A Publication of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland  
Catholic Voice Online Edition  
Front Page In this Issue Around the Diocese Letters Bishop's Column News in Brief Calendar
Mission Statement
Contact Us
Publication Dates
Back Issues

  June 19, 2006 • VOL. 44, NO. 12 • Oakland, CA

articles list

Priests celebrate ordination jubilees

New pastors named for Hayward, Oakland parishes

Students create devotional images in Eucharistic art contest

Fremont parish to break ground for new church near Mission San Jose

Six popes later, security chief at
Vatican turns in his jogging shoes

Guatemalan bishop:
Free trade widens
rich-poor gap


Sister Virginia Marie Straight, SNDdeN

























Priests celebrate ordination jubilees

50 Years of Priestly Ministry

PhotoFather Barry Brunsman, OFM

Birthplace: Phoenix, Arizona
Ordination: Dec. 22, 1956, Old Mission Santa Barbara
Present ministry: Director, St. Francis Retreat Center, San Juan Bautista
Past service in diocese: Retreat presenter, San Damiano Retreat Center, Danville. Assistant prison chaplain, Federal Prison, Dublin
When I was 14, I entered the Franciscan seminary to become a priest. I didn’t have the faintest idea of what I was doing or getting into. I had a vague notion of helping people. Had I known what was ahead, I would have been too intimidated to even begin.

My parents were good Catholics. Despite the Depression, their five children were educated in a parochial school Then by God’s grace I survived 13 years of seminary training. With this background, possessing lots of theory and little practical experience, I began teaching in a Catholic high school. Later I was made chaplain of a state hospital, including the ward for the criminally insane.
Because Franciscans are not confined to a parish, school or institutional department, our assignments are varied. We have the opportunity to serve God’s people who live on the margins of society.

After a stint in a parish in Utah, which included serving as a school bus driver, I was assigned to the Tenderloin area of San Francisco. As a young friar of 31, I heard stories from prostitutes, strippers, drug addicts and drunks who found their way to the friary. Next I found myself going to them in their need, even in the middle of the night.

Because of my high energy, I was also given chaplaincy of the juvenile correction institution in San Francisco. Then I began ministry to the divorced and separated through a series of support groups.

When the gay/lesbian community began to look for support and understanding in the Church, I was too proud to admit I didn’t know anything about their orientation or mine for that matter. I listened to them closely so I could understand their way of thinking. All my boyhood prejudices were soon annihilated.

I grew up in a safe environment which did not prepare me for times when I had to face the barrel of a gun in the friary parlor, survive a trap set for me in a tenement house at midnight, and be propositioned and given life threats.

Though not married, I have participated in natural childbirth for unwed mothers three times, facilitated several adoptions, began a very large support group for single parents, and acted as a surrogate father taking children to the circus.
Most of my priesthood has been with the marginal of the Church and society. It was not idealism as much as flexibility and a willingness to venture into the unknown that led me to all of this. I addressed the people and the problems that were before me.

Spiritually, I can say I have always felt awe when I have offered the Mass or presided at a baptism or heard a confession. Assuring someone of God’s personal love and forgiveness and a person’s real worth was certainly enhanced by being a priest. This was particularly true for the many broken people whom I have served over the years.


Father Thomas Prendiville, PhotoSDB

Birthplace: Long Beach, California
Ordination: May 26, 1956, Bellflower, California
Present ministry: Director, Don Bosco Hall, Berkeley
Past service in diocese: Administrator, Salesian High School, Richmond

My 50 years of priesthood, living in the context of 60 years of religious profession, have been a special grace from God. It is these 60 years of Salesian life that really define my priesthood. Living together with Salesian brothers, be they priests or religious Brothers, has shaped my priestly life and work.

My ministries have been in high school teaching and administration, in province responsibilities and in formation. Through all these years, the sacramental life of the Church and the Eucharist have been sure guides in ministering to God’s people.

God has been good to me in so many ways. We are not called to measure success or failures over 50 years, but to keep striving to build God’s kingdom of peace and justice.


