APRIL 26 , 2004


Diversity marks ‘mother’ parish in Berkeley

Parish traces roots to six Presentation Sisters
Father Bill O’Donnell’s
work for social justice
St. Joseph the Worker School determination
St. Joseph the Worker Parish celebrations
Bishop begs Western nations for AIDS help
Nairobi mission helps ease ‘cesspool of human misery’
Concord nun artist uses talent for Nairobi hospital
Franciscan institute helps day laborers stay well

Day laborers get help
finding jobs

How to hire day laborers
Judge orders sex abuse cases coordinated

Boston Archdiocese
sells mansion

New shelter for teens
Sisters renovate chapel,
care center in Fremont

Post abortion healing
retreat offered in June

St. John Vianney Parish breaks ground for center

St. Mary’s College hosts
colleges information fair

New book unveils nuns
as spiritual mothers

Rwandan genocide –
how could we let it happen?
Budget cuts will shred
the state’s safety net




Official newspaper of the Roman Catholic
Diocese of Oakland, California encompassing all of
Alameda &
Contra Costa counties.



Pope decries
spilling of the ‘brothers’ blood

By Peggy Polk
Religion News Service

VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Noting what he called the “tragic” events in the Holy Land and Iraq, Pope John Paul II has urged an end to the “spilling of the blood of brothers” in the Middle East.

The 83-year-old pontiff spoke April 18 after leading the midday Regina Coeli prayer from his study window overlooking St. Peter’s Square. His appeal was televised worldwide by Mondovision.

John Paul referred only indirectly to the Israeli killing of the new Hamas leader, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, but he expressed explicit concern over a number of hostages, including three Italians held by Iraqi insurgents.

The kidnappers had executed a fourth Italian hostage the prior week.

“I follow with great sadness the tragic news arriving from the Holy Land and Iraq,” the pope told pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square. “Stop the spilling of blood of brothers! Such inhuman acts are contrary to the will of God.

“I am particularly close with thought and prayer to the families of so many fearing the fate of their dear ones, especially those who have been taken as hostages.

“I urge the kidnappers to have feelings of humanity. I implore them to return to their families the persons they have in their hands,” the pope said.

John Paul, who strongly opposed the U.S. intervention in Iraq, said he prayed for the people of the Holy Land and Iraq “and for all those who work in those regions for reconciliation and peace.”

Vatican officials have offered the services of Vatican diplomats to try to mediate the release of the Italian and other hostages.

They have also expressed concern over the deaths of hundreds of Iraqis.
Reiterating the mediation offer on April 16, Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said “the Holy See is ready” and Pope John Paul II “would act immediately if it were requested of him.”

But Cardinal Martino, who served for 16 years as the Vatican’s permanent observer at the United Nations, said in a television interview he believed it would be an error for Italian and other foreign troops to pull out of Iraq at this time.

“In this moment, neither Italy nor Europe should withdraw from Iraq,” he said. “Iraq must be re-consigned to the Iraqis, certainly, but in a different situation from that of the present. To do it now could cause a disaster.”

Catholics counter abortion march
in Washington, D.C.

By Voice staff

As pro-abortion supporters gathered for a march in Washington, D.C. Sunday, April 25, counter protestors lined the route to bring their pro-life message to the event.

While the marchers objected to recent federal laws that ban partial-birth abortion and create a criminal offense for killing a fetus, the counter-protestors aimed to show that abortion is harmful to women. Some of them held signs saying “I Regret My Abortion” or “I Regret My Lost Fatherhood.”

The March for Women’s Lives was organized by several pro-abortion groups in response to the two laws recently signed by President George W. Bush. Sponsors of the event included Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the National Organization for Women, and other groups. They claimed that the laws erode a woman’s right to an abortion and hoped to draw 750,000 to the march.

Groups joining the counter-protest included American Collegians for Life, Concerned Women for America, Operation Witness and the Priests for Life Silent No More Project. American Collegians, a student-run organization created in 1987, held a symposium on abortion in Washington, D.C. the day before the march.

Concerned Women and Priests for Life joined in creating signs for counter-protestors to hold. Some groups warned participants that the marchers “can be intimidating” and cautioned that this pro-life witness was “not for the faint of heart.”

Some religious groups joined the pro-abortion marchers, including Catholics for a Free Choice, which planned to hold a protest at the Vatican Nunciature.

Catholics invited to regional meetings on building of new Oakland cathedral

By Voice staff

Five “town hall” meetings on the Oakland Diocese’s future Cathedral of Christ the Light are scheduled for the next three weeks to give parishioners an opportunity to hear about building and fundraising plans and to ask questions about the project.

The 90-minute sessions will preview design images of the new cathedral and include a presentation by John McDonnell, project director. Bishop Allen Vigneron and Bishop Emeritus John Cummins will attend some of the sessions.

“We’ll be presenting a lot of important information, and we’ll answer whatever questions are asked,” said McDonnell, an Oakland attorney and former choir director of St. Francis de Sales Cathedral which was razed after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. “Building a cathedral happens only once very three or four centuries in most dioceses, so this is a very exciting era for East Bay Catholics.

The meetings, which are open to all, will begin at 7 p.m. as follows:
Thursday, April 29
St. John the Baptist Community Center

6500 Gladys Ave., El Cerrito

Wednesday, May 5
Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Hall

2808 Lakeshore Avenue, Oakland

Thursday, May 6
St. Isidore Parish Hall

440 LaGonda Way, Danville

Tuesday, May 11
St. Anne Parish Hall

32223 Cabello Street, Union City

Thursday, May 13
Good Shepherd Parish Hall

3200 Harbor Street, Pittsburg

The meetings are scheduled prior to the May 23 blessing of the ground on which the cathedral will be built at the corner of Grand Avenue and Harrison Street, across from Lake Merritt. The blessing is scheduled for 3 p.m.

