DECEMBER 13 , 2004


Bishops approve marriage plan,
join new ecumenical coalition
Record settlement in Orange Diocese might impact Oakland
Audit finds diocese in compliance with sex abuse mandates

Dominicans have clear policy
on sexual misconduct

Vatican official backs
sweeping U.N. reform
Haitian priest released from jail

Catholics lobby to keep
charitable immunity law

Bread Project is recipe
for job success
Pleasant Hill parishioner leaves funds to help immigrants

Holy Names and USF receive major grants for nursing programs

Fremont parish visits
its Guatemala ‘sister’

Dave Brubeck receives honorary doctorate in sacred theology
Church-state group sues to stop funds to save Missions
Protest against Ft. Benning training
New pastor named at
St. Margaret Mary in Oakland
Concord family gives $1 million to Catholic university in Portland
National study shows increase
in lay leadership of U.S. parishes
Thirteen seminarians are preparing for priesthood in Oakland Diocese
National Shrine to host
Prayer Vigil for Life
Science offers new theories
on Star of Bethlehem
Consider alternative means
for Christmas gift giving
Christmas TV Masses
Diocese clarifies times of Christmas and Sunday liturgies


• In prayer, Mary embraces all that Yahweh has in store

• Consider passing on values through a ‘Spiritual Will’


•Brother Raymond Berta, FSC
•Brother Timothy Diener, FSC

Father Ignatius M. Hinkle,OFM Conv.




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



Dominicans rue silence on sex issue

By Monica Clark

Father Roberto Corral, head of the Western Dominican Province, has apologized to the neighbors of St. Albert Priory for not informing them that seven Dominican friars accused of sexual misconduct with minors are living on the priory grounds in Oakland’s Rockridge District.

In a Dec. 2 letter distributed to homes throughout the neighborhood, he invited residents to a “town hall” meeting Dec. 14 to express their concerns and to hear why the men are living with other Dominicans in two houses on the secluded property near Chabot Elementary and Claremont Middle schools. Parents of the students were also invited to the meeting.

He emphasized that all the men are under supervision and that he is confident that no one in the neighborhood is at risk.

None of the six priests and one Brother have been convicted of sex crimes or are registered sex offenders and none are engaged in any kind of public ministry. Nor may they have any contact with children or teenagers, Father Corral told The Voice.

In a separate letter read at Masses in Dominican parishes throughout the Bay Area, Dec. 4-5, Father Corral reiterated his regret that the community had not communicated earlier with neighbors, but reassured parishioners that the province has acted responsibly during the 10 years the men have lived at St. Albert’s.

With one exception, all of the allegations are for misconduct between 20 and 45 years ago, he said. The other is for misconduct in 1999 by a priest at Holy Rosary Parish in Antioch. One incident of abuse involved a child and the others involved young men and women between 15 and 18 years old. Six of the men are between 65 and 77 years old. The seventh is 40.

All the cases were reported to police in the jurisdiction in which the abuse allegedly took place, but none of the men were prosecuted either because the allegation could not be proven or the victim did not want to press charges.

But the Dominicans believed the accusations were sufficiently credible for the men to be removed from ministry and for the Province to pay for counseling for their victims, he said. One civil suit has been filed against the Province for abuse in southern California.

Father Corral said all seven men are now under “varying degrees of restriction and supervision deemed appropriate to each case.” The most recent offender, who arrived at St. Albert’s two years ago, may not leave the property without a companion except for brief errands such as picking up someone at the airport, Father Corral said. In that case, he must sign in and out, giving the exact times of his departure and return.

The men also receive psychological counseling.

Father Corral told the neighbors that “Combining the counsel of the finest mental health experts who have worked with these men individually with our own sustained experience of these men, we are confident that no one in our neighborhood – particularly children – has been placed at any risk whatsoever because of their presence.”

However, he acknowledged that recent media coverage about the situation has ignited a “variety of distressing feelings” for some neighbors. “I deeply regret that,” he wrote.