PhotoFather Brian Timoney

Birthplace: Belfast, Ireland
Ordination: May 26, 1956, Bangalore, India
Present ministry: Retired
Past service: Preacher of parish missions and retreats in India and Ireland. High school administrator and teacher, Bangalore and Mumbai. Superior, major seminary, Bangalore. Parochial vicar, St. John, San Lorenzo; Corpus Christi, Piedmont; Christ the King, Pleasant Hill. Pastor, St. Perpetua, Lafayette; St. John, San Lorenzo; St. Stephen, Walnut Creek





40 Years of Priestly Ministry

PhotoFather Jerrold Kennedy

Birthplace: Oakland, California
Ordination: May 26, 1966, Corpus Christi Church, Piedmont
Present ministry: Pastor, St. Jerome Parish, El Cerrito
Past service: Associate pastor, All Saints, Hayward; St. Louis Bertrand, Oakland; St. Leo, Oakland. Pastor, Santa Maria, Orinda; Sacred Heart, Oakland; St. Philip Neri, Alameda; St. Leander, San Leandro. Secretary to Bishop Floyd L. Begin. Diocesan vocation director. Diocesan director of campus ministry. Chairperson for re-establishment of permanent diaconate. Faculty, St. Patrick’s Seminary

I grew up in St. Leo Parish in Oakland and Corpus Christi in Piedmont. I attended St. Joseph’s College and then St. Patrick’s Seminary. My brother Bill and I were ordained priests on May 26, 1966. It was an exciting time to be a young priest.
First, there were plenty of us around and a lot of camaraderie. We worked hard and played hard. We had some success in dealing with the new urban scene. City parishes banded together for the sake of community organization with a fair degree of success.

My first assignment was at All Saints in Hayward, which was a very big parish with many, many weddings, funerals and baptisms. From there it was on to an inner- city assignment at St. Louis Bertrand. In 1969, Msgr. Nick Connolly was having some health problems and I was given the somewhat unique chance to return to St. Leo’s as associate pastor. Msgr. Nick was an easy and kind man to live with.

Special work loomed on the horizon. I went to work for Bishop Begin as his administrative assistant and director of vocations. I was asked to serve as chairperson for the re-establishment of the permanent diaconate. It has been wonderful to see that ministry grow and flourish in our diocese.

Chancery work lasted nine years, carrying over into the time of Bishop John Cummins. I spent a delightful few years at Santa Maria and three challenging years at Sacred Heart. Fortunately, I did not have to deal with the church being destroyed by the Loma Prieta earthquake because by then I had been assigned to the faculty of St. Patrick’s Seminary.

I was actually at the University of Notre Dame on the day of the quake. I had to wait until the end of the semester to see what had happened to my belongings. Very little damage, thank God.

After completing five years on the seminary faculty, I spent eight years as pastor
of St. Philip Neri. I returned to the Chancery office for another five years and in July 2004 began a stint as pastor at St. Jerome.

In short, that adds up to 40 years as a priest in the Oakland Diocese.
I have traveled a bit to Ireland, Europe, Mexico, South America and around the U.S. for various conferences.

I have enjoyed planning some major ecclesiastical events. Producing the 40th anniversary event for our diocese at the Paramount Theater was one of the most enjoyable.


PhotoFather John R. Morris, O.P.

Birthplace: Tacoma, Washington
Ordination: June 10, 1966, St. Augustine Church, Oakland
Present ministry: Adjunct associate professor, Saint Mary’s College of California
Past service in diocese: Assistant, then associate, professor of theology, Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, Oakland.

Before entering the Dominican Order I worked for the Boeing Airplane Company as an aeronautical engineer. My work was in preliminary design, the first stage in design before something is actually considered for manufacture. The work was intellectually stimulating and very creative.

Yet, before I realized it, I had discovered that my attraction to the Dominican Order and the priesthood was greater than a career in engineering, and I was on my way to the novitiate in Kentfield, California. My dream of teaching the Catholic Tradition on the same intellectual level as my engineering background actually came to be an exciting and rewarding reality.

Immediately after completing my doctorate in theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, I began teaching theology, first at St. Albert’s College at the GTU in Berkeley, and later at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, and finally at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas in Rome.

My teaching career has been complimented with rich experiences in two parishes, both for extensive periods of time. This pastoral experience has provided a wonderful opportunity in which to preach and it has in turn given balance to my theological interests and studies.

When my teaching duties come to an end, I would like to devote more time to pastoral work especially with the Latinos now resident in such great numbers in California and other places in the Province.

The priesthood has been a wonderful and fulfilling gift and it has provided me with numerous opportunities to serve in the Church. For this I shall be forever grateful.