In addition to the cathedral that will seat up to 1800 people, plans call for a conference center, diocesan offices, rectories for the bishop and parish priests, mausoleum,and underground parking. Craig Hartman of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill is the chief architect.

The cathedral will cost $80 million and the remaining facilities will bring the total cost to $131 million, say project organizers.



Celebrating 125 years
Diversity marks ‘mother’ parish
in Berkeley

By Carrie McClish
Staff writer

While Berkeley’s St. Joseph the Worker Parish is known throughout the Bay Area and beyond for the late Father Bill O’Donnell and his dedication to social activism, a major feature of the faith community is its ethnic diversity.

This diversity was already apparent in the early 1900s with pioneer families from Irish, Italian, and German backgrounds, said Father George Crespin, St. Joseph pastor. The beginnings of a Latino community can be traced back to the 1930s and 1940s, while a number of African Americans began to move into the area in the 1940s and 1950s—many after World War II.

In recent years, a growing Asian population, with families from the Philippines, East Asia and India, has enriched the community, and the Ge’ez, Eastern-rite Catholics from the African nation of Eritrea, gather monthly at the parish and take part in parish life.

Many visitors are struck by the diversity, Father Crespin said. Although other parishes in the diocese have mixed populations, he added, “It is a very unconscious thing here. I look out at the congregation and there are some mornings where we have people from every continent on the face of the globe.”

Because of this ethnic mix, many veteran parishioners of different backgrounds have had an “easy” relationship with each other, the priest added. “We have a long history here of groups feeling very much a part of the action, part of the community, not of one group controlling and other groups not. I think that is kind of remarkable given the times.” But he added, “It is probably not too remarkable because this is Berkeley.”

Maria Ramirez appreciated the ethnic climate when she moved to the parish with her husband and three children in 1959. She was pleased to find that her children’s classmates came from different racial and cultural backgrounds. “I always felt good about that... that my children learned to live with everybody,” she said.

Today St. Joseph the Worker Parish has about 1600 households, many of them headed by single persons. “There are many widows and widowers and people who live alone,” Father Crespin said.

On a given weekend about 900 people attend Mass at the parish. Half of these are Spanish-speaking, he noted, and most of these attend the 11 a.m. Spanish Mass.
For many years, St. Joseph was the only Berkeley Catholic church to offer Spanish- speaking pastoral ministry until neighboring St. Ambrose Parish recently added a Spanish liturgy.

St. Joseph was one of the first parishes in the East Bay to be connected with the Spanish Mission Band, a group of priests, which formed some 50 years ago to provide pastoral care to Hispanics, according to Norma Gray, a longtime parishioner. “We always had a mission to the Spanish-speaking,” she said.

Although the late Father John Garcia, based at the parish for several years, was assigned to the Spanish Mission Band, Latino Catholics had to go to a site in West Berkeley to celebrate Mass in their native language.

That began to change in the 1970s. Father Patrick Kearney, pastor from 1970-73, was the first to invite the Spanish speaking “to come and have Mass in the parish,” Gray said. His successor, the late Father Bill O’Donnell, instituted a regular Spanish Mass at St. Joseph.

Father O’Donnell also assigned the Spanish liturgy to the 11 a.m. slot on Sundays. “In those days it was unheard of because, if people got a Spanish Mass, they got it on Saturday night or Sunday night or Sunday afternoon, but never in the morning,” Father Crespin said.

These changes gave rise to occasional tensions between parishioners, Maria Ramirez said, for lack of understanding or an inability to communicate. On one occasion parishioners and a non-Hispanic priest were at odds over the annual Mass for the Virgin of Guadalupe.

It has taken time for the different cultures to learn from one another and appreciate the traditions and celebrations of other groups, but Ramirez noted that parishioners from various backgrounds now attend the Guadalupe celebration.

Even though diversity has long been a part of St. Joseph the Worker, the community has been affected by an influx of new Spanish-speaking residents, and some have said that this has almost created two parishes, one that speaks English and the other Spanish.

“This is unusual for us because we’ve never experienced this before,” said Gray, whose family moved to the parish in the 1930s. The parish has begun offering separate services such as religious education for the two language groups. “We have separate everything, and that’s not a good thing.”

At every parish meeting the issue of integrating the two communities has come up, Gray added. “Both communities recognize that to bridge that gap is one of the big challenges of the day.”

Complicating matters is that many parishioners are monolingual and can’t easily participate in activities outside their language group, Father Crespin said. “There are some people who are bridge people, who can move in the two communities. But there are not many. We’ve tried some common activities and they’re only mildly successful.”

There are a number of different factors at play, said Father Crespin, who explained that he is very conscious that he is dealing not only with two different languages but two different cultures.

“I have experienced being at an English Mass right after celebrating the Spanish Mass – and it is like being in two different worlds,” the pastor said.

“The Hispanic spirituality and theology is probably more traditional than the spirituality and theology of the English-speaking community. And when you preach you can’t just repeat the same homily because it is a whole different cultural setting.”

But the parish is making progress in bringing the communities together, Gray said. For instance, on Holy Thursday the Mass is a bilingual service. Music plays a key role in this.
“The music communities are merging the fastest because we do sing together for certain occasions like Holy Thursday and other special occasions,” said Gray, who is marking her 60th year as a member of St. Joseph’s choirs.