Information about the seven Dominicans first surfaced publicly about six months ago when members of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) put flyers on neighborhood car windows and an article appeared in the independent news monthly “San Francisco Faith,” said Carla Hass, spokesperson for the Dominican Province.

No neighbors complained at that time, she said. But after a Channel 7 news report on Nov. 28 and a flurry of newspaper articles, the Dominicans decided to schedule the Dec. 14 meeting to provide “some corrective to the inflammatory and heavily inaccurate
reporting and soliciting,” said Father Corral.

The Province has an explicit sexual misconduct policy, adopted in 2002, which details how allegations of sexual misconduct with minors are to be handled. They are reported to the appropriate civil authorities and also investigated by the Province’s Sexual Misconduct Review Board. The Board is made up of two friars and three lay persons, one of whom is a practicing psychologist or psychiatrist. Two of the members are mothers.

In addition to outlining how to handle accusations, the policy sets forth strict regulations to prevent abuse or even the appearance of impropriety. For example, no friar can have a minor, including a relative, in his bedroom unless another adult is present. Nor can a friar travel with a minor or sleep in the same room with a minor without another adult present.

With the exception of the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, no friar can meet with a minor unless the room has a window that allows others to see inside the room or the door of the room is left ajar.

Father Corral said the Dominicans decided to place the seven men at St. Albert’s because the priory could insure both appropriate supervision and the spiritual and physical care of the men. Seminarians also living at St. Albert’s know of the accusations, he said, adding that Dominicans accused of misconduct with young adult males are not housed there.

The Dominicans informed both Bishop John Cummins and Bishop Allen Vigneron of their decision. The accused men do not have faculties for public ministry in the Oakland Diocese. They can say Mass in the private chapel at St. Albert’s and provide their Dominican community with such internal ministries as bookkeeping and gardening.

The restrictions placed on the men “far exceed what the state requires of offending parolees,” Father Corral said. There have been no reports of any misconduct since the men moved to St. Albert’s, he added.

At least 10 registered sex offenders live in the neighborhood, according to press reports.

Aid needed for typhoon victims


Barefooted typhoon evacuees queue up for relief on Dec. 5 in the Quezon province of the Philippines, devastated by more than two weeks of severe tropical storms. More than 1,000 people are dead or missing. Warehouses are fast emptying of food, drinking water and medicine as aid agencies struggle to keep pace with the emergency needs of nearly 260,000 people affected by the floods and bad weather. Catholic Relief Services, the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States, is one of the many groups working to assist victims of the typhoons. Many roads in the worst affected places remain impassible due to landslides, collapsed bridges and floods.

Donations can be sent to:
Philippines Typhoon Relief
Catholic Relief Services
P.O. Box 17090
Baltimore, MD 21203-7090
Or call 1-877-435-7277


Immigrants wary of Church’s
background check requirement

By Itir Yakar
c. 2004 Religion News Service

Wracked by a child sex abuse scandal, Catholic dioceses across the country now are requiring background checks on all volunteers and staff who work with children. But this increased scrutiny is having unintended effects among Hispanic immigrant volunteers, triggering apprehension and anxiety.

At a time when increased security requirements have permeated all walks of American daily life, Church authorities say many immigrants are nervous about the breadth and detail of the background checks, even though they know such checks are needed.

Since 2002, the Catholic Church has required all volunteers who work with children to undergo strict background checks that can include criminal screening, fingerprinting and, for those who drive kids to church activities, any history of drunken driving.

For this story, no immigrants were willing to be quoted about their concerns.
But Church officials say problems include worries about how the information will be shared, wariness of unfamiliar authority figures and institutions, and confusion about being asked to comply with requirements that did not exist in immigrants’ native countries.

Some fear they may lack proper documentation, and could be harassed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, even though Church authorities say the background checks are kept private.

Ana Rivera, a Puerto Rican volunteer liaison to the Hispanic community at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Arlington, Va., has seen the nervousness firsthand. Members of her community have been reluctant to reveal the kinds of personal information required by background checks at the church.

