Rev. James V. Matthews
Rev. Raymond Sacca
Rev. Ray Zielezienski
Rev. Jayson Landeza
Rev. James V. Matthews, longtime pastor of St. Benedict Church in Oakland, will become the rector of the Cathedral of Christ the Light on Feb. 1. He will be the third rector of the cathedral, which opened in September 2008.
Father Matthews, 66, succeeds Rev. Raymond Sacca, who has served as the rector of the cathedral since 2010. Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, made the announcement Dec. 13.
After a sabbatical in Rome, which begins this month, Father Sacca will become pastor of St. Joan of Arc Parish in San Ramon, after the retirement of Rev. Ray Zielezienski on Sept. 15, 2015. Father Zielezienski is retiring after 34 years in active ministry.
"I am so very grateful to Father Sacca for serving as cathedral rector under three bishops," Bishop Barber said in a statement. "He has helped me greatly since I became his third bishop and I will miss his counsel. I will look forward to Father Matthews' arrival and to working with him in this important role."
Rev. Jayson Landeza, who serves as chaplain to the Oakland Police Department and the Oakland Fire Department, will become pastor of St. Benedict Parish on Feb. 2. In addition to serving the East Oakland parish, Father Landeza will retain his chaplaincy to the departments.
Father Matthews — known as Father Jay to more than one generation of Oakland Catholics — was ordained in 1974. He was the first African American to be ordained in Northern California.
"I'm very pleased to be working with Bishop Barber in truly enhancing the ministries already in place in the cathedral parish," Father Matthews said.
In addition to "being very, very helpful at major events at the cathedral," Father Matthews looks forward to building stronger connections in the city of Oakland — "educational, political and social," he said.
"I'm a native guy," Father Matthews said. He was born in Berkeley, and raised in Oakland. "Oakland is my home," he said.
In many ways, St. Benedict Parish has been his home — for longer than the 25 years he has served as its pastor. His family moved there in 1960, and it was at his confirmation in 1962 that Bishop Floyd Begin, the first bishop of Oakland, invited him to consider the priesthood.
Four years later, after his graduation from Skyline High School, he entered the seminary. He returned to St. Benedict to celebrate his first Mass; he came back to become pastor in 1989.
"St. Benedict's will always be home to me," he said.
In his 40 years of priestly ministry, Father Matthews has served in several diocesan roles including as vicar for Black Catholics, a member of the diocesan Pastoral Council and as a chaplain for the Oakland police and fire departments.
Father Matthews says he is looking forward to his role, including helping people to know that "our cathedral is not just a beautiful building at Lake Merritt, but a welcoming place, a home for many."
"We're going to continue to grow in very wonderful ways," Father Matthews said of his new parish.
"I love liturgy very, very much," he said. It's the height of our experience spiritually, ministerially. As a parish, it's the highest expression of our faith. It's where we find strength, nourishment, and understand what it means to be a family."
He welcomes the opportunity to serve in the cathedral parish. "There's a lot of diversity there, so wonderful," he said. "I can see all the beautiful diversity celebrating its unity as well.
"I feel so excited," he said. "I have always been one to embrace the diversity in our lives."
He described his departure, after "25 and a half years" at St. Benedict, as "bittersweet."
"We've built up this community, a parish that was dying," he said. Today, it is "so faith-filled, so wonderful," he said.
"We couldn't build it up from within our boundaries" he said. "It is truly an intentional parish," he said, with parishioners coming from as far away as Stockton, "a place of welcome, a place of participation."
He described St. Benedict as a "last stop" for African American Catholics who question the relevance of the Church in their lives, or don't see the Church as welcoming or hospitable, or in the forefront on justice and equality.
"I'm Catholic because I truly love the possibilities of what the Church can be," he said. "Even though those possibilities haven't been realized, they can be."
He said he is pleased that Father Landeza, who is known in the African American Catholic community from his time as pastor of St. Columba Church in Oakland, will be coming to St. Benedict, where parishioners, Father Matthews said, "will receive him warmly and wonderfully."
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