As another sign of progress, the parish’s anniversary Mass on May 1 will be a bilingual liturgy featuring music that represents different organizations in the parish.

Parish traces roots
to six Presentation Sisters

By Carrie McClish
Staff writer

Most parishes can trace their roots to a single priest, who arrived at his new assignment via horse or car, but St. Joseph the Worker came to life in a unique way. A community of six religious women helped give the aptly named “mother parish” of Berkeley its start.

Led by Mother Mary Teresa Comerford, the Sisters of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary came to Berkeley in the late 1870s to establish a convent and a school for girls in what were then grain fields located between the bay and the newly opened University of California.

Mr. and Mrs. James McGee, early Berkeley pioneers, donated the land for the convent in 1878. By July of that year, the Presentation Sisters, then a cloistered order, opened St. Joseph Presentation Academy in the convent building, to serve the growing number of Catholic families in the area.

These Catholics, mostly Irish farmers and workers in West Berkeley, had been gathering for Mass in a barn on the farm of Michael Curtis. The liturgies then moved to the newly built convent and were celebrated whenever Father Michael Gualco, pastor at St. Paul Parish in San Pablo, was able to ride into town.

Mother Comerford soon wrote to her brother, Father Pierce Comerford, a retired missionary in Ireland, and asked him to come to Berkeley to serve the new community. He agreed and arrived in October 1878 as assistant pastor at Sacred Heart Church in Oakland. He made his home in Berkeley, where he served as chaplain to the Presentation convent and ministered to the local Catholic community.

With a school and chaplain in place, San Francisco Archbishop Joseph Alemany created St. Joseph Parish on April 29, 1879. Liturgies, however, would be celebrated in the convent for the next four years, until the first church, a wooden gothic structure, was built in 1883.

Father Bill O’Donnell’s work
for social justice drew national attention
to St. Joseph Parish

By Carrie McClish
Staff writer

To think about Berkeley’s St. Joseph Parish over the last 30 years is to remember Father Bill O’Donnell, who led the parish from 1973-95 as a center for social justice activities.

A champion for the rights of the poor and marginalized, Father O’Donnell put his body on the line in hundreds of protests. He died Dec. 8 last year at age 73.

“It wasn’t so much the parish as a whole necessarily embracing all of these activities or being a part of them, but Bill’s presence and his openness attracted groups of people who related to him,” said Father George Crespin, who succeeded Father O’Donnell as pastor in 1995.

Over the years the parish stood in solidarity with farmworkers, participated in boycotts, and opposed the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Many parishioners like Bill Joyce were drawn to the parish because the community addressed social concerns. “It was not like you were getting a political diatribe all the time or anything like that, but there also was not fear to bring that to the discussion and say strong things,” he said.

“I think there was some real leadership that took place at St. Joe’s, primarily through Father O’Donnell,” said Joyce, who was active on the parish’s social justice committee when the parish declared itself a sanctuary and provided support to Central American refugees. This was opposite from the experience Joyce, a 53-year-old special education teacher, had growing up. During the late 1960s he recalled feeling disillusioned with Church hierarchy and local parishes for failing to take a position regarding the Vietnam War.

“I liked it that that wasn’t the case at St. Joseph’s in the 1980s,” he said. “That was invigorating for me personally to be connected with these issues in a positive way through the Church.”

St. Joseph the Worker School determined to continue legacy of quality education

By Carrie McClish
Staff writer

After 126 years in operation, Berkeley’s St. Joseph the Worker School faced a crisis last fall when it landed on a list of diocesan elementary schools at risk of closure. It was one of eight schools warned that they could stay open only if they pulled out of enrollment and financial deficits.

But even before that announcement, the school was showing signs of vigor, and today it is on the way to meeting its goals.

Currently 124 students are enrolled, an improvement over last year when there were 109, said Natalie Walchuk, St. Joseph principal. The goal for next year is 134, and the administrator is positive about meeting that number. “We are almost at that goal already, and that’s just exciting for us,” she said.

Originally called St. Joseph’s Presentation Academy, the school was founded on July 15, 1878, on land donated to the Presentation Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary by James McGee, a local Berkeley farmer and devout Catholic. Mother Mary Teresa Comerford served as superior of the convent and principal of the school.

The first institution was a boarding school for girls, but over the years the site also served as the home of two boys’ schools and Presentation High School, which closed in 1988 after educating Catholic girls for 110 years. Most of the
Presentation Sisters moved out of the parish the following year.

The only Presentation Sister remaining at St. Joseph School is Sister Denise Bourdet, who joined the school in September 1972. Initially a second grade teacher who also worked in the parish Catholic Youth Organization program, she now focuses primarily on CYO.

Sister Bourdet, who estimated that she has worked under six or seven principals at St. Joseph, praised Walchuk, who is in her first year as the school’s principal. She also credited Walchuk for bringing “new life” to the school and helping attract new families.

The longtime educator said St. Joseph is unique because it attracts students from a wide area. Some live as far away as San Francisco or Fremont and come with their parents who commute to jobs in Berkeley. Other students have parents who attended the school themselves years earlier. She feels that this diversity enhances the school’s charms.

“I’m still here and I enjoy it,” she said. “Once you meet the children, you don’t want to give them up.”

Anniversary celebrations this weekend

By Voice staff

Berkeley’s St. Joseph the Worker Parish will celebrate its 125th birthday this upcoming weekend, May 1-2, with activities ranging from solemn ritual to child’s play.

Bishop Emeritus John Cummins will preside at the anniversary Mass at 4:30 p.m. on May 1 at the parish church, 1640 Addison Street.