“At first they were kind of apprehensive about it,” said Rivera. “For people that don’t have papers, they were kind of scared” that the information might be held against them.

But after she explains that the information will be strictly confidential, the aim is to protect children, and that the requests come from the priests, most come around, said Rivera.

The privacy problem at Our Lady of Lourdes is replicated at other Catholic parishes throughout the country.

Jan Slattery, director of the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth at the Archdiocese of Chicago, said that concerns arise not only because the volunteers might be undocumented, but also because they are not accustomed to divulging such private information.

In European countries, for instance, she said, “the rights of privacy are very, very different.”

Because there are no national databases, requests for such information are rare, said Slattery. Background checks are “very foreign to some people,” she said.

Michele Waslin, immigration policy analyst at the National Council of La Raza, a nonprofit Hispanic policy organization, said that some might be afraid to share private information if they come from countries with restrictive governments.

“I can understand why people from some countries with repressive governments can be apprehensive, especially if they don’t know how this information will be shared,” Waslin said.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has similar concerns.

“When it comes to immigrants who may be undocumented or don’t have their papers in order,” said Tod M. Tamberg, director of media relations, “that creates some complexity and requires, I think, a great deal of outreach and education to them to help them understand why this is important, why they don’t have anything to fear.”

Concerns usually arise because immigrants are afraid of the system and are concerned about their privacy, said Jessy Lira, catechetical resource specialist for the Hispanic community in the Oakland Diocese.

“In some ways, we don’t know what kind of confidentiality we can keep,” Lira said. “It’s very important for (the volunteers) to know the consequences.”

Immigrant volunteers often face difficult decisions, juggling their commitment to the Church and concerns about their legal status in the United States. Some are dissuaded from volunteering once they find out about the background check requirements.

“Some people say they don’t want to do it. Others say, ‘I know it’s necessary. I see the need in my community,’ and they take a risk,” said Lira.

Father Ricardo A. Chavez, pastor of St. Peter Martyr Parish in Pittsburg, agreed that the requirement for background checks continues to trouble many immigrants.
“They just live in terrible fear,” said Father Chavez, whose 2,500-member parish is made up almost entirely of Hispanics, many of them immigrants from Mexico.
“They are reluctant to get fingerprinted. We have to force them.”

Father Chavez said that given “society’s attitude towards them,” immigrant volunteers feel they are taking a risk.

Yet some say the fears of volunteers must be secondary to the safety of children.
Because of the previous problems with sex abuse by clergy, the Church may have a legal necessity to demand the background checks, said Brent Wilkes, national executive director at the League of United Latin American Citizens, a Washington-based policy organization.

“There was a problem, and they are trying to address it,” he said.

Although some volunteers remain reluctant to accept them, stringent background checks have proved effective in the Archdiocese of Washington.

Five convicted sex offenders were prevented from working or volunteering, said spokeswoman Susan Gibbs.

Because the archdiocese succeeded in screening those applicants, Gibbs said, other sex offenders might be deterred from applying.

Most volunteers agree to the checks when Church officials explain that the screenings are helping prevent sex offenders from working with their children, said Gibbs.

“People feel uncomfortable being part of a criminal background check,” she said. “We understand that completely.”

But, she declared, “It is a small thing to ask in light of the safety of children.”



Bishops approve marriage plan,
join new ecumenical coalition

By Voice staff

The nation’s Catholic bishops looked back at the election campaign during their annual fall meeting and set their sights ahead to a new initiative on marriage and an historic union with other U.S. churches.

During their meeting in Washington, D.C., Nov. 15-17, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a report by the Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians, which reflected on issues in the news during the months before the Nov. 2 election.

Partisans outside the church, the report said, used the debate over Catholic politicians who support legal abortion to promote their own agendas, but the net effect of the media attention was beneficial in prompting Catholics to think about their roles as citizens.

