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placeholder May 18, 2015   •   VOL. 53, NO. 10   •   Oakland, CA
Religious Volunteers

'Unsung heroes' help parishes do the good work

The Catholic Voice asked East Bay Catholics to tell us about the "unsung heroes" who make a difference in their parishes. Here are some examples of the people whose ministries make life not only in the parish, but in the community at large, better by bringing Communion to the homebound, serving on countless committees, gleaning groceries before dawn and other acts of kindness and generosity.

Yolanda Anderson
St. John the Baptist Church, San Lorenzo

"She tirelessly helps everyone she comes in contact with as a Eucharistic Minister to the Sick and Homebound; organizes the Divine Mercy and Mother of Help Devotions each week; sings in the choir; works hard for our annual festival; is a member of St. Gerard Women's Club; officer of Legion of Mary and Curia; and much more, all with a hug and smile for everyone she meets."

Nominated by Ernestine Moir

Roberto Baires
St. Joachim Parish, Hayward

"Roberto is our one-man IT team. Our website was getting very little action until Roberto became our webmaster. The website was revamped it and now it changes daily and has several visitors every day. In addition to being our webmaster he also helps maintain our Facebook page that has brought many new daily followers since he took charge of it. Roberto is here whenever anyone on staff has any type of computer problems or questions. He serves on the Technology Committee and has most recently taken the lead on the installation of many new security cameras throughout our campus. Roberto is a lector and is a member of the Pastoral Council and he also serves as an IT contact for the parish school."

Nominated by the parish staff at St. Joachim Parish, Hayward

Deacon Bill Bothe
St. Stephen Parish, Walnut Creek

"Deacon Bill Bothe, a parishioner of St. Stephen Parish, is retired, though you wouldn't know it," said Father Mark Amaral, parochial administrator of the Walnut Creek parish. "He is and always will be an integral part of the parish. He is an extremely responsible person both in the Sacramental life of the Church and the pastoral life of the parish. We are fortunate that he has chosen to continue his ministry with us."

Nominated by Rev. Mark C. Amaral

Mabel Costa
St. Louis Bertrand Parish, Oakland

"Time has not diminished Mabel Costa's commitment to her church or her parish as her 78 active years attest. Her spirit and deep love of the liturgy and song is as strong as ever. She is the go-to person throughout the years, whether in the trenches or as a leader. She has headed up the Pastoral Council, planned our monthly fellowship and made popcorn at our parish festival. Mabel has nimbly adapted to the ethnic changes in our parish and being trilingual, she has broached the major communities that comprise St. Louis Bertrand with élan! Mabel is extremely self-effacing and humble but these characteristics shroud her iron will and deep faith. Her deacon, Earl JOHson, has recently said of her, 'Mabel is a pillar of our Church and a sterling example of loving God by serving her community.'"

Nominated by Richard Vannucci

Carmen Gilson
St. John Vianney Parish, Walnut Creek

Carmen Gilson "has been a catechist since 1961 when she and her late husband, Carl, went to the local priest, early in their marriage, and said they wanted to be of service. She has worked with children of all ages as well as adults since that time. Carmen spent six years working in the chancery to support catechetical ministries, but still found herself in desperate need to have her own class and connect with the kids. There is a waiting list for her fifth-grade class on the sacraments because parents know their children will not just learn what the sacraments are, but experience them and interact with them. Carmen has also supported our RCIA program here over 15 years. She and Carl began a Renew group at in 1993 that continues today as a beautiful Small Christian Community. She has grown an entire group of catechists within that group, but we all especially love it when she is the leader!"

Nominated by Debbie Mellin

Sarah Guthrie
St. Theresa School, Oakland

"Sarah is who is always there to help — everyone, literally. She has individually cared for numerous elderly people from managing their health care to re-doing elderly homes so they can be sold for a better price. She does this all for nothing. She administers to the spiritual and emotional needs of the students during her free time, not class time. In addition to teaching religion she manages the school library, which has become a lunch time safe haven for students who do not fit in socially. Sarah has a passion for service and extends that passion into creating the best service learning program the school has ever witnessed. She leads every grade through a social service project that develops commitment from every parent, student and parishioners."

Nominated by Joyce Holden

Julie Hadnot
St. Benedict Parish, Oakland

Julie Hadnot is a gifted motivational speaker and singer who boldly shares her faith in Christ at every opportunity. As a graduate of the Diocese of Oakland's School of Pastoral Ministry, Julie serves her faith community through a myriad of ministries including music, liturgy, public speaking, as well as leading her congregation's Faith Formation and Leadership Development committee. In 2007, then-Bishop Allen Vigneron appointed her to serve on the Strategic Planning Committee for the diocesan ministries of the Cathedral of Christ the Light. She is a past recipient of the St. Benedict Community Service Award and St. Columba Parish's Ujima Award. Julie Hadnot was awarded the Diocesan Medal of Merit in 2015.

Nominated by Dionne Cola

Cathy Hess
St. John the Baptist Parish, San Lorenzo

"St. John the Baptist Church of San Lorenzo is very blessed to have Cathy Hess as one of its treasured volunteers. I do not believe she know the word 'no.' She is and has volunteered in so many parts of the parish for so many years. At this time she is on the Pastoral Council, school board (she has no child at the school!), a volunteer with St. Vincent de Paul, a St. Gerard Women's Club member, a Bingo worker, an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion and hospitality worker. She does all this with quiet grace and light spirit, truly is a blessing to all who work with her."

