO investigated complaints of substandard conditions in local apartments.

Disappointing vote
That same week, on Nov. 6, members of Congregations Organizing for Renewal, representing southern Alameda County, watched as the county board of supervisors voted 3-2 to require landlords with property in unincorporated areas to inform tenants of mediation services whenever they announce a rent increase.

The vote was a disappointment for COR leaders, many of them from St. John the Baptist Parish in San Lorenzo, who had counted on at least three supervisors approving a stronger ordinance. They had proposed two possible laws that would bring landlords and tenants together to mediate disputed increases before a third party in a non-binding process.

One, based on a City of San Leandro ordinance, would require landlords to mediate with tenants when they asked for rent increases of at least $75 a month or more than 10 percent of the previous rent or when they asked a tenant for more than one increase within a 12-month period.

The second option proposed by COR would allow for voluntary landlord participation unless a specified percentage of landlords refused to participate, in which case mediation would become mandatory.

The vote came after a two-year effort to secure protection for renters in unincorporated areas, who lack the benefits of laws governing rental units in many local cities. “Two years ago we began to hear a lot of concern at St. John in San Lorenzo (an unincorporated community),” said Eva Creydte-Schulte, an organizer with COR.

“Skyrocketing rents were forcing families to move out of our communities.”
COR began investigating the issue and met with renters, landlords, local officials, members of the Rental Housing Organization (representing landlords) and the Eden Council for Hope and Opportunity (ECHO), a Hayward-based service for landlord-tenant disputes.

They held an action meeting with 400 participants and received commitments from two county supervisors to support their efforts. In spite of follow-up meetings with supervisors and a hard-pressed lobbying effort by COR leaders, they failed to get the three votes needed on the day of the supervisors’ meeting.

At least one COR leader, however, said the result was nevertheless a victory. Roberta Furger of St. John said, “In the midst of all this it was a significant step in the right direction.”

The new law, which has yet to be drafted and approved, will require landlords to tell tenants about ECHO’s mediation services, and this, Furger said, solves “one of the big problems,” which is notifying renters of help that is available.

“That’s a victory, and it’s huge for renters,” she said. She also noted that county supervisors “are distant geographically and sometimes philosophically” from residents in many areas of the county, unlike elected officials in local cities, who come from the community. This adds to the difficulty in trying to pass housing legislation in the county.

COR, she said, is now regrouping and considering what step to take next. “We’ve demonstrated that we’re not going away on this one,” she said.

Leaders from St. Anthony/OCO were more encouraged by the results of their meeting, where more than 150 people showed up to bring their concerns before council members De La Fuente and Wan as well as Calvin Wong, director of building services.

Increase accountability
Father Ramiro Flores, parochial vicar at St. Anthony, chaired the bilingual meeting, and parishioners gave testimony about their problems with roach-infested housing and illegal rent increases.

Among them was Ignacio Hernandez, who lives in a one-bedroom apartment with his wife and three children. Hernandez said he had called the city vector control department himself because the cockroach problem was so severe. In spite of a city inspection and report that confirmed his complaint, he said, the landlord failed to take action.

Tenants at the property have also received rent increases. Jose Alfred Cruz reported that the landlord raised his monthly rent twice this year for a total of $152 or 22 percent, although Oakland rental law only allows for a three percent increase. When tenants organized, they said, the landlord threatened to have them deported.

Mercedes Gomez, also a St. Anthony parishioner, testified that the city had turned up 53 code violations at an apartment building, including broken furnaces, mold, holes in bathroom ceilings and walls, roach infestation, trash and debris, but the landlord has made only minor reparations.

Both apartment complexes “are uninhabitable and have been for years,” said St. Joseph of Carondelet Sister Ann Magovern, an OCO organizer.

Through the experiences of tenants such as Hernandez and Gomez, OCO leaders say they have discovered flaws in the city’s rent ordinance, which allows landlords to pass along the cost of repairs to tenants.

They asked the council members to increase the accountability of the code inspection department, create a process for tenant input when negotiating repairs with landlords, protect tenants from retaliation and make landlords responsible for repairs that bring a unit up to code.

During the meeting at St. Anthony, Wan and De La Fuente agreed to work with the city to go after code violations and protect tenants. Only two weeks earlier the city council had amended the public nuisance ordinance to force landlords to do repairs, levying fines of up to $250,000 a year on substandard buildings.

Sister Magovern said the new law allows the city “to go after slumlords in a more effective way,” but OCO is still asking for a new code inspection program “that would not be so complaint driven.”