The liturgy, reflecting the parish’s membership, will be in English and Spanish,
with both English and Spanish choirs providing music.

The Ge’ez community, an Eastern-rite Catholic group based at the parish, will participate in the procession.

Following the liturgy there will be a gala dinner at the Doubletree Hotel on the Berkeley Marina. Dinner tickets are $50 each and can be purchased by calling St. Joseph’s Rectory at (510) 843-2244.

The birthday celebration continues on May 2 at the 9:30 a.m. Mass with students from St. Joseph the Worker School participating.

An open house at the school and spring fair, featuring food and games, will follow on the school grounds, 2125 Jefferson Avenue.

All former parishioners and school alumni are especially invited to attend.

Bishop begs Western nations
for AIDS help

By G. Jeffrey MacDonald
Religion News Service

For a soft-spoken country priest with a gentle smile, Kevin Dowling has an uncanny knack for ruffling feathers. But to him, conflict and controversy seem a small price to pay in a home-front war against a rampaging AIDS virus.

Over the past four years, this Catholic bishop of Rustenburg, South Africa, has grabbed headlines worldwide for challenging his church’s absolute ban on condom use. He has also gained reputation as a fierce government critic by assailing policies that haven’t dented the disease that now infects close to 30 million in sub-Saharan Africa and kills 600 a day in South Africa alone.

Now Bishop Dowling is bringing his battle to a new front: the minds and purses of developed nations, beginning with the United States. On March 30, for example, he delivered his plea for help to about 200 people at Boston College.

“We’re at risk of losing entire nations to this disease,” Bishop Dowling said, noting for instance that almost 39 percent of Botswana’s population is HIV-positive. “Are we going to become a global community, or a world where nations always compete with each other in a way that causes the poor and marginalized to always fall through the cracks? We cannot do it alone. We need a global solidarity movement.”

Bishop Dowling’s priority is a project to establish 24 church-run treatment clinics across South Africa. More broadly, South Africa needs $200 million by 2005 to treat about half of the 5.3 million who suffer from the disease. To reach these goals, the bishop said, Western nations will need to follow where the private sector has already gone to help subsidize treatment programs beyond the reach of African budgets.

Over the long term, Bishop Dowling aims to convince the world that the Catholic Church brings a compassionate and relevant response to today’s crisis. Toward that end, he aims to reshape church policies that prohibit all forms of birth control. His authority to address the subject seems to be growing with each year spent studying AIDS and ministering to its weakest victims.

“He is the AIDS bishop,” said James Keenan, professor of moral theology at Weston Jesuit Theological Seminary and visiting scholar at Boston College. “Not many bishops are actual AIDS ministers, but he is. There is not a bishop in the world who has done more work with AIDS patients. That’s why we brought him here.”

In his presentation at Boston College, Bishop Dowling showed clips from a news report featuring his work at Freedom Park, a shack village for mostly illegal immigrants near one of the world’s richest platinum mines. In the clip, the bishop’s bright white shirt and clerical collar give sharp contrast to the residents’ dark skin and the muddy floors of their unlit, makeshift homes.

He listens as young, single women tell of their desperate search for money to feed children and siblings. He concludes that some turn to prostitution as their sole alternative, and for them the church’s ban on condoms becomes a “death-dealing” code.

To date, the Vatican has not censured him for defying the church’s prohibition on contraception, Bishop Dowling said, because “I’m too small-fry to worry about, way down at the bottom of Africa.”

Yet his attempts “to construct an ethic and moral theology around survival”—and to render condom use as a pro-life measure or even a moral imperative in certain circumstances—have led a number of church officials to publicly discuss their view of condoms as evil instruments.

“Condoms may even be one of the main reasons for the spread of HIV/AIDS,” wrote members of the Southern African Bishops Conference in July 2001 in the aftermath of Bishop Dowling’s advocacy for condom usage. “Apart from the possibility of condoms being faulty or wrongly used, they contribute to the breaking down of self-control and mutual respect.”

Last year, Vatican Cardinal Lopez Trujillo said condoms could not be trusted to prevent the spread of HIV. The World Health Organization quickly condemned the Vatican claim as “incorrect” and “dangerous.”

At his Boston College speech, Bishop Dowling faced further criticism from a Catholic physician in the audience.

“Condoms are not the answer,” said Dr. Gilbert Lavoie of Boston. “People realize they only bring half the pleasure, so they stop using them. Let the public health people focus on the condoms. You (Dowling) focus on the abstinence.”

Despite a wave of criticism, Dowling believes the church might be making progress to overcome its stigma in southern Africa as an out-of-touch and uncaring institution. The church provides more AIDS services in the region than any other nongovernmental agency, he said.

What’s more, Catholic hospitals and clinics now hand out information about the potential health benefits of condoms, although they stop short of distributing condoms on site.

And the more the church publicly debates prohibitions on condoms, he said, the more the conversation “brings the church into ridicule and causes us to reconsider.”

To advance his cause, Bishop Dowling has gained support from a number of Catholic theologians in North America and Europe. For Margaret Farley, a Yale University ethicist and advocate for HIV-infected African women, Bishop Dowling is charting an important course by identifying that African women are seldom free to make ideal moral choices.

“Many African women have very little choice in the exercise of their sexuality,” Farley said.

South Africa at a glance
Basic facts about South Africa and
its religious history:

South Africa has a population of about 43 million. Racially, South Africa is 75 percent black; 13 percent white; 9 percent mixed race; 3 percent Indian.

About two-thirds of the country’s population — 26 million (63 percent ) —are Christian. Other religions are ancestral and animist religions (33.5 percent), Islam (2 percent) and Hindu (1.5 percent).

