|October 9, 2017 • VOL. 55, NO. 17 • Oakland, CA|
Berkeley parish celebrates 50 years in Holy Spirit's glow
The Holy Spirit is at work at the corner of College Avenue and Dwight Way, four blocks from the University of California, Berkeley.
She had been away from the church for 20 years when she stepped inside those red doors on the concrete building in 1985. "My spirit was very eclectic," she said.
She went to church, because it was "nice to pray with someone again."
She recalled that it was close to Christmas. "I remember Father Al," she said, Rev. Albert Moser, CSP, served the parish from 1982 until his death in 2016.
"I didn't think I'd go back," she recalled.
But she did.
"I wanted to be struck by lightning," she said. She wasn't. But she kept going back.
"Over Memorial Day, I decided I wanted to be back," she said. "I cried for the first six months," she said.
"Within two years I was standing at the door with Al, greeting those who entered the doors. "I've been doing that for 30 years."
Here's what keeps her greeting people: "This parish brought me back after 20 years," she said. "You're going to have a great experience being with this community."
"We're appropriately called Holy Spirit," she said. "The Holy Spirit is very present there. I experience that presence."
The spirit alive within a community of parishioners and college students may be just what Bishop Floyd Begin, the first bishop of Oakland, envisioned 50 years ago at the dedication of the Mario Ciampi-designed concrete building.
While the campus Newman Hall, under the stewardship of the Paulist Fathers, dates to 1906, it was in 1967 that it became part of a new parish created by Bishop Begin.
"Parish life of Newman Center, of composite membership, will flourish insofar as it is a living Eucharistic community," wrote Bishop Begin in a lengthy article published in the May, 10, 1967 issue of The Catholic Voice titled, "The Church and the University." The bishop expressed his sentiments for a diverse congregation.
A diverse congregation was what gathered for 5 p.m. Mass Sept. 30 celebrated by Rev. George Fitzgerald, CSP, his Paulist brothers including former pastors dating back to the mid-1970s, and neighboring Jesuits and Dominicans.
In his homily, Rev. Ivan Tou, CSP, reflected on how the Beatitudes have been lived out by the Newman community over the past 50 years.
"We give thanks to God for our Newman Hall/Holy Spirit Church, which has been a light for Berkeley for 50 years," he said. "Through the ministries, we have made a difference at Cal. We humbly pray that we may be blessing for 50 years more, and beyond."
The combination of parish and center for Catholic students was new to Jule Coppa, who is the team director for Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS).
"This is my first time serving somewhere the Catholic center is part of a larger parish," she said. "In Catholic centers, it can be all about working on our own faith.
It's different at Holy Spirit.
"The parish broadens that experience," said Coppa, who is serving at her third University of California campus. At Newman, she said, college students "see generations of faith and ownership," as well as "different expressions" of faith."
"Students see themselves as part of a larger fabric of church," Coppa said. "They see the faith as something passed on to them."
She said she sees students becoming involved in some of the parish's outreach efforts.
Juliane Trapse, a third-year student at the university, is one of the two co-chairs for the Outreach committee of the Student Ministry Team.
"Outreach deals with three main things: ecumenical relations, interfaith relations and making our presence visible and noticeable here at UC Berkeley," she said.
Longtime parishioner Speltz would agree with her. She called the recent Muslim-Christian dialogue hosted by Holy Spirit/Newman Hall "one of the things I'm most proud of" during her three decades of parish life.
The parish's commitment to the poor, through its monthly sit-down Loaves and Fishes dinners and its support of parishioner J.C. Orton's Berkeley Night on the Streets ministry, which provides food, sleeping bags and prayerful presence to those who live in People's Park and Berkeley shelters, is one of its outstanding features.
The parish's care for the student community has been fortified over the past few years by the addition of the FOCUS missionaries, who "evangelize through relationships," Coppa said.
The Berkeley students, Coppa said, "see themselves as part of something larger." She noted "care for the environment, desire for diversity, to see people treated well, and desire to fight for a cause."
Berkeley students believe "my voice matters," she said.
Of the students already practicing their faith, she said, "I've been so impressed by the way they make time for their faith and share with others."
Trapse is part of that generation. "From my experience as a student and especially as a first generation freshman new to North Berkeley, I can tell that what the students hunger for is to see Christ and experience His love," she said. "We all hunger to belong somewhere and to be needed and to be loved."
She has found that at Holy Spirit/Newman Hall.
"Speaking as a student who has spent her four years here as an active part of this thriving Faith community I've come to call this 'concrete tomb' my home," she said.
"While it may look cold from the outside and it is rather drafty in the inside as well, one cannot ignore the warm heart and souls that make up the Body of Christ found here at Holy Spirit/Newman Hall Parish."
That concrete building has been a fortress – literally, said Modesto Fernandez, whose attendance at Newman Hall goes back to the 1960s. It served as a "sanctuary" in 1970. "People's Park is only two blocks away," he said, pointing west. It held back tear gas quite well, he recalled.
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