As he embarks on his well-deserved retirement, Oakland native Rev. Brian T. Joyce can look back on a life dedicated to the growth and spiritual well-being of our diocese.
What will you miss most about pastoring a thriving parish?
The people in our parish have been willing to participate, provide leadership, and speak up. Because of that, we've had a consistently good liturgical experience, a concrete commitment to social justice, and high quality adult education. I'm going to miss being an active part of all that.
What won't you miss about parish ministry?
I won't miss the busyness of administration. I love it, but it has drained my energy. Leadership in the Church requires listening to people's concerns, being open to change and being decisive in setting a direction for the community. It troubled me that, because of administrative commitments, I never had enough time to spend with people, bond with them, and follow up on their needs after meeting with them.
What are your memories of being chancellor?
I saw my role as one of encouraging healthy practices in parishes and enabling people in the diocese to achieve what was best for themselves and the Church. But, I spent most of my time shutting down unhealthy practices. I decided I could make a more positive impact as a parish priest. As pastor, I had greater influence in making good things happen for people.
Your career covered some turbulent decades in Church history. Some priests chose to leave the ministry. What was that era like for you, and why did you choose to stay in the priesthood?
It was heartbreaking to see some of the best priests and good friends resign. In another sense, I saw it as a time for challenge and growth for the Church. Their resignation was a conscientious response to the teachings of the Gospel and Vatican II. At the same time, the Church needed clergy who were faithful to the Council and fostered openness and free discussion of all things Catholic. I was committed to that new vision and felt called to remain an active part of the Church.
You have sometimes been criticized — even called "notorious"—by fellow Catholics, who disagreed with your leadership style. How have you dealt with that?
I took that criticism as a compliment. It represented so few Catholics and none of our own parishioners. Critics opposed me for following the teachings of the Gospel and the lead of Vatican II. I applied both of these at the diocesan and parish levels. In my view, my critics have been out of touch with the Gospel vision of a Church that is open and inclusive, fostering community and promoting justice and equal rights for all people.
Your parishioners have a reputation for being "noisy" in church. How do you respond to that?
I dislike the notion of a "silent" church. It scares me. Silence builds barriers. I don't think Jesus and the Gospels call us to create barriers. Rather, they call us to gather in his name and 'celebrate' our worship. There is always a place for reverence and silence — reverence to the presence of Christ in the tabernacle and silence for prayer and meditation. I've tried to find ways to greet people and welcome them, while leaving space for privacy and quiet meditation.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
I'd say I'm most proud of building lively parishes of welcome, in which people worship well, fully participate, and answer the call to engage in ministries — both traditional and innovative. I did my best to foster that kind of lay leadership and participation.
Father Joyce plans to take up residence in Alameda, where he can keep closer tabs on his beloved Oakland Raiders.
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