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 August 20, 2012   •   VOL. 50, NO. 14   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
 
Diocese to revamp fundraising
 
'True presence:' local movie explains Eucharistic Devotion
 
Archbishop-designate Cordileone continues to administer diocese
 
Vigil draws attention to dispute between sisters, Vatican
Msgr. Breton New monsignor:
A rare honor for the diocese
 
Rev. Msgr. Raymond Breton

The Rev. Raymond Breton was enjoying his retirement dinner, in the company of the members of the Bishop's Administrative Council, of which he had been a longtime member, and the priests who live in the Cathedral rectory.

At the end of the meal, his host, Archbishop-designate Salvatore J. Cordileone, left the table briefly, and returned with a plaque. He began to read the list of Father Breton's service to the chancery, from chancellor to judicial vicar. It sounded familiar to those gathered at the table.

But the last line was new: July 12, 2012 — Prelate of Honor.

The Archbishop-designate turned to the honoree at his right: "Monsignor Raymond G. Breton."

"I was flabbergasted," said the Rev. Msgr. Breton. "I didn't see it coming. Rarely am I at a loss for words."

At a reception for chancery staff the next day, as beaming co-workers gathered around him, Rev. Msgr. Breton said, "I am honored that Archbishop Cordileone asked the Holy Father to make me a prelate of honor."

The naming of a monsignor is not an everyday event in the Diocese of Oakland. The last monsignors — Daniel Cardelli and Antonio Valdivia were named in 2009. Before that, 30 years has passed between the bestowing of the honor.

For Rev. Msgr. Breton, the honor comes as he is "heading toward 70," and has been granted retirement from his position of judicial vicar.

He does not view it as his honor alone.

Msgr.
Raymond G. Breton


Assignments in the Diocese
of Oakland:

• Parochial vicar, St. John the Baptist, El Cerrito, 1978-1982

• Parochial vicar, Holy Spirit in Fremont, 1982-1985

• Pastor, St. Philip Neri, Alameda, 1985-1990

• Pastor, St. Jarlath, Oakland, 1994-98

• Chancellor and Director of Pastoral Services, 1990-1994

• Canon Law Judge, 2000-2012

• Adjutant Judicial Vicar and Delegate of the Judicial Vicar for Internal Affairs, 2001-2003

• Judicial Vicar and Vicar for Matrimonial Matters, 2003-2012

• Vicar for Priests, 2010-2011

• Co-Vicar for Religious,
2005-2012

• Promoter of Justice,
2012-present

• Prelate of Honor, July 7, 2012

 
 
"It is a personal honor but it's wider than just personal," he said. "I would hope that it is also meant to honor people I have served, people I have worked with. The main groups are the priests. Ever since I've been with the chancery, as chancellor, on and off all these years, I feel very strongly about walking with the priests, helping in any way I can. Helping them has been a big part of my ministry and one that I have enjoyed tremendously," he said.

"And, of course," he said, "the chancery people. I've been in the chancery a total of 16 years. They're good people. They do a lot of hard work. A lot of it is not recognized."

He was ordained in 1968 by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, where he served at a retreat house, a seminary college and at a parish in Plattsburgh, New York, "50 miles south of Montreal."
Then, after 10 years, as a young man might do, he "joined the Navy to see the world," taking on an assignment as a military chaplain. He started with the Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina — then to the Mediterranean, where his ship was deployed during the October War in 1973. He also served in Guam and San Diego.

From San Diego, he moved to the Diocese of Oakland, where in 1978 he became a parochial vicar of St. John the Baptist Church in El Cerrito.

"I've been fortunate that every parish I've served had a parochial school," he said of his pastoral service, which also included Holy Spirit in Fremont, St. Philip Neri in Alameda and St. Jarlath in Oakland.

He moved to the chancery in 1990, serving first as chancellor.

"That was the early '90s and we had some serious cases of sexual abuse of minors by some priests," he said. "Even then we would not permit the priest to return to ministry," he said. "Bishop Cummins was very much, I think, on top of that, and to reach out, if we could, to the victims." He recalled starting the review board.

His time as pastor of St. Jarlath Church followed. "I experienced a new part of ministry, which was the Latino ministry," he said. "I started the first Mass in Spanish on Sunday at 10 a.m. in the parish. We went through the whole process of discussing that. Not everybody was in complete agreement. We managed to do it, still going on, which I'm happy."

In 1998, after 30 years in the priesthood, he was eligible for a sabbatical. Make it two years, then-Father Breton told then-Bishop John Cummins, and he'd go to Rome and come back with a canon law degree.

"He graciously gave me permission," he said.

"I was older than most of the students," he recalled, "and I was older than most of my professors." His pastoral experience, which the younger set might have lacked, served him well, as did his liking for canon law.

He came back to Oakland, as promised, where he became a judge and was welcomed by the Rev. Don Hudson, judicial vicar. "He welcomed me and showed me the ropes," he said. Upon Father Hudson's retirement, Bishop Cummins asked him to become judicial vicar.

During Rev. Msgr. Breton's time as judicial vicar, more canonists were hired, and more priests were sent for training.

"The cases always deal with crucial events in people's lives and certainly the breakup of a marriage is a traumatic event," he said. "You can't deny that part of someone's life, even though it might have been a mistake, even though it might have been not what was expected. So that's another one time when you walk with then," he said.

"That's where my staff is excellent. Beside the priests who work on the cases, Jackie Compton, Carol Izo and Mary O'Sullivan spend hours on the phone listening, which is already a big thing. When they call here, this is the Church listening, not so much an individual, but the Church is listening."

Also upon Rev. Msgr. Breton's return from Rome, he also started helping out on weekends at St. Stephen Church in Walnut Creek. "They have been a very special community, very supportive," he said. "I've been there 12 years, longer than I've been in any parish."

In his retirement, he is going to Maui, to give the priest who serves the three Latino parishes on the island an opportunity to return home to Colombia, where he, the youngest of 14 children, can visit his parents.

The investiture ceremony for the monsignor will have to wait for his new clerical garb to arrive.

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