Christianity was introduced by the Portuguese who discovered the Cape of Good Hope in 1488. Boers, who founded Cape Town in 1652, expelled Catholics and there was no Catholic missionary actitvity from that time until the 19th century.

The white Dutch Reformed Church was central to the colonization of South Africa by Dutch Calvinists in the 17th century. The Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk, as it is known in Afrikaans, was a pillar in the officially sanctioned policy of racism and segregation known as apartheid. In fact, the church provided a theological justification for apartheid.

Under apartheid, the Catholic Church was a victim of attacks with some Church leaders detained, tortured and deported, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s.

Starting in the 1970s, the black churches in South Africa were heavily influenced by Black Theology, which advocated the need for Christians to take a stand against apartheid and white racism.
Both white and black theologians, lay leaders and ministers opposed to apartheid drafted the “Kairos Document,” which declared in 1985 that South Africa was at a crucial juncture and that Christians of all races should embrace a justice-based “prophetic” theology.

Among the most prominent ecumenical voices in South Africa during the struggle against apartheid was the South African Council of Churches, whose general secretaries in the last years of apartheid included Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1978-1985); Beyers Naude, a white Afrikaners theologian who supported the struggle against apartheid (1985-1988); and Frank Chikane, who is now a top aide to President Thabo Mbeki (1988-1995).

In a 1997 statement to South Africa’s Truth Commission, the Catholic Church said the complicity of some Catholics with apartheid was in “acts of omission rather than commission.”

(Sources: The World Fact Book, “Christianity in South Africa,” edited by Richard Elphick and Rodney Davenport (University of California Press, 1997), and The Catholic Almanac (Our Sunday Visitor, 2001).



Mission helps ease
‘cesspool of human misery’

By Sharon Abercrombie
Staff writer

Father Richard Mangini, pastor of St. Bonaventure Parish in Concord, went to Nairobi, Kenya, last month to visit the hospital his parishioners have been helping to support since 1999. He came face to face with some troubling contradictions.

The upside: Operated by the Maryknoll missioners and the Assumption Sisters, St. Mary’s Mission Hospital is a thriving, bustling 10-acre complex of 52 buildings which serves Kibera, the largest slum area in the world. One million people live there. The state-of-the-art hospital serves 950 outpatients a day in its dental, eye and AIDS clinics and delivers 650 babies per month.

St. Bonaventure parishioners helped to build the 120-bed maternity wing by tithing part of the proceeds from their fundraisers for their school and parish center. With the help of five other parishes – St. Agnes, St. Francis of Assisi, Queen of all Saints and Casa Hispana Community, all in Concord, and St. Mary Parish in Walnut Creek — it has contributed $400,000. St. Bonaventure continues to send $10,000 every year to the hospital.

The downside: St. Mary’s is “only a drop of relief in a very large cesspool of human misery, and hardly makes a dent in Nairobi’s real, increasing poverty,” said Father Mangini.

“I can’t help but think that these millions of poor people will enter the Kingdom of God long before the people of the First World enter. And I think that we should feel guilty knowing we have so much and they have so little.”

St. Bonaventure’s pastor made his March 6-20 visit to Nairobi in the company of Friends Across Borders, a Maryknoll ministry in San Leandro which sponsors cross-cultural immersion trips to Third World countries.

Father Mangini discovered that slum dwellers are nonentities in Nairobi. The city government does not acknowledge the existence of slums so it literally ignores Kibera, he said. As a result, there is no electricity, plumbing, toilets or running water. The only concession the city makes is to occasionally pump some water into the area for residents to retrieve, the pastor noted.

Nairobi’s poor have been undermined by several other factors, as well. The poverty and stalled economic development have their roots in colonialism, explained the priest. European countries took the riches of Kenya for themselves instead of pouring some of the profits back into the country.

And for more than 20 years, the native government, headed by President Daniel Arap Moi, repeated the same offenses of graft, corruption and financial mismanagement. African politicians and corporations were awarded lucrative contracts for projects but never completed them. As a result, there is a 90 percent poverty rate throughout the country, said Father Mangini.

The situation could begin to change for the better, however, since a newly elected democratic government has taken over. “Officials are going after perpetrators of the corruption.”

Unfortunately the new administration’s efforts to eradicate poverty are now being hampered by the U.S. government, which has renewed a warning against travel to Kenya because of a terrorist attack on the U.S. embassy some years ago. However, local residents insist that travel is safe, “and so it seems,” said Father Mangini.

Meanwhile, the country is hurting because African Safari Tourism is one of the principal industries for Kenya’s economy.

“Critics of the ban allege that the only reason for it is to pressure an unwilling Kenyan government to allow a U.S. Air Force base on the coast of Kenya. According to these critics, the Kenyan government does not want a larger American presence in Kenya because it believes that such a base would be to monitor Al Queda networks in the Indian Ocean,” Father Mangini said.

Besides visiting St. Mary’s Hospital, the group spent time at St. Joseph in Nairobi, which has started furniture, tile and clerical vestment-craft factories to provide employment. Dollicraft, the vestment factory, was initiated by the parish Jesuits to provide jobs for women to help them escape from prostitution. For want of gainful employment, many women sell themselves for thirty cents a trick in order to buy enough food for their children.

As a result of prostitution, HIV-AIDS is rampant. Thousands of children are born with the virus. Father Mangini said that an Italian American Jesuit priest runs an orphanage for several hundreds AIDS orphans who have HIV-AIDS and live together in community.

Kenya’s tribal culture is another major cause of AIDS. Women have sex with the men in their own clan, as well as their husbands. The custom of having more than one wife also causes the disease to spread.

