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placeholder January 8, 2018   •   VOL. 56, NO. 1   •   Oakland, CA

O'Dowd president dies

Steve Phelps, who served as president of Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland since 2005, died Dec. 26, the school reported.

Principal J.D. Childs said in a letter to the O'Dowd community that Phelps went into the hospital on Dec. 22 for a heart procedure and suffered two major heart attacks in the course of the procedure and afterward.

"His care for people and palpable optimism were characteristics that draw folks to O'Dowd and that have positively impacted so many faculty, staff, students, families, volunteers, friends and advocates for O'Dowd over the years of his rich tenure," Childs wrote. "Moreover, I am aware of the infectious nature of Steve's inquisitive mind and how learning was always a part of his every day. He was teacher, coach, advocate and friend to numerous folks throughout his extensive career."

Phelps, who held a doctoral degree in education, had been director of professional development at St. Ignatius College Prep in San Francisco in 2005 when he was named O'Dowd's first president, focusing on long-range planning, development and finances.

During his tenure, the school opened its Center for Environmental Studies, which received national recognition, and implemented a sustainability program for the campus.

"For Steve, God's grace was discoverable every day at school. … Steve embodied the joy that resulted from the ministry of education in our Catholic school. He was so proud of that work here at O'Dowd and we are all so grateful to him for it. … and I am profoundly without words at the immensity of this loss," Childs wrote.

Phelps was born in Los Angeles, and raised in San Francisco and Oakland. He attended St. Peter School in San Francisco's Mission District through third grade, and then graduated from St. Jarlath's School in Oakland. He continued his education at St. Joseph High School in Alameda.

He was the first in his family to attend college. Phelps was a graduate of the University of San Francisco, where he majored in psychology. He earned his California elementary and secondary teaching credentials from the University of San Francisco and San Francisco State University. He received his master's degree from San Francisco State University, and his doctorate in educational leadership from the University of San Francisco.

Phelps is survived by his wife Sue, his children, Amy and Chris, and his grandchild, Boston. The funeral Mass was held Jan. 3 at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland. Bishop O'Dowd High School established the Stephen Phelps Memorial Scholarship Fund in honor of Phelps' decades of service to Catholic education and to the O'Dowd community, as well as his dedication to ensuring that an O'Dowd education is accessible to all deserving students. Checks can be mailed to the school, at 9700 Stearns Ave., Oakland, CA 94605 with "Phelps Fund" in the memo. Donations may be made online at www.bishopodowd.org/.

Patricia Ann Folger

Patricia Ann Folger, wife of Richard (Dick) Folger, a permanent deacon for the Diocese of Oakland, died Dec. 20 from pancreatic cancer. She was 84.

Born in San Francisco, Folger attended schools in San Mateo and Santa Rosa before graduating with a bachelor's degree in education from San Jose State College in 1957. A credentialed teacher, she served as a teacher and substitute teacher in local school districts. Later she worked for FolgerGraphics, the family business.

In 1997 she graduated with a master's degree in piano performance from California State University, East Bay. She shared her musical gift by performing in convalescent and care facilities, at church and in various concerts. She was also a poet and a book of her poems will be printed in the coming year.

For more than 50 years, Folger was an active parishioner, musician and member of the Ladies Guild at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Union City. She joined her husband, Dick, in offering a Communion service for residents at Casa Sandoval for more than 20 years.

Folger is survived by Dick, her husband of 60 years; and seven children, Bruce Ramsey, Mark Folger, Suzanne Seever, Michelle Tagliabue, Erik Folger, Kirk Folger and Myke Folger.

The funeral Mass was held Dec. 28 at Our Lady of the Rosary Church, Union City. Interment followed at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Hayward.

Rev. Patrick Leo LaBelle, OP

Rev. Patrick Leo LaBelle, a former president of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, died Dec. 11 in Fairfax. He was 78.

A native of Vallejo, LaBelle was graduated from St. Vincent Ferrer Grammar and High Schools before studying at Saint Mary's College of California in Moraga. He joined the Order of Preachers (Dominicans, Western Province) in 1959 and received the religious name, Patrick. He made his religious profession in 1960 and was ordained to the priesthood at St. Francis de Sales Cathedral in Oakland on April 23, 1965.

He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree by Saint Mary's College in 1975 and graduated with a Doctor of Ministry in 1994. Because of his love for the Christian Brothers, the Brothers awarded him their highest honor, Affiliation, AFSC.

During his 52 years of ministry, Father LaBelle devoted many years of his life to campus ministry at St. Thomas More University Parish in Eugene, Oregon; the Newman Center at the University of Washington, Seattle; and at Stanford University. In the Diocese of Oakland his assignments included two terms as president at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology (DSPT), 1977-1981, and as dean of students at Saint Mary's College.

"Father LaBelle was crucial in helping guide our transition from a tiny 'Dominican seminary,' located at St. Albert Priory in Oakland, into a public institution at the GTU that welcomes lay men and women into fully accredited academic programs," said Rev. Peter Rogers, OP, DSPT president, in a Dec. 15 message to the campus community.

He also served as pastor at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Berkeley (1992-1995) and he had been a director at Vallombrosa Retreat Center, Menlo Park.

Survivors include his brother, Robert, and his sister, Claire, their spouses, children and grandchildren.

The funeral Mass was held Dec. 15 at St. Dominic Church in San Francisco. Burial followed at St. Dominic Cemetery in Benicia.

Rev. Patrick O'Brien, CSSR

Rev. Patrick O'Brien, director of Holy Redeemer Center in Oakland, died Oct. 19 after a recent diagnosis of liver cancer. He was 78 and had been a priest of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists) for 53 years.

Born in Great Falls, Montana, Father O'Brien entered the Redemptorist Novitiate in 1958 and professed temporary vows the following year. He professed perpetual vows as a Redemptorist in 1962 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1964.

Twice he was elected provincial superior of the former Oakland Province. Notable accomplishments during his tenure included accepting his Congregation's mission in Nigeria and helping to navigate the merger with the former St. Louis Province to establish the Denver Province in 1996.

Father O'Brien ministered in Marriage Encounter for nearly five decades, and he focused on both Marriage Encounter and Cursillo in the Oakland diocese. He also served as associate pastor at the former St. Alphonsus Liguori Parish in San Leandro.

In a 2014 reflection for The Catholic Voice, Father O'Brien said that his 50 years in the priesthood had been "very enjoyable, enriching, fulfilling — and non-typical of most priests. I have never been a pastor of a parish, or assigned full time to parochial work. Much of my priestly service to the Church was in education and administration, but not in isolation from the laity. In addition to help-out work in parishes, I have worked closely with people in non-parochial settings of faith formation and sharing, especially in renewal groups such as Marriage Encounter, Retorno, Cursillo, etc."

He also wrote about having been fortunate to have seen the Church in a broad way, with the opportunity to visit and experience faith in many countries. "Preaching and bringing the richness of the Church's sacramental life to so many people over the years has made my life very fulfilling."

The funeral Mass was held Oct. 21 at the St. Clement Health Care Center in Liguori, Missouri; burial was held in the Redemptorist Cemetery.

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