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placeholder Groups rally for health care, immigration reform

Advocates want immigration reform by end of 2010

Docents delight in leading cathedral tours

Singers sought for
cathedral choir

New leader at St. Columba Parish eager for ministry in Oakland

Young N.Y. native named pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Oakland

New Presbyteral Council, College of Consulters for diocese announced

Marriage advocacy essential in the face of modern challenges, says bishop

Mercy seniors publish a memory ‘zine’

Caring Hands reaches out to seniors with friendship, support

‘Religion gap’ grows
between old, young

Pilgrimage acquaints local seminarians with diocese

Plight of Europe’s ‘secret Sisters’ depicted in documentary

Bible goes high-tech at Library of Congress

Bishops’ website to educate Catholics about missal translation

Cardinal praised Kennedy for ‘passion for the underdog’

Three U.S. bishops revisit Obama honor at Notre Dame

St. Mary’s College hosts social justice conference for Bay Area students

• Sister Rita Caulfield, SNJM
• Deacon Robert Karp

placeholder September 7, 2009   •   VOL. 47, NO. 15   •   Oakland, CA

Oblate Father Karl Davis stands out-side Sacred Heart Church. He was a teen-ager in New York when the original church was destroyed in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

Young N.Y. native named pastor
of Sacred Heart Parish in Oakland

One parishioner thought her new pastor was about 35. Another said the young priest looked like a recent high school graduate.

At Masses held during his second weekend as pastor at Oakland’s Sacred Heart Parish, Oblate Father Karl Davis ended all speculation. He is 38 and hopes that parishioners will see his age as a positive sign — one that opens a fresh chapter in the history of the 133-year-old parish.

In addition to learning parishioners’ names and unpacking stacks of boxes that have arrived in the rectory, Father Davis is eager to talk about his new role. “We are on a pilgrimage, on a journey together,” he said. “I hope to bring a deep listening that is at the heart of our missionary call.”

By “our missionary call” Father Davis is referring to his religious community, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), who have served and administered the Oakland parish since 1991.

Father Davis was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, the middle child in a family of three sons. His parents had emigrated to the U.S. from the Caribbean country of Trinidad and Tobago in the late 1960s.

Despite the economic challenges facing the family, Father Davis said that he and his brothers “didn’t think about being poor.” Instead they saw their parents working very hard and making sacrifices for their sons, including sending them to Catholic schools. “Education was very important,” he said, noting that he attended Catholic schools from first grade through college.

Heart not in banking

At Iona College in New York, he studied economics mostly because he was curious about the causes of poverty. After graduation he went to work in a bank but found that his heart wasn’t in it. “It did not resonate with my spirit,” he told The Voice. He wanted to work more closely in service to people.

He began contemplating a career in physical therapy. “I could see myself being a physical therapist, helping people overcome challenges,” he said.

As he was preparing to embark on further study, he responded to an opening for a teacher at his elementary school alma mater. He so enjoyed working with the students that he extended his commitment beyond the initial two years.

It was here that Davis, who was also active in his local parish, heard the call to priesthood. He often talked with the students about God and Jesus, especially in the context of dealing with conflict and, he said, the children would say things like, “You’d make a good Father,” or “You would be a good priest or minister.”

Those words along with encouragement from others aided in the discernment of his vocation, but it was a pilgrimage he took to Israel with his parish that pushed his vocational journey to a higher level.

The Holy Land visit enlightened, strengthened and expanded his faith. Toward the end of the trip he had the experience of feeling “very jubilant.” Grateful for the experience, he told God that he was willing to do whatever God wanted him to do. He received what he described as a very “audible” response — “be a priest.”

Although drawn to working in service of others, Davis struggled to make sense of this unexpected call. In the spirit of considering all options, he attended a “Come and See” weekend sponsored by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in the Bronx, New York, four weeks after returning from Israel.

The turning point

He had no intention of joining the Oblates, he said. That feeling intensified when he first saw a portrait of the community’s founder, Eugene de Mazenod, a French-born priest from an aristocratic family, with whom he saw little in common. But that changed when he learned more about de Mazenod’s conversion and commitment to people who were poor and marginal.

Davis also witnessed the ministry of the Oblate community and how it “reconciles and calls people together” and saw the Oblates living together, “as brothers, not just as individuals.”

He joined the Oblates in 1997 and continued his journey of discernment as a student at the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas, and during a pastoral year at a parish in Zambia in southwestern Africa. He was ordained to the priesthood in 2005. His first assignment was at a Miami parish where he initially served as parochial vicar and then briefly as parochial administrator.

In Oakland he succeeds Oblate Father Thomas Hayes, who served as pastor at Sacred Heart since 2000. Father Hayes is now a chaplain at an Illinois retirement community.

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