Both Wan and De La Fuente, she said, agreed to research the issue and “come back with new models” in a follow-up session in February. Wong also agreed that the system was not working, she said, and he has asked her and other OCO leaders to meet with him to discuss the problems.

The leaders are going to look into code inspection programs in other cities, Sister Magovern said. “We’re asking for a more systemic answer to the problem. Oakland is really behind the times.”

Peaceful dialog: the recipe for
a successful future

By Franne Van der Keilen
Catholic Relief Services, Cairo

Every morning, I hear the call to prayer emanating from the mosque I pass on my way to work in downtown Cairo. Every morning, I walk by the same friendly fruit vendor who greets me with a smile and wishes me a good day. And every morning, I pass security convoys, check points and fences posted in front of foreign embassies and consulates. They, too, are part of the street scenery in the reality we have come to know.

This reality contains a special urgency as the pages of contemporary history continue to be written in a river of blood, while concurrently the world has gradually become more interdependent and pluralistic.

How can we live together peacefully? For starters, let’s talk to one another.

More than ever, dialogue plays an important role in bridging differences between cultures and faiths, increasing understanding of critical issues, forging common ground and exploring reconciliation. We have more in common than we think. And we must get to know one another to ensure a civil future for our children.
This is a shared responsibility.

Dialogue between people is good under all circumstances; however, it is increasingly imperative between the Muslim world, particularly in the Middle East, and the West. There is a growing rift that over time, unless it is bridged, threatens to become the new Cold War. While we expect our government leaders to carry on this dialogue at the diplomatic level, this does not replace the need of each of us as citizens to become more fully engaged in this particular relationship.

Recently in Amman, Jordan, a three-day conference took place aimed at finding ways to improve understanding and cooperation between the United States and the Muslim world. The meeting was organized in partnership with His Royal Highness Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan and the American-Belgian non-governmental organization Search for Common Ground.

Together, they convened representatives of civil society, clergy, academics, human rights activists, officials of relief and development agencies (including Catholic Relief Services) and media leaders – all catalysts and facilitators of Islamic-Western dialogue – and launched a project called Partners in Humanity to build bridges between the Muslim world and the United States.

During his opening speech, Prince Hassan set the tone for the meeting, saying, “We must become forceful about the idea of peacefulness. We must promote moderation in an era of extremism and intolerance.”

Prince Hassan stressed that “Cross-cultural dialogue provides a bridge that enables people of different backgrounds to live together,” and explained that the ultimate goal of the partnership is to “Seek to bring about more broadly Islamic-American cooperation based on mutual respect and guided by a sense of shared humanity.”

Catholic Relief Services in the Middle East and North Africa works with both faith-based and secular partners who share the same vision and values. As they seek to create opportunities for justice, peace and reconciliation these partners bring unique perspectives to activities and help build understanding based on shared values.

Retirement collection helps
local religious with care

By Voice staff

Catholics in the Oakland Diocese and across the country are asked to contribute to the 16th national collection for the Retirement Fund for Religious the weekend of Dec. 13-14.

The annual appeal raises funds to help provide appropriate care for retired Sisters, Brothers and religious order priests.

Last year, communities serving in the East Bay received more than $400,000 from the fund to supplement Social Security benefits for their members. Most of these religious remain active in some form of ministry, but usually in a non-salaried capacity.

Addressing the retirement needs of the Religious has been a major concern for the Catholic community in recent decades as both the average age of retired religious and health care costs continue to rise.

According to the National Religious Retirement Office in Washington, D.C. more than 54 percent of the 63,205 women religious in the country are now past 70. Of the 13,815 men in religious orders more than 37 percent of them are past 70.
The total cost of care provided to retired religious in independent, assisted living, and skilled nursing homes across the country reached more than $837 million last year. However, the annual social Security benefit received by an individual religious is less than $4,000.

Last year the Retirement Fund for Religious collected more than $28 million and provided assistance to more than 500 religious orders.

“American Catholics have responded most admirably to the aging of religious,” said Precious Blood Sister Andree Fries, executive director of the National Religious Retirement Office.

“They recall what religious did for them in the past,” she added, “but they also know that the aging of religious women and men foreshadow many issues that face the nation.”

Several religious communities that are based or minister in the Oakland Diocese were beneficiaries of the Fund. They include: the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose in Fremont ($69,451.35); Sisters of the Holy Family, Fremont ($37,339.74).

Franciscan Friars, Oakland ($95,017.18); Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Oakland ($6,394.63); Society of the Precious Blood, San Leandro ($3,911.14).

Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, Los Gatos ($79,228.83); Sisters of Social Service, Los Angeles ($45,435.37); Society of the Divine Word, Los Angeles ($13,052.57); Salesian Society, San Francisco ($29,511.43); and the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, San Francisco ($34,356.15).

Catholics in the Oakland Diocese contributed $232,269.07 last year.

Orinda parish delivers
130 new dictionaries

By Sharon Abercrombie
Staff writer

When Santa Maria parishioners Margaret Govednik and Mary McCosker delivered 130 new dictionaries to St. Cornelius School last spring, one of the grateful teachers, deeply touched by the largesse of the Orinda parish, gave each of the women a big hug. “You have no idea what you’ve done for us,” she said in a teary voice.

“Us” included second through sixth graders at the Richmond school. These youngsters, the children of financially struggling, largely Hispanic immigrants, had a different reaction — sheer delight.

The dictionaries, with colored pictures to accompany the definitions, are the educational equivalent of gold.

They are great for helping youngsters to check their spelling and learn the meanings of words, said Govednik.

The kids expressed their gratitude by writing thank you letters to every Santa Maria parishioner who participated in the “Adopt a Dictionary” program.
This project is just one of many good things that have transpired for teachers and students at St. Cornelius School since they were adopted by Santa Maria Parish two years ago.

In 2001, the school had no library, no computers, and no up-to-date textbooks. They now have a library/research center, and computers with Internet hookup and PowerPoint capability. Santa Maria made the center a reality, by donating $7,000 to have the old unused library rewired.

Another $4,000 donation for matching grant funds has enabled the school to purchase language arts books for the sixth through eighth grades and math textbooks for the third through fifth grade. A recent gift of $3,000 will help the school implement an after-school tutorial program to assist parents and students with study and language skills.

Because of another $3200 in parish donations four students, unable to meet their tuition obligations, can stay at St. Cornelius.

St. Cornelius’s good fortune began when Govednik, co-chair of Santa Maria’s social justice committee, asked Catholic Charities of the East Bay to refer her to a school that needed supplies. Parishioners wanted to take up a special collection for school children as their Lenten project.

Charities suggested St. Cornelius since, like Santa Maria, it was in Contra Costa County. As it turned out, parishioners at Santa Maria had not been aware of the Richmond parish, Govednik said. Until they became acquainted with St. Cornelius, they had not realized the dire poverty that existed in their own county.
When Govednik and Ginny Thompson, co-chair of the social justice committee, visited the school to deliver their supplies, they heard stories of families who turned over their paychecks for tuition, keeping only enough money for food and bare necessities.

Although St. Cornelius receives some money from the annual Bishop’s Appeal, and some families receive assistance from the diocesan Family Aid-Catholic Education (FACE) fund, the school still faces significant shortages.
The two women brought their findings back to Msgr. Ted Kraus, who had just become the new pastor. He agreed that St. Cornelius deserved assistance, and stipulated that the social justice committee work out a plan of collaboration between the two parishes, combining their needs, resources and talents, said Govednik.

Now the parish donates one third of its parish outreach funds to St. Cornelius – five percent of each first collection. But there is still much to do, added Govednik.
St. Cornelius needs major help with tuition assistance. Last year the school lost 50 kids because their parents couldn’t afford to keep them there. This past year, they saw attendance drop by another 52, putting the current student population at 266.

Govednik hopes other financially blessed parishes in the diocese will become partners with Santa Maria or partner with other financially strapped schools.
“It’s an incredibly rewarding experience to make a difference in the lives of some wonderful people,” she said. And if those aren’t enough reasons, she offers one more:

“The future of California is in the hands of these children.”
Interested parishes can reach Govednik at (925) 254-1934.

 

Oakland’s St. Elizabeth High chosen
for four-year management program

By Voice staff

St. Elizabeth High School in Oakland is one of four Catholic secondary schools in the U.S. chosen to take part in a program to improve management, development and Catholic identity over a four-year period.

The school was selected out of a pool of more than 50 Catholic secondary schools nationwide and will receive about $160,000 over four years as well as support from Catholic School Management, Inc., a consultative firm located in Connecticut. The firm will visit St. Elizabeth monthly to help improve its long-range planning, fiscal management, governance structure, student services, enrollment management, marketing and development, according to Dominican Sister Liam Brock, principal.

In notifying St. Elizabeth of the award, CSM president Richard J. Burke wrote, “Our research – and your comments and actions – clearly indicate that St. Elizabeth High School is very much wanted and deserves every opportunity to continue providing a Catholic education for young men and women for many years to come.”

The grant comes through the National Program for Consultative Guidance to Catholic Secondary Schools in Governance, Management, Catholic Identity and Development.