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February 4, 2008   •   VOL. 46, NO. 3   •   Oakland, CA

articles list

Four Catholic leaders honored with Seton Award

Father Thomas Ng honored for work as musician and pastoral minister

Parish overflows with seven weekend Masses in Spanish

Pro-life walk brings 25,000 to San Francisco

Carondelet senior among many young pro-life activists

Martin Luther King Jr.Ís niece: abortion not a civil right

As Lent approaches, choose fish wisely

Fighting hunger: one rice bowl at a time

Lenten Regulations

Teachers and students killed near shrine in Sri Lanka

Priest in Gaza laments impact of fuel restrictions on families

Teens invited to Notre Dame summer retreat















Four Catholic leaders honored with Seton Award

Four local Catholics who have spent many years of dedicated service to their parishes and schools received the annual Seton Award from the Oakland diocesan Department of Catholic Schools, Jan. 30.

Richard Campbell of St. Joseph Basilica, Alameda; Steve Meyer of All Saints School, Hayward; Ed Regan of St. Mary’s Parish and School, Walnut Creek; and Florence Thau, Our Lady of Grace School, Castro Valley, were honored during a ceremony Jan. 30 at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, marking Catholic Schools Week. The award is made for Mother Elizabeth Seton, the first American born saint of the Catholic Church and foundress of the Catholic parochial school system.

Richard Campbell
A background comprising 19 years worth of nonstop Catholic education inspired an Alameda dad to raise money for his three sons’ high school – in one instance, heading up a capitol campaign which brought in $9 million to St. Joseph Notre Dame High School in Alameda

Richard Campbell’s dedication, he explains, “came out of my own education,” which included earning a law degree from Villanova University in Pennsylvania. “I loved what it did for both me and those around me,” he said. A Catholic education gives a person a reference point from which to make good judgments, and to function well in society.”

Geographically speaking, Pennsylvania isn’t all that far from Maryland, where Mother Elizabeth Seton opened the first Catholic school in the United States. “We knew all about her,” he added, expressing his gratitude for being nominated to receive an award in her name. “”I am grateful. This means a lot to me.”

The president of a small investment firm in the East Bay, Campbell has been volunteering his time raising funds and working with parent teacher groups since his three sons enrolled at St. Philip Neri School in Alameda.

By the time Richard and Josephine Campbell’s oldest, son, Richard, was ready to enter Saint Joseph High School, the family had moved into the parish of St. Joseph Basilica. The couple immediately became active at their new parish and school. In 1985, Campbell was named the first president of the school board of the newly consolidated school made up of Notre Dame Academy and Saint Joseph’s High School.

Simon Chiu, current principal of Saint Joseph Notre Dame High and one of the three individuals who nominated Campbell for the Seton Award, said that “Richard’s leadership was crucial to the solidification of the finances of the new high school and to establishing a tuition assistance program that supported families unable to meet the full tuition.” Chiu said Campbell’s attention to details helped establish a firm financial base for the school.

After he left the board as president, Campbell established the school’s endowment fund which was grown to $2 million. He has also been instrumental in helping the school manage a $10 million bequest (Jawad Education Fund) established to offer tuition assistance and to enhance educational programs at the school.

When SJND launched its first capital campaign in 2001 — Let Every Student Soar — Campbell became chair. The resulting $9 million provided for the construction of a new music center, library, and state-of-the-art science and athletic complex.

Campbell has continued his role as a board member of the Jawad Fund Board, even in the face of family illness. During the last two years, Josephine was struggling with cancer, said Chiu. “Throughout this challenging personal time, he continued his work with as much volunteering as he could.” She died in October 2007.
Campbell presently serves on the diocesan Finance Committee.

Steve Meyer
To borrow a phrase from the legendary Broadway composers, Rodgers and Hammerstein, “The hills are alive with the sounds of music.” In this case, though, think not of the Austrian Alps, the setting for the duo’s popular musical, “The Sound of Music,” but the hills, flat lands and every place in between in the Bay Area. The music belongs to the pure, clear vocal tones of young schoolboys and the harmonic sounds of hand bells.

The melodies emanate from Golden Gate Boys Choir and Bell Ringers, as well as from classrooms at both All Saints School in Hayward, and St. Vincent de Paul School in San Francisco. The sounds are inspired and coached by Steve Meyer, who has introduced many boys, ages six to 18, to the joys and beauty of choral music and hand bells.

“Steve Meyer epitomizes what it means to be a Catholic educator,” said Linda Knox, principal at All Saints. “His life revolves around Catholic schools, parishes and choirs.”

Meyer, a graduate of St. Joachim School and Moreau Catholic High in Hayward and the University of San Francisco, is a founder of the Golden Gate Boys Choir and Bell Ringers, and its artistic director for nearly 20 years. Sixteen years ago, he began teaching at All Saints School in Hayward.

Meyer became interested in teaching music and directing choirs while studying accordion and organ as a sixth grader at St. Joachim School. “In 1964, while Vatican II was going on, my teacher asked me to play the organ at Mass. Things just branched out from there,” he said.

Today, the branches are all-embracing. As if he weren’t busy enough with all of his teaching, Meyer also serves as music director at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in the City.

