MAY 24, 2004




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


Deacon Morris Soublet

Deacon Morris Soublet, 84, a member of the first class of permanent deacons to be ordained for the Diocese of Oakland in 1978, died May 10 at Mercy Care and Retirement Center in Oakland.

In 1979, on the one-year anniversary of his ordination, he told a Catholic Voice reporter that his new role should not be thought of as “mini-priest.” Rather, he said, the “diaconate is service in places the Church has never been before.” Soublet spent the next 24 years living out that vision.

Deacon Soublet was instrumental in establishing the St. Andrew-St. Joseph Soup Kitchen in the early 1980’s. Later he served as the parish delegate for the Oakland Community Organization. He and his wife, Ursula, were founding members of the West Oakland Planning Council, which was dedicated to promoting equal opportunity in housing and education in West Oakland.

Two years ago, during a retirement tribute for Soublet and fellow Deacon Leo Edgerly Sr. at St. Andrew-St. Joseph to celebrate their ministries, Father Leo Edgerly Jr. praised Deacon Soublet and his father as “men of prayer. Even though they didn’t know how their lives were going to unfold, the Spirit was always there to guide them,” said Father Edgerly.

For Morris Soublet, the Spirit had been guiding him since he was a Catholic youth growing up in New Orleans. In the early 1940’s he and his wife moved from there to Oakland. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was stationed at Port Chicago near Concord where he loaded ammunition ships.

On July 17, 1944, a tragedy happened at the shipyard, which shook him to his very core. Soublet was at the base preparing to begin the midnight shift when a series of explosions rocked the base, killing 322 sailors, and injuring 390 people, including 202 black enlisted men.

If the explosion had occurred an hour and 20 minutes later, the casualties would have quadrupled, including himself, he said, because there would have been two divisions of men going aboard the ships and two divisions of men coming off.

After that awful night, he vowed to dedicate his life in service to God.
During his 33 years as a civilian employee of the Navy at the Oakland Naval Center, Soublet was an active member of St. Andrew Parish. When the parish merged with St. Joseph’s in 1965, Soublet was instrumental in assisting with the transition process.

Besides his parish involvement, he served as a volunteer with several church and civic groups including Boy Scout Troop 62, the Knights of St. Peter Claver, and West Oakland’s St. Patrick Parish. He was active in the parents’ guilds at St. Joseph Notre Dame High School in Alameda and Salesian High School in Richmond.

In 1971, Bishop Floyd Begin, Oakland’s first bishop, appointed Soublet to serve as a delegate for the first conference of the National Office for Black Catholics. A year later, Soublet became a founding member of the Bay Area Black Catholic Caucus.

His wife, Ursula, preceded Soublet in death in December 2003.
Survivors include children: Morris, Jr., Anastacia Dotson, Richard Soublet, Prudence Killingsworth, Margaret Bruce, Leontine Byron and Brian Soublet and their families.

The funeral Mass took place May 18 at St. Andrew St. Joseph Church with burial at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Hayward