25 Years of Priestly Ministry

PhotoFather Jose Leon

Birthplace: Coolidge, Arizona
Ordination: June 5, 1981, St. Anthony Church, Oakland
Present ministry: Pastor, Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, Union City
Past service: Deacon, St. Anthony Parish, Oakland. Associate pastor, Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, Union City; All Saints, Hayward.

My first recollection of being interested in the priesthood came when I received my First Communion at the age of eight. The idea stayed with me and when I wanted to enter the seminary in high school, my mother, in her infinite wisdom, would not hear of it as she wanted me to have a normal teenage life.

So when I was 21, I joined the Holy Ghost Fathers and entered their novitiate. After vows and five years with them, I left because of our Superior General, Archbishop Lefebre. I knew I would still be a priest.

Later, after teaching high school for 10 years, I came to the GTU in Berkeley and enrolled at the Jesuit School of Theology.

Eventually, Bishop John Cummins ordained me and I was assigned to Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Union City where I stayed as associate pastor for three years. Then I was sent for one year to All Saints Parish and then back to Our Lady of the Rosary in 1985 where I have remained for all these years – 21 years as pastor.

Priesthood has always been the only real vocation. It is who I am and even with its ups and downs, I have never felt there was any other place for me. I am and have always been happy in my priesthood.

I feel the most effective in doing the work of God in the Reconciliation Room. God’s grace seems to be most present in those moments of forgiveness and absolution. The Eucharist is, of course, the highlight of the priesthood. Without it, my life would be empty.

In all my years, I have never, even for a moment, regretted my calling. I feel truly blessed and privileged to be able to serve as a priest all these years.


PhotoFather Robert J. McCann

Birthplace: Hicksville, New York
Ordination: Nov. 21, 1981, Hicksville, New York
Present ministry: Pastor, St. Raymond Parish, Dublin; adjutant judicial vicar, Canon Law/Marriage Tribunal
Past service: Pastor, St. Cyril Parish, Oakland; All Saints Parish, Hayward; associate pastor, All Saints, Hayward

I thank God for the gift of my vocation and give thanks for the many wonderful and humbling experiences these past twenty-five years.

Blessed John XXIII was heard to say at the beginning of the Vatican Council that the people of God would be the salvation for the Church. I have been awed by the faith, trust and love I have experienced in the people I have tried to serve as a priest.

I don’t think I have been bored for one single day of the past twenty five years. I continue to be amazed at the welcome people give me into the most intimate times of their lives. I pray and hope that I have always been a reminder of a loving God in their lives. I have marveled in the joy of new parents presenting their child for baptism or the happiness of an adult discovering the unconditional love of God in their lives through an RCIA program. I continue to be energized by the wisdom of a senior and the care I witness by those who minister to the poor and disenfranchised.

I receive a sense of fulfillment when I feel I am walking with many who are trying to minister to one another in living out our baptismal calling. My own faith has again and again been strengthened by the persevering faith of parents who have lost a child or the many who continue to come week after week in spite of the weakness of our priests and bishops and even those who feel rejected in some way by the Church itself.

It has been a joy for me to follow the Lord and wash feet as His example directs all of us. I pray as I continue to walk this pilgrimage of faith that I can continue to serve well the people God sends into my ministry. After twenty-five years I am convinced we are most successful in following the Gospels when we do it together. I ask you to pray that God will send people who will continue to bless, challenge and encourage me so that together we may one day enjoy the Kingdom promised.


Father Michael Weldon, OFM

PhotoBirthplace: Sigourney, Iowa
Ordination: June 6, 1981, St. Elizabeth Church, Oakland
Present ministry: Director of Spiritual and Human Formation and associate professor of pastoral studies, Sacred Heart School of Theology, Hales Corners, Wisconsin.
Past service in diocese: Director of vocations for St. Barbara Province, St. Elizabeth Church, Oakland. Weekend Mass help, St. Jerome, El Cerrito. Instructor, Franciscan School of Theology, Berkeley

An evangelical Lutheran pastor friend calls parish ministry “holy ordering.” Being a priest, and in a special way a pastor, has been about calling order into the mess and dramas of human life. It is about putting stories in a context of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. It is about being an orchestra conductor in a communion of communities that we call parish.

It is about loving a group of people more than one’s own comfort, about being preoccupied with lifting them in prayer, and accompanying the transformation of bread and wine, together with the gathered assembly, into the body of Christ. It is about crossing ethnic and ecclesial cultures with a delicate step. It is about being a disciple oneself, a baptized seeker of God, like the Master, in and among the local church.

