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 November 6, 2006VOL. 44, NO. 19Oakland, CA

articles list

St. Bonaventure Parish's solidarity with the poor

Zuni service trip inspires Moraga teen's music CD

A vineyard is one of several additions to Holy Sepulchre Cemetery

Scouts make retreat 'Catholic to the core'

New administrator named for Oakley parish

60 years a nun, she still works more than full-time

T. Paul Lee receives diocesan merit medal

Nobel Peace laureate
Kenyan forest activist credits Catholic Sisters

Film review:
‘Deliver Us from Evil’ – a shocking look into clergy sex abuse

CCHD seeks funds Nov. 18, 19 to aid self-help groups

Christians, Muslims unite to rebuild Lebanon

Jerusalem archbishop describes impact
of failed peace process in Middle East

Oakland bishop sends
goodwill message to
Muslim community

CRS packages help
Gaza Muslims with
Eid al-Fitr feast

























St. Bonaventure Parish's solidarity with the poor

Whether it’s a community garage sale, a dinner dance, a parish-wide barbeque, or a second collection, the driving force behind all these projects at St. Bonaventure Parish is solidarity.

“Our Catholic faith is all about solidarity with the rest of the world,” said Christa Fairfield, pastoral life director at the Concord parish. “We have a responsibility to live this way, instead of being a closed parish,”

She elaborated that “to live this way,” means that the parish reaches out to the poor, both locally and internationally. Each year the parish raises over $60,000 for such projects as an orphanage and hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, affordable housing for formerly homeless people in Pleasant Hill, classroom supplies for St. Cornelius School in Richmond, a club house for street kids in India, and furniture for a new high school in the Soyapango neighborhood of San Salvador, El Salvador.

Last month, a community garage sale organized by St. Bonaventure parishioners brought in $2,000. This week when he visits Soyapango, Father Richard Mangini, pastor, will deliver the money to Father Adrian Sanchez who worked for two years in the Oakland Diocese at the Casa Hispana Ministry in Concord and established many friendships with parishioners and parish staff before returning to San Salvador five years ago.

Father Sanchez took refuge in the East Bay after a contract was put out on his life by the Salvadoran military because of his work among the poor, said Holy Names Sister Roberta Carson, director of religious formation at St. Bonaventure.

He now serves three parishes in Soyapango, where, with partial financial help from the Ministry of Education, he has built both a primary and elementary school for children living in the neighborhood. Father Sanchez is now raising funds to complete a new 12-room high school.

These elementary school students in Soyapango hope to attend the new high school when they graduate.


St. Bonaventure Parish is helping Father Adrain Sanchez, pastor in Soyapango, to equip this new high school with desks and other supplies. It will open in January.

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St. Bonaventure’s is assisting their friend in his latest endeavor. The parish has already sent $14,000 for desks and other furnishings, plus another $6,000 for tuition assistance. The school was built in a record 12 months, said Jaime Perez, a parishioner and a building inspector who has been to the area several times with Father Mangini and other
parishioners. It will open in January.

To make sure kids can stay in school beyond the eighth grade is one of the most important things people can do for the future of Salvadorans, believes Perez.

Beset by civil war during the 80’s and early 90’s between right wing military and leftist guerillas, the entire country still lacks many basic necessities, including enough schools. If kids have no high schools to go to, they quickly become part of the large gang culture, Perez explained. St. Bonaventure’s assistance is an effort to “make a change in a country that needs help. And this starts with education, to give young people the opportunity to excel.”

El Salvador suffers from many other social ills as well as the lack of educational facilities, said Perez.

Soyapango is an example of a community neighborhood experiencing all of the stresses of deprivation, he said. “Every day is a struggle for them. While they are clothed and have places to sleep, they don’t have such basic comforts as hot water because it’s too costly.”

To make matters worse, the water supply, which comes from the ground, is polluted. At least two days a week, the local municipality shuts it down. In order to cope, many people have holding tanks to save water when they can get it.

“It just tore out hearts out to see these things,” said Perez. “El Salvador is one of the poorest countries on this continent.” He wonders why the U.S. government isn’t helping to alleviate the poverty there “instead of spending billions on other countries that don’t want us to be there.”

Sister Roberta Carson, another Soyapango visitor, has similar observations about the people’s struggles with poverty. But there is little rugged individualism among them, she said. They care for one another.

“One woman on the streets told us that it is expected that everyone takes care of those who are abandoned or mutilated by violence,” she said. “Just to give these people a coin when we pass them by on the streets helps them for the day. Every time that we attended Eucharist a collection was taken up at the churches to help the needs of those in the community.
Everybody put a coin in the basket. It was very humbling seeing the very poor contribute something.”

As families struggle to make do, there is a new mall nearby, similar to Sun Valley Mall in Concord, said Sister Roberta. It is right across the street from many dilapidated homes.

“Most of the people just window shop. They are aware of the contradictions between those who have and those who have not. For most, it seemed that they work hard doing menial tasks to survive and care for each other today.”

Her other impressions: Food preparation is done by hand without any conveniences; nothing is wasted. “Even plastic bags and papers of all kinds were folded and set aside for future use. A little piece of paper is treasured. Again, the experience brought home the wasteful and unconsciousness of our living and caring in the U.S.,” she said.

St. Bonaventure’s other ongoing projects and support for 2006 are:
The Assumption Sisters Orphanage and the Maryknoll St. Mary’s Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya: $3400; St. Cornelius School, Richmond, $4700; Garden Park Apartments in Pleasant Hill, $5,000; Salesian Bosco Street Children’s Center in Bangalore, India, $33,000.

The new high school in Soyapango still needs another $75,000 for 415 desks, computers, and library books. For further information, contact Jaime and Irene Perez at (925) 250-7016, Conchita Guzman at (925)-687-1817, or Sister Roberta Carson at (925) 457-7355.

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