“There is much education that needs to be done,” said Father Mangini.

All was not sadness for the Friends Across Borders participants, however. They also went on a safari to the Masai Mara National Game Preserve, a 1,600 square mile area of savannah plains, and rolling hills growing with wild oats. No hunting is allowed in the preserve, so Father Mangini and his group saw many giraffes, cheetahs, lionesses and their cubs. “One morning we were treated to a safari breakfast alongside the Mara River, dining and looking down on crocodiles and hippopotami.”

On the final morning of the visit, “our African guides spotted one of the few rhinos in the park. We made a detour and got within 20 feet for a good picture. The rhino could have cared less, did not pay attention and went on chewing the wild oats.”
The Serena Lodge where the visitors stayed was built in the design of Masai Village huts. The rooms steeping down the ridges of a mountain provided a picture perfect sight of the savannah, said Father Mangini. It was “a far cry and a world apart from the slums of Nairobi.”

Concord nun artist uses talent
for Nairobi hospital

Holy Names Sister Roberta Carson, director of religious education at St. Bonaventure Parish in Concord, designed this and other greeting cards to raise funds for St. Mary’s Mission Hospital in Nairobi.
An accomplished artist, she was inspired to create cards incorporating Kenyan sayings after she visited the African country two years ago.

For further information about purchasing her cards, contact Sister Carson at (925) 672-5800, ext. 2213.

Franciscan institute
helps day laborers stay well

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

For three months Eddie Galicia has suffered from ear problems – “like an infection,” he says – and today, at last, he is seeking medical help. He stands outside a white van parked on Hearst Avenue in Berkeley, waiting his turn in the mobile clinic.

Once a month the Alameda County clinic stops on the street where more than 100 laborers gather daily to look for work, and it is thanks to the Franciscan-sponsored Multicultural Institute that Galicia and his fellow workers can find help for their ailments, both physical and emotional.

The van is one of several changes the institute has brought to the scene on Hearst Avenue since the MCI stepped in nearly two years ago to work with local merchants, police and the day laborers. Several of these improvements are visible — white curb strips and signs indicating areas where employers can pick up workers, trash containers, a row of portable toilets, and a brown van that arrives daily to serve as an office for linking employers to laborers.

Another change is equally important – improved relations between merchants and laborers. “We had to do a lot of lobbying with the business community,” said Franciscan Father Rigoberto Caloca-Rivas, director of the Multicultural Institute, “because they saw the day laborers as intimidating to customers.”

Twice a month over a period of seven months he and his staff met with merchants and negotiated with city officials. The outcome was better understanding on both sides.

The laborers have learned to police their own ranks, to take care of anyone who shows up under the influence of alcohol, to pick up trash and avoid making comments to women.

For their part, the merchants now better appreciate the situation of the workers and know they can count on the institute to deal with any problems that arise. “The business people are my best friends now,” said Noe Moran, who directs the institute’s life skills program, which includes outreach to day laborers. “We have their total support.”

When the institute was developing its program, Father Caloca-Rivas said, “We had to choose what we could best do and do it well.” They decided to focus on jobs, education and health, and today the program provides English as a second language classes and preparation for the GED (general educational development) exam as well as job placement and medical care.

Last August, after the institute appealed to the county for help, the van began to make its monthly stops on Hearst Avenue, and since then, Father Caloca-Rivas said, the mobile clinic has treated 130 patients at the site.

On this Monday morning, Nicomedes Carrillo waits beside Galicia. This is his second visit, and he is returning to seek treatment for pain in his arm that makes it difficult to work. He can’t afford to visit a private doctor, he says, and he would like local government to establish a permanent clinic at the site, “so people wouldn’t have to wait a month.”

There are plenty of day laborers who suffer some kind of illness, Carrillo says, and staff at the mobile clinic manage to see the most urgent cases during the few hours they spend on Hearst Avenue each month.

Wendy Georges, a community outreach worker with the county Health Care for the Homeless program, makes sure that the patients get follow-up care in local clinics after their visit. They come with many complaints — colds, flu, stomach ailments, pains in muscles and joints, diabetes, anxiety and depression, she said.

The nurse practitioner or physician who examines the patient in the mobile van may prescribe medicine for pain or infections, Georges said, but emotional distress is harder to treat. “That’s really problematic,” she said, but it is not uncommon among the day laborers.

“They are in extremely stressful circumstances,” she said, “going out every day, looking for work and sending money home.” Moran has also seen the emotional toll day laborers face. “Not being able to work and having kids at home is the most killing psychological problem,” he said.

In critical cases the clinic can get the patient a one-time visit to Clinica de la Raza for psychological support; otherwise, Georges said, “We ask Father Rigo and Noe to sit down and talk to them. This may help.”

Georges said the Multicultural Institute “makes things flow smoothly. They are good about explaining things to the workers and about follow-through. A high number of them return, which is unusual in the homeless population.”

Father Caloca-Rivas was equally appreciative of the county staff. “It has been a tremendous blessing to be in partnership with this team,” he said. “They’re very compassionate.”

The laborers, Georges said, qualify for homeless services even though many of them are renting space, usually with several friends sharing a unit. “If they don’t have a lease or a rental agreement, then they meet federal standards” for homelessness, she said.

Before the van arrives on its monthly visit, Tony Lacayo, an institute staff member, visits the day laborers and prepares a list of those looking for medical attention. Georges goes over it with nurse practitioner Elizabeth Marlow and “we triage to see who gets seen first. We see as many as we can in our two-hour time frame.”
With the institute’s help, she said, the process of triage, interviews, blood pressure checks and other preliminaries goes smoothly, and “We can do it without rushing people through.”

