Journey to Oakland
1. Santa Barbara Los Angeles Spokane, Washington
"I entered the Jesuit system. Two years novitiate, Santa Barbara. One year, we call the Junior Eight, at Loyola Marymount, living in the Jesuit house. Then to Spokane, two years at Gonzaga. You study philosophy to be ordained and major in another subject to teach. I wanted to teach high school, so I did European history."
2. Middletown, California
"Then the summers. The Jesuits gave me great opportunities. I got to work for two summers with the Salesians. This is an important connection for me to Oakland. Salesian High had a summer camp in Middletown. I got to work there for two summers. I wanted to learn the Salesian philosophy of working with youth. The Jesuits said I could do that. That was very important to me. I made many friends with the Salesians. I can't wait to visit their house."
"I worked a summer in Alaska as a seminarian. I flew with Father Michael J. Kaniecki, SJ, later Bishop Kaniecki, as we went in his small plane to visit the missions on the Yukon River. I met nuns, these roughy, toughy Belgian Ursuline nuns in their habits who were gutting fish and smoking it, stinky and flies and all that, because the kids could pay their tuition in fish. The nuns knew how to do all that. They had many special gifts."
4. Los Angeles
"I was sent to teach, called Regency, at Loyola High School in Los Angeles. High school teaching is part of your formation. That was tough for me. I was short, very baby-faced looking and I had to teach seniors who were bigger, taller, were football players, who had already started shaving. I had barely started shaving. There was little me saying, 'Sit down and be quiet.' If you can handle the kids, you can move on. It's a real growing up thing. They gave me sports, which I loved. I was coaching water polo and swimming. That's where I found I had my greatest influence on the young men. We had practices. We had Mass before every game. We had a team retreat every year. We said a Hail Mary before every game. We had our special prayer at the end. Our hands on the ball — water polo's combat — 'Queen of Victory, pray for us. Queen of Defeat, pray for them.'"
"One of those summers I was sent to China — Taiwan — to teach English in a Jesuit school. The Jesuits give you this great, broad background, all the time testing you as a seminarian. Maybe you might want to work in a Chinese mission … Maybe you might want to work in an Alaskan mission. Go try it out. See how you feel drawn. I went to Mexico one summer, studying Spanish and living in a Jesuit mission."
6. Chuuk (formerly Truk)
"They wanted to give me another year of experience before passing me on to theology studies. I asked, and got permission, to go on a foreign mission to Micronesia, to the island of Chuuk (formerly Truk). The closest place is Guam, which is maybe an hour and a half, two hours away. That was a great year. We lived in this mission school. We made our own electricity. We boiled our drinking water from the rain. The students lived there. They came from all the islands. All the kids lined up to shake my hand the day I arrived at the school. That was one of the happiest years of my life. Living with nothing. That's where I felt I wanted to come back as a priest and build up vocations."
7. Toronto, Canada
"I was asked, 'Where do you want to study theology?' Berkeley, Boston, Rome, I was sent to Toronto. That always happens in the Jesuits: They give you three choices and send you somewhere that's not on the list. So I went from Truk to Toronto. The superior said, 'I know that place and I think it will be the right place for you.' I got there, and he was right. He knew more than me. The rector, the superior, was so good to me. 'My main job here is to make sure you get ordained and be a good priest. Don't think I'm looking for all your faults, my job is to build you up.' It was the version of GTU they have in Canada. You took classes from Baptists and Anglicans as well as some Catholics. The Jesuit school's called Regis College. At the end you got a degree from the University of Toronto as well as from the Jesuits. We were ordained deacons. We were expected to go out and help in a parish. I walked down to the cathedral, St. Michael's, and I volunteered to the monsignor, the rector of the cathedral. The cathedral was in an inner-city location with a steady stream of the poor knocking on the door. He said, 'You come here and be on the altar.' They do fabulous masses — they have a choir school. The monsignor said — this is very important — 'You're also going to take Saturday door duty.' I saw the whole world come to that door. People with psychiatric problems, people wanting to come in to talk to a priest or for counseling. People who were hungry, who I would go make sandwiches for. People who had no money for medicine. I would test them. You want it for medicine? I'll walk over to the drug store. I was also in charge of the young adult group there, in addition to my studies. I just had the greatest experience there."
"From there, the provincial said, now, when you're ordained, give us an idea of what kind of work. I really would like to go back to the islands and be a missionary and help promote vocations in the church. I went to western Samoa. I felt I was in paradise. Spectacular! The church in Samoa was most advanced lay participation, lay ministry. I worked with Cardinal Pio Taofinu'u. I was the only Jesuit there, newly ordained. He said, 'Michael, we're not going to put you with New Zealand priests. I want you to live with the Samoan priests, and get the full immersion.' So he did. I had to learn Samoan fast, all the Masses in Samoan. It's not easy. But I worked hard at it. I had tutors. My goal was to get up and preach with no notes and God gave me that. I was happy. A different family brought you food every day. They had no money. It was an agrarian economy. The people gave you the best of what they had."