“While we do not believe that all issues have equal moral claims,” it said, “we will work to protect those whose lives are destroyed by abortion and those who are dying of hunger, we will strive to protect human life from the moment of conception…and we will strive to pursue peace.”

The task force said that it is developing a reader on the responsibilities of Catholics in public life. The bishops will also look at when it is proper for Catholic politicians and all Catholics to receive Communion.

The new pastoral initiative on marriage will span several years and will begin with a survey of bishops about which issues to address. The bishops’ conference will then convene a symposium of theologians and social scientists, hold focus groups with lay people and meet with pastoral leaders to explore the issues.

At the end of this process, probably in 2007, the bishops plan to issue a pastoral letter on marriage. Among their concerns are the decline in the U.S. marriage rate, the consequences of delayed marriage, the effects of divorce, the beliefs and behaviors that contribute to strong marriages and the effect of cohabiting relationships on marriage.

In an historic move, the bishops voted 151-73 to join a new alliance of churches, Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A., a fledgling ecumenical effort that began three years ago to allow most branches of American Christianity to speak with a common voice.

The group includes mainline Protestants, evangelicals, Pentecostals, Orthodox and Roman Catholics and will begin meeting next year to pray together, become better acquainted and possibly to take stands on current issues.

Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, chairman of the bishops’ ecumenical committee, tried to address the concern of some bishops that the new group might overtake the bishops’ public voice.

“It’s not to create another kind of National Council of Churches, it’s not to create some kind of megabody or megachurch,” he said. “It’s a forum for participation so we can pray together, grow in our understanding together and witness together our faith in whatever way is possible in our society.”

The fact that one-third of the bishops voted against the new group shows that some of that reluctance remains. Some bishops voiced concern that Catholics would be overruled by more liberal Protestant churches, or that the new body might overstep its mandate and try to speak for the Catholic Church.

“Our voice will always be respected; no one can ever speak for us,” Bishop Blaire said. “Unless we concur in agreement, it will not be done.”

Other bishops, such as Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore, the bishops’ most vocal supporter of ecumenism, said the new group will allow the bishops to deepen alliances with conservatives and evangelicals on issues like abortion and school vouchers.

The bishops will be asked to allocate initial funding of at least $12,000 per year for Christian Churches Together.

In the past the Roman Catholic Church has not joined with other broad ecumenical organizations in the U.S., such as the National Council of Churches.

The bishops also agreed that the annual audits to determine how dioceses have complied with the bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People will include information on the number of new sex abuse accusations against clergy and other church workers, the resolution of new cases and the costs of handling these cases.

The members of the conference also approved a proposal to streamline audit procedures to allow for fewer on-site audits and more self-reporting. Beginning in 2005, on-site audits will take place only in dioceses that did not take part in the 2004 audits or were not in complete compliance with the charter.

During their three-day meeting, the bishops adopted a new “U.S. Catechism for Adults,” written in response to a Vatican request. The 456-page catechism is to complement the universal “Catechism of the Catholic Church” issued in 1992.
The Vatican asked bishops’ conferences to prepare their own catechisms to bring the Gospel into the local culture.

The new catechism must receive confirmation from the Holy See before it becomes official.

The Spanish-language liturgical texts approved by the bishops were aimed at incorporating Latin American rituals into U.S. rites, including a blessing ceremony for the quinceanera, a celebration marking a girls’ entry into adulthood at age 15.


Record settlement in Orange Diocese
might impact cases in Oakland

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

A record settlement in clergy sex abuse cases in the Diocese of Orange met with praise from the victims involved, but its impact on cases in Northern California remained unclear, according to a lawyer representing the Diocese of Oakland.

“We don’t know with any precision the terms of the settlement,” said Steve McFeely, attorney for the Diocese of Oakland. Without this information, he said, it would be difficult to say whether Oakland would also agree to a settlement like that made in Orange.

The Southern California agreement gave about $100 million to 87 plaintiffs, according to press reports. This is larger than the Boston Archdiocese settlement of $85 million paid out last year to 541 people.

