Father Ivan Tou, CSP
Father Dat Tran, CSP
In a move he described as one to reinvigorate the ministry to University of California students, the bishop of Oakland has approved two new priests offered by the Paulist Fathers to take over the leadership of Newman Hall/Holy Spirit Parish in Berkeley in July.
The Paulist Fathers have served the University of California since 1907, first at Newman Hall on the north side of campus and in a modern concrete-and-glass chapel and center since 1967.
Echoing the words he spoke shortly after his ordination and installation as bishop of Oakland last May, the Most Rev. Michael C. Barber, SJ, wrote in a March 7 letter to parishioners, "My goal is to do for Oakland what Pope Francis is doing for the Church."
"During my visit last September to celebrate the Mass of the Holy Spirit, Father Campbell mentioned that the number of students attending Mass at Holy Spirit had been declining steadily," the bishop wrote. "To the parish's great credit, you have invited FOCUS missionaries to help reach out to the students. I believe we need to do more, to totally reinvigorate our evangelization effort for the University community at Cal Berkeley."
The FOCUS ministry includes four recent college graduates who live in community and offer Bible study and other faith-sharing opportunities to students they meet on campus, in residences and in coffee shops.
"There is a reason the doors of your parish face north toward the cal campus: to welcome the students."
Bishop Barber told the parish of his role: "As shepherd of the Diocese of Oakland, I am commanded by Christ to go out in search of the 'lost sheep,'" which would include students who came to Mass once and never returned, the Catholics who have never made their way to the church, and those without formal faith.
According to its bulletin, the parish spends $400,000 annually on campus ministry. An active Student Ministry Team, advised by associate pastor Father Bill Edens, CSP, provides activities and leadership opportunities. More than 230 students attended the University Catholic Conference of California, in January, the second time the event, conceived in Berkeley, was hosted in Berkeley.
The decision to replace the Newman Hall leadership was made after a scheduled visitation by Paulist leaders in November. As part of the visit, the visitation team met with staff members, students and parish leaders, as well as visited the bishop of Oakland.
It was at that time that bishop expressed his desire for changes at the Berkeley parish.
On Feb. 16, Father Bernard Campbell, CSP, read a letter to parishioners, informing them that both he and Father Edens would be leaving Holy Spirit/Newman Hall.
Two weeks later came the announcement that the Paulists had recommended, and the bishop approved, that Father Ivan Tou, CSP, will serve as pastor, and Father Dat Tran, CSP, as associate pastor.
Father Tou, 54, has served as pastor of the Newman Center/Parish at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and associate director of the University Catholic Center at UCLA. Father Tou, who was born in West Lafayette, Indiana, was ordained in 2002 after having spent a number of years working at Hewlett-Packard Labs in Palo Alto. He has undergraduate and graduate degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, UCLA and Catholic University of America.
It will be a homecoming for Father Tran, 34, who is a 2004 graduate of UC Berkeley. Father Tran, who was ordained in 2011, said his involvement in campus ministry at Newman Hall/Holy Spirit led him to enter the Paulist novitiate. He emigrated with his family from Vietnam when he was 7.
"We feel that they are two outstanding priests who will bring very special gifts to the ministry," said Paulist president, Very Rev. Michael McGarry.
"I am impressed by the Paulists' selection of these men," said Bishop Barber. "I look forward once they are in place to a discussion of my vision for their ministry. Pope Francis is guiding us to expand our mission to 'the periphery.' I believe this should lead us to totally reinvigorate our evangelization efforts to the University community," he said.
"I'm convinced from my experience at Stanford, Boston University and Oxford University that there is no reason Newman Hall/Berkeley cannot attain world-class status for what is already a world-class university."
Father Campbell has been pastor of Newman since 2007. Before his arrival in Berkeley, he spent a year on sabbatical in Ireland, where word of Newman Hall had reached the ears of the priests there. "Wait till you see at the Easter Vigil," they told him.
"Then I came, and I thought it was wonderful," Father Campbell said. "The Triduum is done superbly here. It's an extremely prayerful time."
Despite the stories he'd heard, "I didn't come with any preconceived understandings about what Berkeley was," he said. "My presumption was these were pretty nice people and I would get along with them, and I have."
Father Campbell said he noticed "the enormous seriousness people took with regard to prayer "There are all kinds of prayer groups involving members of this community," he said. "And now, happily, there are any number of prayer groups, Bible study groups with students in our community, which I find rich and wonderful, the personal appropriation of one's faith and to do that with one's peers."
The parish-based Loaves and Fishes ministry, which prepares and serves 15,000 meals a year to homeless people, is another example of cooperation between the parish and students, Father Campbell said.
Father Bill Edens has directed campus ministry for five years. "My main concern is for the health of the ministry after we leave," he said. "I'm hoping for a solid conversation between the bishop and the parish."
He said he hopes, too, that "the parishioners and the student parishioners will continue to work together in a dynamic way,"
While it is heartbreaking to be leaving Berkeley, Father Edens said, the Paulists are a missionary order, so they are no strangers to leave-taking.
"We take our vision from St. Paul and Isaac Hecker," he said.
Father Edens did not know his next assignment. But he has an interest in ministering to young adults, graduates who might find themselves in a first job, beginning their post-college life. "It's very hard for them to connect when they're outside the womb of campus ministry," he said.
"Newman, as it is, is very welcoming," he said, "architecturally and in human terms."
Next Front Page
back to top