"From Samoa, I went to Rome, all the way on the other side of the world, 12-hour time difference. I was studying theology so that I could return to the Pacific and teach in the seminary. But a funny thing happened when I was in Rome. Pope John Paul's 'Redemptorist missio,' on the missionary life of the church, influenced me. I still wanted to be a missionary. But I said, you know it's a greater challenge to be a missionary in Americas or Europe, where the faith numbers were going down, seminaries were emptying, we were closing schools and parishes. The church was flourishing in Africa, India. It's easy to be a priest there; it would be more challenging to go home. That's when I said, I'll still be a missionary but go back to my home place."
10. Oxford, England
"That focus started to change. I started working on the theology of Cardinal John Henry Newman. That's what brought me from Rome to England to do research on the Newman manuscripts. I was given full access to every manuscript to photocopy. Priceless. I have a huge collection of photocopies. I went to Oxford, was in residence at the Jesuit college, Campion Hall. While I was there, doing research, the Jesuits there were looking for someone to join their staff. 'If you'd like, we'll write to your provincial.' Oxford, the capital of youth and intelligence of youth. Once I was accepted there, I was assigned there. I was the bursar. That was my only administrative experience. I was in charge of all the money, the hiring, the firing, the real estate, the art collection. While I was there I continued to teach theology but I was also asked by the Catholic priest who was the head chaplain at Oxford University would I start a special chaplaincy program for the graduate students at Oxford. He was taking care of the undergraduates. I started up the Catholic Graduate Society. In my life, if I had anything that God helped me create, it was that. I had Rhodes Scholars there. I had the cream of the crop of England, Europe and America."
11. San Francisco
"My provincial from California came and said, 'You have been away for 12 years. We need you at home.' He brought me home. (Then-)Archbishop Levada was looking for a priest to be head of his pastoral leadership school in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. The Jesuits told me to apply. I designed a curriculum of theology, Scripture and pastoral formation for lay people in the three counties, three different sites, had courses going three nights a week. I really loved that. Hiring the teachers, from Berkeley, or St. Patrick's Seminary, or pastors or lay people. I went to a lot of deanery meetings, talked to priests: What are your needs? How can we train people to fill what you're looking for? It was there I discovered the Dominicans' Catherine of Siena Institute, for the identification of charisms. I thought that was the key. Start with your people: help them discern what are their gifts, and how to express those gifts."
12. Menlo Park
"From there I was asked to go to St. Patrick's Seminary. I taught theology full time as well as being full-time director of spiritual formation, head of retreats, days of recollection. I love being a spiritual father. That's where I got to know all these young Oakland priests who were seminarians from 2002 to 2010, such as Father Kenneth Nobrega, Father Carl Arcosa. That was a very happy time. I loved the classroom, teaching. I helped at a parish, across the street from the seminary, Nativity. That is important to me. You can't teach seminarians how to work in a parish if you're not getting out there. Msgr. (Steven) Otellini there is a good friend of mine. I got to know the people there. When I left there to go to Boston, the parish had a wonderful going-away Mass and picnic. I can't wait, if monsignor will invite me over the line, to go say Mass for those folks."
"One reason I went to Boston: I thought they were in greater need. The reason I knew Boston: I had been appointed a Vatican apostolic visitor in 2005, when the sex scandal was at its peak. The pope organized a seminary investigation. I happened to be picked from Menlo Park to be part of a team to visit three seminaries. You go interview everybody, you get a sense of the place, write a report for the Holy See. One of the places I was sent was Boston, with two bishops. So I knew Boston. One of the priests from Boston had been sent to Menlo Park, so he knew about me. So that's how there was a connection, unbeknownst to me. Cardinal O'Malley had asked for me to go back there and be a spiritual director at their seminary, and help build it up. At one time, in 1965, they had over 400 seminarians. They had ordained in Boston in one year 100 new priests. Then that seminary collapsed down to less than 30 for a six-year program. That place has come around. That place is full. There are 85 seminarians in-house: MIT grads, Harvard grads, the salt of the earth, a construction worker, sitting there with his tattoos, now in the seminary. It's been a thrill to see the Holy Spirit calling them."
U.S. Naval Reserve
• Alameda, California
• Newport, Rhode Island
• Rota, Spain
• Saudi Arabia
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