The settlement was announced Dec. 2, but details were not released. Judge Owen Lee Kwong, who oversaw negotiations, placed a gag order on participants.
Anonymous reports, however, placed the amount at $100 million, and a spokesman for the Diocese of Orange said the reports were correct.

Orange Bishop Tod D. Brown said the agreement was fair and compassionate and announced that he would write to each victim asking forgiveness. Some victims have personally thanked Bishop Brown for his courage and willingness to resolve the cases.

“It’s like a big weight lifted off my shoulders. Finally it’s stopped, it’s over,” said Max Fisher, a plaintiff from Anaheim. “Last night Bishop Brown came up to me personally and apologized, and that meant more to me than anything.”

McFeely said the Orange settlement was “good news in that it indicates that these cases can get settled,” but he would have to know how much was paid to individuals and other details in order to assess the impact on Oakland.

“We’re a different diocese, we’re older,” he said. “We have more older cases.” Oakland was created in 1962, while the Diocese of Orange was not established until 1976.

The Orange cases were one of three groups of consolidated cases in California, which involve claims filed under a state law that lifted the statue of limitations during 2003.

The law allowed alleged victims to bring abuse claims that would not have been eligible otherwise.


Audit finds diocese in compliance
with sex abuse mandates

By Voice staff

The Diocese of Oakland has met all requirements of the U.S. Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, according to a team of auditors who visited the diocese in October.

The two-man team from the Gavin Group of Boston, commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to audit dioceses in the wake of the clergy sex abuse scandal, noted that the diocese was in compliance as of Oct. 7, 2004. The audit was the second mandated by the bishops.

The diocese had provided the required elements of the charter, the audit report stated, including:
• A policy on the prevention of abuse
• Outreach and prompt response to victims
• A victim assistance coordinator
• A review board to examine cases
• A policy of reporting allegations to public authorities
• Cooperation and openness with local authorities
• Compliance with canon law
• A “safe environment” education program
• Standards of conduct for employees and volunteers.

Dominicans have clear policy on sexual misconduct

By Voice staff

In its sexual misconduct policy, adopted in October of 2002, the Western Dominican Province pledges to provide pastoral or clinical care to those who have been abused by any of its friars and at the same time to treat accused members “fairly and compassionately.”

A prompt response to allegations of abuse is necessary, the policy states, in order to “protect the rights and dignity” of both parties. It also requires any friar who learns of allegations against another to inform the provincial immediately.

The policy spells out how friars should respond to allegations that they hear during an interview: acknowledging the gravity of the charge, withholding opinion about the truth of the allegation, encouraging the person to go to civil authorities, making a record of the charges, and reporting cases involving minors to local authorities.

If a friar denies a charge of abuse, the provincial calls for an investigation by an advisory group. When allegations are found to be credible, the friar is removed from ministry “if there is any indication that minors may be at risk.” The friar may not contact the person making the allegation without permission from the provincial.

A sexual misconduct committee advises the provincial on how to proceed when a friar admits to an allegation or denies a credible claim of abuse. The group is made up of two friars and three laypersons, including at least one psychologist or psychiatrist and at least two women. The committee also considers whether a friar should return to ministry after a course of residential therapy.

The policy states that each friar is responsible for knowing laws governing sexual abuse of a minor and for acting in accord with these laws. They should report all misconduct with minors or “vulnerable adults” to civil authorities.

A friar found guilty of abuse may return to ministry only if he has undergone residential treatment, has been found to pose no risk of future misconduct, has agreed to continue in therapy and will be supervised and monitored to assure that the abuse will not happen again.

Friars are “to avoid even the appearance of impropriety” by observing the following prohibitions: having any minor in his bedroom without permission and without the presence of another adult, having a lay person in his bedroom, traveling or sleeping in the same room with a minor without another adult present and serving alcohol to anyone under drinking age.

The policy requires friars to meet with minors only when another adult is present in the same building and is aware of the meeting.