Until recently the mobile clinic also offered dental care, providing everything from extractions and root canals to cleaning. Although the laborers have a “tremendous need” for dental services, Georges said, the funding recently ran out, and dental care has been dropped from the program.

Day laborers get help finding jobs

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

As day laborers gather in the morning hours along Hearst Avenue in Berkeley, a brown van parks near Third Street, bringing a mobile office to provide the men with job placement and other help.

The van is identified by a sign: Multicultural Institute Unidad Movil de Servicios Comunitarios. It is the institute’s Community Services Mobile Unit, and for over a year it has been appearing at the corner of Third Street and Hearst with a staff of institute workers who spend their mornings at the site.

Thanks to the Franciscan-sponsored Multicultural Institute, the day laborers now have a semi-official status, the result of negotiations with local officials, merchants, residents and police.

Franciscan Father Rigoberto Caloca-Rivas, institute director, calls the employment service “the best-kept secret in town.” It provides a point of contact between employers and workers and assures the laborers of a fair wage, at least
$12 an hour. The institute also screens workers in advance.

Contractors can call up to an hour beforehand to reserve workers for moving, hauling, gardening, painting, cleaning and more. The most frequent callers, Father Caloca-Rivas said, are realtors fixing up buildings before they put them on the market.

“They get two to three guys at a time,” he said, “from a few days to months.”
Noe Moran, director of the institute’s Life Skills Program which includes day laborers’ services, said the men are under constant stress, trying to find work and support their families. He tries to give them his best, helping them find work, medical care, legal assistance, and whatever else they need.

“I know the guys and who would be good for the job,” Moran said. Many did agricultural work before they arrived in the U.S., and some are skilled in electrical work, tile setting, woodwork or other crafts.

The Multicultural Institute began negotiating with the city nearly two years ago, when merchants were complaining that the men intimidated customers, especially women, and were driving away business. “We worked with the city, residents, police and merchants,” Father Caloca-Rivas said.

Moran and two assistants – Tony Lacayo and Franciscan friar Martin Ibarra – now work closely with the laborers and the merchants. The site also has a regular beat policeman who knows the men.

An average of 150 workers show up along Hearst each day, and only 20 to 30 percent will find employment on any morning, according to Lacayo. About 65 percent are from Mexico, and the rest come from Central America.

Lacayo said that some 40 percent of the men have family in this country, and the others have wives and children at home.

Nicodemes Carrillo, a Guatemalan who came to the U.S. a year ago, said he is on the street by 7:30 a.m. and waits until 1 p.m. before he gives up and leaves.

Work has been hard to find since November, Carrillo said, but he is hoping it will pick up in the summer when homeowners take on gardening and other projects.

Moran said his goal is “to make these guys self-sustaining, not to be dependent on me.” As part of this effort the Life Skills Program provides English as a Second Language and high school equivalency certificate training every Saturday, and some of the day laborers attend, along with local residents.

Father Caloca-Rivas said he hopes to find a location where the institute can provide computer training to the day laborers when they are not working.
“We have a partnership with other agencies to provide training,” he said, “but we need space.”

He is looking for 3,000 square feet in a warehouse or an empty lot. “It would be a community center, also,” he said.

“We want to train 50 guys and send them to work with computers, to get them permanent jobs.”

At the same time, the institute is looking toward other improvements along Hearst Avenue, such as water fountains and shelters to provide relief from the sun and rain.

At some point, Father Caloca-Rivas said, they also hope to help the men organize into a mutually supporting group.

The City of Berkeley has been the most active partner in the institute’s work with day laborers, but one of the merchants has also contributed funding. Father Caloca-Rivas said he managed to fund the van and provide staff by “begging.”
With his plans for future projects, he said, “I’m still begging.”

(Donations can be sent to:
Multicultural Institute
1712 Euclid Avenue
Berkeley, CA 9409)

How to hire day laborers

By Voice staff

Homeowners and contractors in need of temporary laborers for cleaning, gardening, painting, moving or other work, can now call the Multicultural Institute in Berkeley to arrange for help from a pool of screened day laborers.

The placement service began in December 2002, after the Franciscan-sponsored institute began working with day laborers and merchants in the Hearst Avenue area of Berkeley, where the men congregate daily to look for work. It maintains a van at the site with personnel who know the laborers and their skills.

The workers are available seven days a week at rates of $12 to $15 an hour. All wages go directly to the laborers.

To hire a worker, call (510) 847-8714 or (510) 848-4075, ext. 10 and ask for Noe Moran, Tony Lacayo or Martin Ibarra.
Information is also available at

Judge orders sex abuse cases in
northern California coordinated

LOS ANGELES (AP) Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles McCoy, Jr. ruled April 20 to coordinate 56 sex abuse cases against Catholic dioceses in northern California before one judge, automatically halting all litigation in dozens of cases and delaying the deposition of Cardinal Roger Mahony.

The ruling could affect as many as 94 cases. Cardinal Mahony, who heads the Los Angeles Archdiocese, was scheduled to be deposed April 22 in a case involving a former priest he supervised while bishop of Stockton two decades ago.

Attorneys for the northern dioceses requested coordination of the cases at a hearing April 8, saying the move would eliminate inconsistencies in court rulings from county to county and reduce the cost and strain on the courts.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys argued that doing so would undermine their cases, many of which already have trial dates.

Stephen McFeely, a lawyer representing the Bishop of Oakland, told the Contra Costa Times that the coordination of cases would “allow consistent rulings on some very significant legal issues, some of which have not been addressed before.”

