|May 4, 2015 • VOL. 53, NO. 9 • Oakland, CA|
Jesuit involvement in East Bay
goes back several decades
Pope Francis is one. Bishop Michael C. Barber is also one. And California Gov. Jerry Brown almost became one. What do these men have in common? The Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits.
The heart of Ignatian Spirituality is the Spiritual Exercises, a small book containing meditations and prayers written by St. Ignatius that serve as a guide that can help the reader build a closer or stronger relationship with God. It started out as a retreat aid that can take place over 30 days. It can also be adapted for lay people to pray with in their daily life.
Individual Jesuits have worked in the Oakland diocese in parishes for decades. Rev. Joseph Carroll, SJ, for instance, served as a special assistant to Bishop John S. Cummins for a number of years. It wasn't until 1969 that the Jesuits officially began their involvement in the diocese, said Brother Dan Peterson, SJ, archivist for the Jesuit's California province.
The Jesuits literally left Los Gatos, where their theology school known as Alma College had been located since 1934, and moved to Berkeley. The school received a new name — the Jesuit School of Theology (JST) — and took membership in the Graduate Theological Union (GTU), joining the Franciscan and Dominican schools.
"It was quite a move," said Rev. Thomas Buckley, SJ, a Jesuit historian and former professor at the Jesuit School of Theology. At the time the Jesuit community in Berkeley numbered 41 priests, 69 seminarians (scholastics) and four Brothers. Over the years the JST began admitting lay students as well as Jesuits.
While remaining at its current location, 1735 LeRoy Ave., Berkeley, the JST is currently a campus of Santa Clara University. Today about 87 Jesuits are listed in the school's directory. In recent years St. Patrick Parish in west Oakland became associated with the school, where Jesuit students receive an opportunity to experience parish ministry first hand. Rev. George W. Quickley, the Jesuit pastor, also serves as a teacher for the community's theology students.
In 1972 two Jesuit priests, Fathers John Baumann and the late Jerry Helfrich, founded a community organizing program in Oakland. The program grew and was named People Improving Communitites Through Organizing (PICO). Now known as PICO National Network, www.piconetwork.org, it is also working internationally. Another Jesuit priest serves as chaplain at Oakland's St. Elizabeth High School.
Seven members of Oakland's Jesuit community are involved in various ministries including retreat and addiction counseling, peace and justice ministry, parish ministry and ministry to the Chinese Catholic community.
Today there are about 95 Jesuits in the Oakland Diocese, many of them at the JST. There are 322 Jesuits listed as living in the California province, with another 87 living outside of the province, said Brother Dan Peterson. The latest national figures show 2,325 members as of Jan. 1, 2013.
Jesuits can also be found in high schools and universities in the San Francisco Archdiocese and the San Jose Diocese, Father Buckley said. "There are a lot of Jesuits out here."
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