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  May 9, 2005 VOL. 43, NO. 9Oakland, CA

articles list

ASt. Paschal Parish – 50 years of community prayer

History of St. Paschal Parish

Parishes involved in Habitat demonstrate
homebuilding with heart

Dominican Sisters dedicate
renewed chapel and care center

U.S. Senators introduce bill
for embryonic stem cell research

Settlement talks continue in abuse cases against dioceses in Northern California

Church pro-life official hails House bill on parent notification of interstate abortions

St. Bernard Parish succeeds in getting
Oakland police to promise officers

Robert Kennedy, Jr. tells environment story

Earth Charter
energizes nuns
into action

Oakland priest is eyewitness to papal installation


•The Blessed Virgin has long history as Our Lady of the Californias

• Election of Benedict XVI means end to doctrinal accommodation

• Papal death and election speak to the mysteries of existence

• Pope can unite with Muslims by pointing to Jesus


Father Gerald Dybdal
















































St. Paschal Parish – 50 years of community prayer

Ten years ago, Adrian Mison Fulay visited St. Paschal Church in Oakland without high expectations. He assumed the Saturday evening Mass would be reflective of a “let’s get it over with” mentality he’d observed among some parishioners in other parishes.

Instead, he experienced an engaging liturgy and a surprisingly friendly congregation. “They knew I wasn’t part of the community, but they welcomed me and they invited me back,” he said.

The Berkeley resident returned for a Sunday Mass and again found the parishioners to be affable and the liturgy vibrant.

“I felt that this (liturgy) was something very important to the community here,” he said. “And that has kept me coming back.” Today he is the parish’s liturgy director. And liturgy remains at the center of parish life.

Next Sunday, May 15, Bishop Allen Vigneron will preside at the 10:30 a.m. Mass, the culmination of the parish’s 50th anniversary celebrations that included a brunch kickoff last May, a special Advent pageant, and a dinner/dance last month for 200 current and former parishioners. The Mass will be the only liturgy on Sunday and will be followed by a champagne brunch.

Liturgy is what St. Paschal has long been known for, said Father Michael Norkett, pastor since 2001. He cited the successful music ministry, including an “excellent” choir, as one of the strengths of their liturgy program. His predecessor, Father Robert Rien, pastor from 1990 – 1998, was a liturgist who developed a liturgy committee and choir, leaving a lasting legacy, Father Norkett said.

Father Rien helped the parish focus on “really celebrating liturgy well and really making it the center of our lives and the community,” Fulay added. “He got the parishioners involved in owning the liturgy or making it their own.”

“A lot of people have the sense that they are responsible for making the liturgy work and happen on a Sunday,” Fulay explained. “They are here, they are involved in the ministries [as Eucharistic ministers, greeters, Eucharistic bread bakers], they are involved in the choir, they expect engaging homilies and music that uplifts and inspires.”

This sense of ownership among the 220 registered members spills out into other parish ministries. Some volunteer at downtown Oakland’s St. Mary’s Center, which gave St. Paschal’s its “outstanding parish” award a couple of years ago
Others are involved at Elizabeth House for homeless women and their children and Casa Vincentia, a residential program for single pregnant women, both in Oakland. During Advent, the parish sponsors a Giving Tree program to aid local charities.

About three years ago, SPRED, the diocesan Special Religious Education Department, moved its model training center to the parish’s former convent. This ministry for Catholics with developmental disabilities has brought fresh energy to the parish, said Chris Dobbins, pastoral council president. Since SPRED’s arrival, a number of parishioners have become active supporters of the program.

Last year the parish went through a difficult time with the closure of St. Paschal School, one of three schools in the diocese to close because of low enrollment and revenues. But the older parishioners realized that it was inevitable because there were few Catholic families with children enrolled there, Father Norkett said. A private school, Northern Light, is now renting the site.

As the parish looks toward its future, it has begun the formidable task of attracting new and younger members. The issue is especially challenging because the church is tucked up on a hill in a residential area near the Oakland Zoo. High housing costs have deterred potential young adult homeowners from moving into the area.

The parish may benefit from new housing construction at a former quarry near Edwards Avenue and a possible housing project at the former Oak Knoll Naval Hospital.

In the meantime the parish has started a campaign that is part-evangelization and part-community building called “Growing the Parish.” Parishioners have distributed flyers and brochures in the neighborhood to let residents know about the parish and have hosted a block party on parish property.

A group of parishioners are also going door-to-door to visit homes in the neighborhood to introduce themselves, describe the parish community and invite residents to visit the church and see for themselves. “Part of it is reaching out to people who are not part of a church anymore or who have left the Church or who just haven’t thought about it,” said Fulay.

One focus is teens and young adults. “We’re trying to get a young adult program going,” said Dobbins, 33. He acknowledged that many of his peers are not motivated to go to church. To help bridge the generation gap he has helped organize events for younger people, including a haunted house for Halloween. He hopes to plan similar activities in the future. “It is a challenge for any of the churches to get younger people
going,” he said.

St. Paschal Church sits on an Oakland hill with sweeping views of San Francisco Bay. Its three-bell tower (left) is a landmark, easily seen from Hwy. 580..

Father Michael Norkett, pastor, elevates the consecrated host and wine during Sunday Mass. Left, a group of the parish’s Eucharistic ministers prepare to help him distribute Communion.

Parishioners of all ages, including infant Jovan Hacker and his dad (above), worship in the church which acquired a new altar in 1992. Bishop Cummins presided at the dedication liturgy on April 5 of that year.




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