All Saints’ students in grades four to six receive weekly hand bell instruction, and those in six to eight are eligible for one of two honors bell choirs. Each year, All Saints bell ringers join with more than 150 other bell ringers in a Bay Area festival. They have also performed at the annual Hayward Education Foundation Christmas luncheon, and at the City of Hayward’s Light Up the Season celebrations.

For the past five years, All Saints has sponsored a diocesan-wide Boys Can Sing, Too! Day. Close to 200 boys in grades three to seven now gather annually to spend a day singing, and playing bells, chimes and Orff instruments.

Meyer’s work with the Golden Gate Boys Choir has earned him world renown. The choir has sung with the San Francisco Symphony in the Deck the Hall concerts. It has traveled to Hong Kong, New Zealand, Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Japan and the Philippines. As a member of the Pueres Cantores, the international association of Catholic Choirs, the Golden Gate group has traveled to Rome on several occasions to ring in the New Year at St. Peter’s Basilica.

Linda Knox accompanied the choir in 2006 and said the trip “was a wonder to behold.” Older choir members consistently took care of younger members, she said, and all of the singers were at ease performing for audiences. Work-wise, “no matter how tired they were, the older boys without complaint unloaded the bells and equipment from the bus,” she said. “These are the actions Steve encourages and inspires.”

Ed Regan
“Ed Regan is a perfect example of how we as Christians can bring to life the miracle of the loaves and fishes,” said Joanne Millette, third grade teacher at St. Mary’s School in Walnut Creek. Millette, spokesperson for the group of faculty and staff that nominated Regan for the Seton award, said that the 82-year-old retiree “is the face of God” for poor people living in the East Bay.

For the past 40 years, he has provided food and clothing for individuals living in the Concord-Walnut Creek/Oakland areas. In recent years, as a member of the Muffin Men, he and a group of other volunteers collect day-old bread and other items from local grocery stores to give to needy organizations. “Ed is out in our parish parking lot, daily, rain or shine,” getting ready to deliver food items to the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Pleasant Hill and Oakland, the Monument Crisis Center in Concord, and the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant in Oakland, said Millette. The week before Christmas, Regan collects hundreds of toys to distribute within the Walnut Creek community, she noted.

Regan has an impressive history at St. Mary’s School as well. Once a month, he picks up bag lunches the students have prepared for distribution in the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul pantry tucked behind the church. Nobody recruited him, he says. “I just take it on and do it.”

He says “thanks” to his helpers by a giving a pizza party for the class who collect the most canned goods for the pantry and makes certain that boxes of chocolates or pastries go to the teachers for supporting the food drives.

There’s quite a bit of Regan family history at the school, too. All nine of Ed and Beverly Regan’s kids are graduates and “Ed is currently witnessing his grandchildren being nurtured in the Catholic faith here,” said Millette. Second generationers number 16 students who have either attended or are currently attending St. Mary’s.

Ed Regan himself is a graduate of Catholic schools — Our Lady of Lourdes in Oakland, St. Joseph High School in Alameda and Santa Clara University. After serving a stint in the Navy during World War II, he returned to the East Bay and married Beverly. They joined St. Mary Parish in 1955.

A daily Mass attendee, Regan evangelizes those whom he serves. When people come to St. Mary’s for food or money, he always asks them if they go to church and he encourages them if they don’t, said Millette. “He goes beyond trying to meet their physical needs, linking the poor to a faith community so they can receive spiritual sustenance as well.”

Florence Thau
Florence Thau likes to stay in the background, but her nurturing support is nonetheless readily felt and appreciated by students and teachers alike at Our Lady of Grace School in Castro Valley.

In fact, when one thinks of Mother Seton, the founder of American Catholic schools, this fifth grade teacher’s name “readily comes to mind,” acknowledges Colleen Wahl, the school principal. Thau embodies the saint’s “grace and caring,” said Wahl, adding that “Flo is the light for all of us here at school, yet she is the last person who would want to have that light shone on her.”

A member of the faculty since 1989, Thau is one of those pillars of strength who buoys up both the students and teachers, said Wahl, who recalls that one new teacher characterized Thau as being “like a mother. She’s always there. She is quiet and calm in all that she does.”

Augustinian Father Kevin Mullins, pastor, and one of Thau’s nominators for the Seton Award, underscored “the gentle and kind ways in which Flo cares, nurtures, stimulates, supports and challenges her students. Helping them to transition from the early years into the middle school years, she constantly stands by them in their needs, prods them to learn and do more, and calls them to a spirit of integrity in all that they do.”

The pastor also emphasized how Thau “spreads the word of God and the message of Christ” in both word and deed. “She is the epitome of selflessness and generosity in her witness and in her service to all of us.”

One of Thau’s major roles at the school is to coordinate the many religious activities, including the monthly school Masses. When it is each grade’s turn to prepare the readings, collect the offerings, and participate in other ways in the liturgy, it is Thau who is in charge. During special liturgical seasons, she provides the children with instructions and grounding in their Catholic traditions that they can carry through life, said Wahl, especially through such devotions as the Stations of the Cross.

Parents also appreciate Thau, added Wahl, noting that the teacher calls every fifth-grade household to least once a year to let parents know how well their youngsters are doing.

Thau’s sense of service reaches out to off-campus sites. During the recent Christmas season, she and her husband joined several other faculty members in cooking a meal at St. Mary’s Senior Center in Oakland for residents living in the winter shelter. “She just pitches in, very quietly,” said Wahl. “I am honored to work with her.”

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