I was asked over the year many times what was more important to me – being a Franciscan or being a priest. I have never been able to answer that question adequately. They have always been a single, intertwined thing since I first met the Santa Barbara Franciscans as a 16-year-old in Tempe, Arizona. It was love at first sight when I heard a friar minor preach and celebrate the Eucharist.

I had applied and been accepted to the diocesan minor seminary in Tucson. My dad had noted several times that summer of 1967, “If you have any doubts, you’re not going.” He wasn’t sold on the idea.

About mid-summer I met a Franciscan doing Sunday supply for our parish and I have never wanted to be anything else quite as bad. I noted a “hands-on” way of being with people, a great sense of raucous humor and an unobtrusive prayerfulness. It caught my imagination.

And after 25 years, it has not let go.

A credible priest, wrote John Paul II, “should mold his human personality in such a way that he becomes a bridge and not an obstacle in their meeting with Jesus Christ.”

I find those words sobering and yet close to the mark of my experience with local churches. I think that negotiating borders of conflicted relations and holding people in communion even in the midst of a great deal of ambiguity has been the mark of my own era of pastoral leadership.

0rdained ministry, as I have known it, has been anything but dull. More often it has been sometimes a bit disorganized and more spontaneous than Mother Church often prefers. Any “holy ordering” I have been able to pull off has been most beautiful. It has been the work of the Spirit loving the communities where I have served – a gift to Church and from the Church at the same time.


PhotoFather Larry Young

Birthplace: Phoenix, Arizona
Ordination: January 17, 1981, New Orleans, LA
Present ministry: Pastor, St. Patrick Parish, Rodeo-Hercules
Past service: Associate pastor, St. Cyril, Oakland; St. Raymond, Dublin; St. Mary, Walnut Creek. Pastor, St. Cornelius, Richmond; St. Felicitas, San Leandro; Holy Spirit, Fremont

For 20 years God allowed me to serve the Church as a Holy Cross Brother, teaching and helping to form young men and women in our Catholic faith.
The next 25 years I have been blessed to serve the Church as a priest.
My vocation was inspired at my home parish, St. Anthony’s in Long Beach, CA. My educational and spiritual formation was given by good and happy priests, Sisters and Brothers there.

Some of my brother priests who shared this same formation include Cardinal William Levada, Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco, Bishop Gerald Wilkerson of Los Angeles. Many other priests, Sisters and Brothers also came from St. Anthony’s. When we get together we talk about seeing the priests of our school and parish living their vocations and encouraging us.

The best part of my priesthood has been working with the parish schools, watching the children develop in their faith and lead their parents back to the sacraments, and celebrating the sacraments, which bring life to people.


PhotoFather Ray Zielezienski

Birthplace: Passaic, New Jersey
Ordination: Dec. 4, 1981, St. Francis de Sales Cathedral, Oakland
Present ministry: Vicar for priests
Past service: Parochial vicar, Most Precious Blood (now St. Francis of Assisi), Concord; St. Joachim, Hayward; St. Cassian, Upper Montclair, New Jersey. Pastor, St. Joachim, Hayward; St. Augustine, Oakland. Director of vocations.

My reflection on priesthood begins with thoughts of family and a home environment where faith was deeply rooted and lived out in expressions of generosity and service to others by my parents and grandparents.

My parents were people who allowed me to discover my gifts and talents and who always supported my search for truth and meaning in life. That search led me in many directions – the military service, a career in graphic arts, and a move across country to Berkeley where I lived, worked and attended St. Joseph the Worker Church. It was in this faith community that I discovered a great truth – that wholeness and happiness in life come not from getting, but from giving.

In my 25 years of service to the People of God in the Diocese of Oakland, I have been blessed to be a part of so many people’s lives. I have been privileged to share in the joy of marriages, baptisms and graduations. I have been honored to preside at Eucharist, and humbled to care for the sick and dying.

My faith has been strengthened when I have joined others in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless and working for peace and justice in our world. My hope has been renewed when I’ve watched someone go on after a setback, when I’ve observed someone letting go of old grudges, hurts and prejudices, and when I’ve experienced compassion, understanding and joy in life.

For these are the moments when the Risen Christ is most real to me. I have been truly blessed.



Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland

El Heraldo

Movie Reviews

Mass Times

Catholic Voice


back to topup arrow


Copyright © 2005 The Catholic Voice, All Rights Reserved. Site design by Sarah Kalmon-Bauer.