Chaplain brings spiritual presence
Father Gerald Pedrera offers communion to a student during the opening school Mass at Bishop O'Dowd High School last fall.
In one of his last acts before leaving Oakland for San Francisco, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone named Rev. Gerald Pedrera chaplain of Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland. Father Pedrera served as a high school teacher and principal with the Claritians in the Philippines before coming to the Diocese of Oakland. He was ordained in the Diocese of Oakland in May 2011. Here are some of his experiences:
A typical day
Starts at Mass. Father Pedrera celebrates Mass in the campus chapel daily at 7:45 a.m. It is attended mostly by faculty, staff and parents, he said, as many O'Dowd students are in class or in sports practice before the school day begins. He teaches the Catholic Experience, a class for sophomores. He usually teaches first and third period. After the lunch break, he prepares for Mass, activities and classes. He also writes reflections to post in the school's e-newsletter.
On getting to know the students at the 1,100-student campus
"For me, right now, the opportunity to teach is one of the best doors to be opened," Father Pedrera said. He teaches 50 students in the two classes, and the interaction in the classroom provides the chance for students to ask questions.
Give us an example of a question.
Why can't priests get married?
On what he's learning
"Last semester I talked about the Mass with freshmen as a way to prepare for the class Mass," Father Pedrera said. The students' response was both interesting and practical, he said. Some students said they found Mass boring, with homilies too long and music that wasn't speaking to them. He found that he could "slowly adjust to their level." Homilies, he said, are not longer than 10 minutes. Some, at class Masses, are a few short reflections, he said, "a few sentences."
On hearing from parents of students
Emails from parents "opened up possibilities for prayer intentions for All Souls Day," he said. Email from alumni has also been reaching him.
On the school's senior-parent Mass last fall
"It was the first time I had to celebrate Mass for the community," he said. Father Jay Matthews, pastor of St. Benedict Parish and O'Dowd board member, celebrated the opening Mass, which Father Pedrera attended. "It was an opportunity for me to be with them all."
On learning to be a chaplain
Despite his experience as a teacher and principal in his native Philippines, Father Pedrera said, "I'm still a baby priest." He said he is "getting to know slowly the community and integrating myself into the community."