For the second time this year, financial difficulties threaten to shutter a Catholic-affiliated shelter for at-risk pregnant women in the Diocese of Oakland. The other shelter, Casa Vincentia in Oakland, closed this summer.
"It is still a struggle" Fuentes said. "People are not able to give as much as they used to." Even grant funding dried up, she added.
While they had hoped to reopen Mary's House of Mercy this month, the momentum stalled when the Divine Mercy Eucharistic Society learned it had to quickly withdraw from the adoration chapel and Divine Mercy Center it operated that was based at St. John the Baptist Parish in El Cerrito.
Although one event didn't have anything to do with the other, some Divine Mercy members are upset by the decision of the parish to assume responsibility for the center. Since that action took place Divine Word members have declined to talking to The Voice, assuming the diocese had something to do with the chapel "takeover."
Divine Mercy members were also seeing red because of recent statements the Oakland diocese made to the East Bay Catholic community though its The Weekly email newsletter. In its statement the diocese said that no permission had been given to raise funds for construction of a shrine in Sunol. Through its website (www.divinemercywestcoast.org) the Divine Mercy group posted its plans to build a shrine in Sunol on "100+ acres" of land that had been purchased in 2007. Priests likewise are prohibited from celebrating Mass at the site.
El Cerrito parish takes charge of adoration chapel
All eyes were on Rev. Rolando Bartolay, parochial vicar at St. John the Baptist Parish in El Cerrito, as he answered questions written on post cards from a small group of people who came to the parish church on Dec. 5 to learn about the future of an adoration chapel that had been formerly operated by the Divine Mercy Eucharistic Society.
Noting that he could only answer that for himself, Father Bartolay said he "will be there" and that he fully supports the adoration.
The gathering, described as a "town hall meeting," was called by the parish to help explain and correct speculation about the change. The parish announced its intention to take charge of the chapel in a letter from the pastor, Rev. Thuong Hoai Nguyen, to the founder and longtime director of the Divine Mercy Eucharistic Society, Thelma Orias.
In his letter, Father Nguyen did not call attention to any problems with the way the chapel had been managed. Instead he thanked Orias for her "wonderful work" in developing the devotion at the parish. "Her organization has rented and managed the adoration and other spiritual activities at the chapel for several years," he said.
Members of the Divine Mercy group, however, have been dismayed by what they call the abruptness of the "parish takeover." "Did we do something wrong? All we did was evangelize," said Maria Lozada, a longtime member of the Divine Mercy Eucharistic Society, in remarks she made before the town hall meeting. "The chapel brought people into the church," she said.
In addition to the parish's action Lozada, and others in the Divine Mercy community feel that Orias was treated with disrespect. A man at the town hall meeting, who identified himself as a friend of Orias, called her a beautiful person and asked why she was belittled by "certain people." Orias did not respond to requests for comment from The Voice.
Father Bartolay responded that he did not believe that anyone belittled her.
A steering committee, consisting of members of the parish and people from the adoration community, has been established to oversee the chapel's operation, said the priest, who is also spiritual director of the chapel. In the meantime a parish subcommittee is taking suggestions to address about issues such as security.
Other changes regarding the use of the chapel have been more immediate. Masses can no longer be celebrated in the chapel, Father Bartolay said. The chapel, he explained, is "only for devotion" while the church is "designated as a place of worship."
He also cautioned that priests who are not members of the diocese must get permission to celebrate Mass within the diocese from the archbishop. "We have to abide by canonical requirements," he added.
He agreed there is a need for education about the devotions. Father Bartolay encouraged those at the meeting to also bring their questions about the use of the chapel or the church to the pastor, Father Nguyen. He also invited those in attendance to suggest and request workshops that will better inform people in and around the parish about such things as centering prayer and other topics.
Representatives from St. Agnes Parish in Concord, which also operates an adoration chapel and from the Confraternity of Eucharistic Devotion, Diocese of Oakland (CEDDO), also attended the town hall meeting, offering to serve as resources to the community.
Father Bartolay also said the chapel is now open to all devotions, such as praying the rosary or for novenas, not just the Divine Mercy devotion. "It is open for all of us," he said. "It is for the glory of God."
— Carrie McClish
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