Nominated by Susan Bieschke

Don Javete
St. Theresa Parish, Oakland

"Don, an 86-year-old parishioner, is one of our teen confirmation leaders. He leads one of the small groups, often bakes cookies or coffee cake for the kids and the team, and helps lead the confirmation retreats where he stays in less-than-comfortable conditions. He also takes Communion to folks in the hospital and to those who are homebound. He sings in the choir, participates in small faith community, and is a daily Mass celebrator."

Nominated by Dayne Nicholls

Linda Makaipo
St. Joseph Parish, Fremont

Linda Makaipo "is an asset to her parish." In addition to her duties as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, "she is a lector, sponsor for RCIA and takes Communion to the homebound. She is the epitome of a blessed woman who loves our Lord and lives it!"

Nominated by Yolanda L. Hutton

Joann Mass
St. Anthony Parish, Oakley

"Joann has been the parish's business manager for years. She has helped many priests (including myself), has been part of many — if not every single diocesan board — and she has run the parish food pantry. If somebody deserves diocesan/ecclesial honors, it is she," Father Alexander Q. Castillo wrote in nominating Mass, who has worked for the parish for 28 years, and whose volunteer activities stretch far beyond her working hours. "Helping people is one of her built-in personality features," said Father Kenneth Sales, parochial administrator at St. Anthony. "You can see it anywhere, any time." Her assistance to the priests of the parish is legendary. "I am learning a lot from her, especially when it comes to being charitable," he said. There's no St. Vincent de Paul Society at the parish, Father Sales said, but Mass operates a food pantry nonetheless. "Our food pantry has been blessed," he said. "It is Joann's pet project."

Nominated by Rev. Alexander Q. Castillo

Gavin Robillard
St. Patrick Parish, Rodeo

"Gavin Robillard is one of the most remarkable people I can recall meeting. His energy is boundless. He is the 'good steward' of our parish. Gavin puts himself at the service of everyone he comes in contact with in the parish. I have served with Gavin as a member of the Knights. Gavin has introduced more new people to the Knights than all of the rest of the members combined. I served on the pastoral council for the past five years. For the first three years Gavin attended nearly every meeting as a member of the parish. Gavin serves in the Cursillo, Hospitality committee, San Lorenzo Ruiz group, Stewardship committee. He is an usher, Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, lector, daily communicant. Everybody relies on Gavin. He never says no. He is there for everyone."

Nominated by Richard Trevors

Sylvia San Miguel
St. Raymond Parish, Dublin

"Sylvia, a longtime parishioner of St. Raymond, has been a member of the confirmation team and active in youth ministry for years, is an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, has worked closely with SPRED, and has volunteered in many other capacities in the parish. Since she joined Court St. Raymond, our local Catholic Daughter court, just a few years ago, I have come to appreciate more of her many talents. Sylvia has chaired our bake sales for the past two years, taking us to a whole new level of success as we raise funds for charity; organized outings for the court which provide spiritual enhancement, education and fellowship; arranged special Marian devotions for our May meetings; and in general has been a blessing to our court as an enthusiastic motivator and Sister in Christ."

Nominated by Nita Volker

Helene Vizcarra
St. Mary Parish, Walnut Creek

"Helene wears many hats in the parish, but has a special place in her heart for our priests. She does their grocery shopping, runs errands for them, cooks for them sometimes and has been known to do their laundry when needed. She is the unofficial sacristan in the parish, getting up very early to open the doors of the church by 5:30 a.m. and locking up in the afternoon. She is an Extraordinary Minister of Communion and a lector at the 4:30 Vigil Mass on Saturdays. Even though she is a volunteer, she works in the parish office every day from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Her sense of order, organization and creativity have been an asset. She offers creative solutions and anticipates needs. She is a warm, friendly person who makes people feel welcome. The sick and homebound people are also the beneficiaries of her love and care when she visits them every Thursday to bring them the Eucharist, prayer and encouragement."

Nominated by Ana Lau

St. Bonaventure Parish, Concord

How does a vibrant parish with 2,700 registered families run so smoothly? Volunteers! The staff of St. Bonaventure Parish nominated five parishioners as "unsung heroes."

Jake Davies

While St. Bonaventure Parish staff members describe Jack Davies as "principal collector of all foods for food pantry from all grocery outlets and supermarkets," he is quick to tell you he just picks up food four times a week at Safeway at 6 a.m., loads it into his truck, and unloads it at the food pantry. Just? He's 82, and has lived on the ranch all his life.

Fred Directo

Fred Directo "maintains cleanliness of church throughout each weekend. He is the chief 'Welcomer' of everyone to every event on the campus each weekend," says the pastoral staff of St. Bonaventure Parish in Concord. Directo, who is 80, says with a smile in his voice, "I'm trying to do as much good as possible before I have to go over to the other side." In addition to his cleaning duties at the rectory — which include cleaning, laundry and the occasional ironing — he tidies up the busy church between Masses. Making people feel welcome seems to be second nature to him. He recalled this quote: "You never know what angels you might have entertained."

Arley McVittie

Arley McVittie directs what St. Bonaventure Parish calls its "huge parish food pantry outreach." Huge is right: 150 to 200 families depend on groceries from the parish each week. The food pantry has been operating for at least a quarter-century; McVittie's involvement dates back 15 years. The food pantry operates like a grocery store, with two sections. Food is collected from grocery stores seven days a week by volunteers, who stow it in the freezer until Monday. Volunteers begin setting up at 4 a.m. on market day, which is Tuesday. "It's a good spirit," McVittie said. "

Rosa Rico

"Mother of Faith Formation for pre-school Faith Formation," says St. Bonaventure Parish staff.

Danny Sullivan

"God's General Caretaker of Everything in the Parish," is how the parish staff describes Danny Sullivan. "He's involved in everything."

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