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Catholic Voice
November 24, 2014   •   VOL. 52, NO. 20   •   Oakland, CA
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Dinner honors priests, seminarians, servers
The 'love of God through outreach
to those in need'
Beloved Church leaders lost
Msgr. Raymond G. Breton

Msgr. Raymond G. Breton

Msgr. Raymond G. Breton, JCL, was remembered as a "gentle soul" and a "priest's priest," in serving the Church for almost 50 years.

Msgr. Breton died Nov. 2 after a patient battle with cancer. He was 72.

"What immediately impressed me on meeting him a year and a half ago at my first Oakland clergy picnic was his gentleness. . . . He was a gentle soul," said Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, at Msgr. Breton's funeral Mass Nov. 7.

"Every priest I've talked to has described him as a 'priest's priest,'" the bishop said. "He dedicated himself to the priesthood and the service of the Church. He took care of the souls entrusted to his care (even priests)."

"He had a kind word for everyone," Bishop Barber continued. "He was non-judgmental. He listened and paid attention to you. . . . He cared."

In addition to Bishop Barber, Bishop Emeritus John S. Cummins and Bishop P.J. McGrath of San Jose assisted at the Mass, which was attended by more than 70 priests and hundreds of family members and friends on Nov. 7 at St. Philip Neri Church in Alameda, where Msgr. Breton served as pastor from 1985-1990.

"He took the time to get a degree in canon law at age 56," Bishop Barber said, and "took the time and effort to learn Spanish so he could celebrate Mass for our growing number of Latino parishioners.

"Despite our hope of resurrection, death remains for the Christian painful and mysterious," the bishop said. Death is a "daunting prospect," made real as Msgr. Breton neared the end.

"Whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. Christian life is about a Person who has been trying our whole lives to communicate His love for us.

"Take comfort in the words of Christ who rose and has invited us to rise with him: 'Come you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.'"

Msgr. Breton was born July 20, 1942, in Meriden, Connecticut, attended St. Laurent Catholic School there and entered the seminaries and novitiate of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. He was ordained a priest on Sept. 7, 1968, and served with the Oblates as a retreat master, seminary professor, associate pastor and Navy chaplain from 1973 to 1978.

In the Oakland diocese, he served at St. John the Baptist Church in El Cerrito (1978-1982), Holy Spirit Church in Fremont (1982-1985), as chancellor (1990-1994) while living at St. Anthony Church in Oakland and at St. Jarlath Church in Oakland (1994-1998). In retirement, he served many parishes, particularly St. Stephen in Walnut Creek. He left the Oblates and was incardinated as a priest of the diocese in April 1983.

In 2000, he was graduated from the Angelicum University in Rome with a license in canon law, and until his retirement in 2012, he served with the Tribunal of the Diocese of Oakland, including as judicial vicar for almost a decade. Msgr. Breton served in other capacities: as vicar for priests and vicar for religious and as a member of the diocesan school board, Priests' Council, Personnel Board, College of Consultors and more.

Discussing his work with the Tribunal in an interview in the Aug. 20, 2012 Catholic Voice, Msgr. Breton said: "The cases always deal with crucial events in people's lives and certainly the breakup of a marriage is a traumatic event. You can't deny that part of someone's life, even though it might have been a mistake, even though it might have been not what was expected."

At his retirement dinner in July 2012, he was surprised and honored to be named a monsignor.

"It is a personal honor but it's wider than just personal," he said in the same Catholic Voice interview. "I would hope that it is also meant to honor people I have served, people I have worked with."

Msgr. Breton was the son of the late Albert V. Breton and Solange G. Breton Boucher, both natives of Quebec, Canada. He was preceded in death by his brother and sister-in-law Real and Jane Breton and his sister and brother-in-law Jeannine Breton and Walter Telford. He is survived by his sister Yolande Breton and seven nieces and nephews and many grandnieces and nephews.

Interment was in the Priests' Plot at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Hayward.

Sister Barbara Larner, OP

Sister Barbara Larner, OP

When St. Elizabeth High School inducted Sister Barbara Larner, OP, into its Hall of Fame in October, she was asked about her goals.

It's not as if she had not accomplished many goals in her almost 60 years of service as a Dominican Sister of Mission San Jose, with much of that life spent in the service of children in urban Catholic schools.

Sister Barbara had something to say. Predictably, it had to do with others.

"I am looking forward to the day when a million dollar gift comes in for St. Elizabeth High general school needs, no strings attached! I am looking forward to the day when our Legacy Society gatherings will have to hire a larger venue! I am looking forward to the day when St. Elizabeth can welcome every student who applies and not have the school or the families have to struggle to make ends meet! Dreams can become reality! I believe!"

That reality will have to happen without her. Sister Barbara died Nov. 14, four days after being involved in a traffic accident. She was 82.

She is being remembered for her marvelous sense of humor, incredible energy and zest for life, as well as her love for people, her religious community and her church.

Barbara Larner was born May 22, 1932, in Berkeley, where she attended the School of the Madeleine and Presentation High School. She went on to the hometown campus, the University of California at Berkeley. She served as assistant city editor of the Daily Californian, the campus newspaper.

But despite her obvious talents for journalism, the newspaper life was not for her. As was noted in the recent biography for the Hall of Fame induction: "Sister decided to enter the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose at least on a trial basis. This trial has lasted 59 years."

She entered the convent Sept. 8, 1955, at Mission San Jose Dominican Sisters. She received the habit June 19, 1956, and the name of Sister Mary Magdalen, which she would use until returning to her baptismal name of Barbara in 1989. She made her first profession of vows on June 23, 1957, and her final profession on June 23, 1963.

Most of her ministry was in the inner-city, including South Central Los Angeles at St. Michael School for a total of nine years, also serving as principal, and St. Francis Cabrini School, where she was principal and teacher as well as doing development work for a total of 14 years.

She served at Oakland's St. Elizabeth High School three different times for a total of 23 years. She started and implemented a full-blown development program well before it became fashionable.

During these early days of development, Sister Barbara became friends with Gladys Valley, head of the Wayne and Gladys Valley Foundation. The friendship was destined to be a special gift for many years. A leadership gift from the foundation enabled the high school to approach other foundations and obtain their support. The efforts of an active alumni group, generous friends, plus local foundations allowed St. Elizabeth to raise $3.5 million by the time Sister Barbara was transferred to another post after serving 18 years at St. Elizabeth High School.

After an eight-year ministry in South Los Angeles, Sister Barbara was assigned to return to St. Elizabeth High School as a retired volunteer.

At St. Elizabeth, Sister Barbara continued "Las Casas," the adult English as a Second Language program that serves 250 annually providing 12,000 hours of instruction three nights a week.

The Dominican Sisters invite the public to remember Sister Barbara with them at a 7 p.m. Nov. 24 vigil at St. Elizabeth Church, 1500 34th Ave., Oakland. The Mass of Resurrection will be celebrated at 5 p.m. Nov. 25 at the Dominican Motherhouse, Mission San Jose. She will be buried the next morning in God's Acre at the Motherhouse.

Sister Barbara is survived by her sister, Leah. She was preceded in death by her parents, Richard and Leah Larner, and her brothers Dick and Bob.

There are three ways to support Sister Barbara's favorite projects. Donations to St. Elizabeth High School in memory of Sister Barbara Larner, OP, can be made out to St. Elizabeth High School, Attn: Office of Institutional Advancement, 1530 34th Ave. Oakland 94601.

Donations to the Las Casas ESL program or to the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose's Mother Pia Backes Fund can be made at: Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose Development Office, 43326 Mission Blvd., Fremont 94539-5829 or online at www.msjdominicans.org.

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