Had the ruling not be passed, it would have been Cardinal Mahony’s second deposition in a sex abuse case since 1997, when the cardinal gave sworn testimony in another negligence case involving the same former priest, Oliver Francis Grady.

The priest was convicted of child molestation in 1994, spent six years in prison, and then was deported to his native Ireland.

A Stockton jury awarded O’Grady’s two victims $30 million, including $24 million in punitive damages against the diocese. The amount was later reduced to $7 million.

Boston Archdiocese
sells mansion

(RNS) The Archdiocese of Boston has agreed to sell its ornate archbishop’s residence and 43 surrounding acres to Boston College for nearly $100 million, and could sell more land in two years for $8 million more.

The deal announced April 20 gives the cash-strapped archdiocese money to help settle an $85 million settlement with victims of clergy sexual abuse. It also gives the Jesuit-run college needed room to expand.

The college will acquire the archbishop’s mansion, a former high school seminary, a retreat house and 43 acres in suburban Brighton for $99.4 million. In two years, the archdiocese will also sell 3.25 acres now housing the archdiocesan canon law tribunal for $8 million.

“I am pleased that the offer by Boston College was the one that we accepted at the end of the sale process,” said Boston Archbishop Sean O’Malley.

New shelter for teens

Bishop Allen Vigneron blesses the new Covenant House Homeless Shelter at St. Andrew-St. Joseph Church in Oakland, April 14.
The shelter is named after ‘Toks’ Oluwole, a 22-year-old parishioner killed by an assault weapon last May after agreeing to testify for the prosecution in the murder of a friend.

Standing by a dedicatory plaque are the young man’s father and stepmother, Olugbemiga and Barbara Lafitte-Oluwole, leaders in the Oakland Community Organization (OCO) who have been working to stop youth violence. The shelter will house homeless teens and young adults.


Sisters plan renovation of chapel,
care center in Fremont

By Voice staff

The Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose have begun a capital campaign to retrofit and renovate both their chapel and senior care center at the Fremont motherhouse. A $10.8 million Circles of Caring fund drive began in January and will extend through Easter of 2005, according to Dominique Mintz, campaign project manager.

More than $4.5 million have been pledged to date and grants are pending for another $3 million. A series of fundraisers are in the plans, as well.

Work is currently underway in both the chapel and care center, said Mintz. Safety improvements for the worship area include the heating, lighting and sound systems. Space will be reconfigured to allow elderly Sisters from the care center to become an integral part of daily communal prayer.

A temporary chapel has been set up in the motherhouse dining room.

Mintz said the care center has significant internal safety problems and is no longer seismically sound. Besides being retrofitted, the facility is also earmarked for a new roof, improved mechanical and electrical systems, upgraded plumbing, termite eradication, private bathrooms that are handicap accessible, new telephone and data lines, air conditioning, floor replacement and basement refurbishment for storage.

Mintz said that the center would be redecorated to provide a “warm, inclusive, attractive environment for the Sisters, as opposed to the more institutional setting that was acceptable in the 1950’s.”

Also in the plans are two sound-proof bedrooms to accommodate Sisters with specific health needs, bigger and brighter dining facilities, replacement of all exterior windows to ensure energy efficiency; new solar shades, and a larger community room including space for sewing and crafts.

For those Sisters who are unable to leave their rooms, a new closed circuit TV system will allow them to hear and view the daily celebration of Mass.

The Care Center currently houses 25 Sisters. Their average age is 87 years old. The Sisters also plan on opening their doors to the elder care needs of the Dominican Sisters of Oakford, some of whom minister near the motherhouse.

The Oakfords will benefit from an alliance initiated two years ago among the Mission San Jose Dominicans, the Holy Family Sisters and On Lok Senior Health Services. Some of the elderly Sisters participate in an On Lok program offered at the Holy Family Sisters motherhouse, also in Fremont.



Post abortion healing
retreat offered in June

By Voice staff

A healing retreat for women and others who have suffered from the effects of abortion will be held June 4 though 6 in the Sonoma wine country.

The event, a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat, is sponsored by After the Choice, a post-abortion outreach program of the Diocese of Oakland. The retreat includes sharing stories, Scripture-based spiritual exercises, sacraments and a memorial service.

The cost is $150 per person and $200 per couple. Through April 30, there is a $25 discount for early registration. Financial assistance is available.

Inquiries and participation in the retreat are strictly confidential. For an information packet call (925) 798-7054 or send email to Monika Rodman at

St. John Vianney Parish
breaks ground
for fellowship center in Walnut Creek

By Voice staff

Nearly 800 families have pledged financial support for a new fellowship center at St. John Vianney Parish in Walnut Creek. The 12,262 square-foot two-level structure will include large and small meeting rooms, music and religious education libraries, a commercial kitchen, lavatories and storage space.

There will also be an outdoor meditation garden with benches, an overhead arbor and a memorial wall.

Cost is set at $4.3 million.

Muller and Caulfield Architects of Oakland provided the design and Blach Construction Company will build the center, expected to be completed by September 2005.

St. Mary’s College hosts
colleges information fair

By Voice staff

Saint Mary’s College in Moraga will host the 13th annual East Bay Connection College Fair on May 8 from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. for high school students, parents, and counselors.

Representatives from more than 170 private colleges, public universities, historically black colleges and military academies across the country will be on hand to provide information and answer questions.

The free event will include continuous workshops on financial aid, the scholar athlete and programs for students with learning disabilities. Bi-lingual workshops in college admissions and financial aid will be offered in both Spanish and English. Pre-registration is not required.