Vatican official backs sweeping U.N. reform

By Religion News Service

A high-ranking Vatican official has called for sweeping reform of the United Nations but said it is not the role of the Vatican, which is a permanent observer rather than a member, to make specific proposals.

Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said the U.N. “is similar to a mirror that reflects the world. If the world is ugly and disfigured, the U.N. reflects that.”

“The other analogy is that of an emergency room where a sick man, who has urgent need of care, goes. If the patient dies, what do we do? Do we destroy the hospital because the patient is dead, or do we instead see what must be done to improve the services of the hospital?” he asked.

Martino noted that Pope John Paul II has upheld the need for an international organization like the United Nations but also urged reform.

After 60 years of existence the United Nations is ailing and reflects world conditions at the end of World War II when it was established rather than today’s conditions and so needs “many reforms,” he said.

“But,” the cardinal said, “it is not up to the Holy See, which preserves its neutrality, to propose any reform.”

Haitian priest released from jail

By Amy Bracken
Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A Haitian priest known for his support of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was freed from jail after being held for nearly seven weeks on suspicion of links to violence.
Father Gerard Jean-Juste was released Nov. 29, a week after a judge ruled there was not enough evidence to go to trial.

“I am very happy, and I want to forgive my accusers, anyone who did anything to get me arrested, the people who lied,” Father Jean-Juste said.

The priest was detained Oct. 13 while he was feeding children from the capital at his rectory soup kitchen. He said masked police shot and wounded three children during the raid. Police denied the account, saying they weren’t aware of any children being shot by officers.

Authorities have given conflicting reasons for his detention. A police spokeswoman said after his detention that he was merely being brought in for questioning, but other government officials said he was detained for planning acts of violence, including murder.

Father Jean-Juste was held in five detention facilities. Police said he was moved for security reasons, but he believes he was moved for being “a great communicator” among other inmates, leading fellow prisoners in prayer and listening to their pleas of innocence. He said he will pressure the government for the release of others he considers to be detained for political purposes.

“We think (the priest’s release) is a victory for justice because it was an arbitrary and illegal arrest,” said Renan Hedouville, who leads the Lawyers’ Committee for the Respect of the Liberty of the Individual.

Haiti is the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country and most of its 8 million residents get by on less than a US$1 a day.

Some 5,700 U.N. peacekeepers are now in the country helping provide security. The U.S.-backed government of interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue has pledged to hold elections next year
At least 89 people have been killed in politically linked violence since Sept. 30, when pro-Aristide groups stepped up protests demanding his return.


Catholics lobby to keep
charitable immunity law

By Religion News Service

TRENTON, N.J. — Leaders of the Catholic Church in New Jersey have been lobbying state legislators to amend a bill that would eliminate charitable immunity as a legal defense in cases where nonprofit organizations negligently employ child molesters.

The New Jersey Catholic Conference (NJCC), the lobbying arm of the state’s Catholic bishops, is urging lawmakers to set time limits on how far back the legislation would apply retroactively.

The church’s lobbying effort comes as the state Supreme Court is deciding whether a former student at the American Boychoir School has a right to sue the elite school in Princeton Township for alleged abuse between 1969 and 1971.

Advocates for survivors of sexual abuse and sponsors of the legislation have decried the Church’s proposed amendment, saying it is unacceptable, arbitrary and unfair to victims.

Under the Catholic proposal, the Church and other nonprofit institutions would be shielded from civil lawsuits for acts of child sex abuse committed by their employees before Sept. 24, 1992, the date New Jersey’s Child Sex Abuse Act went into effect.

Charitable immunity would not be a defense for any act of child abuse after that date.
Church officials had been working to kill the bill, which would repeal part of the state’s 56-year-old Charitable Immunity Act.

Bread Project is recipe for job success

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

It was a typical class at the St. Vincent de Paul Dining Room in Oakland. The curriculum was three kinds of cookies, pizza, Danish, turnovers and vanilla chiffon cake with butter cream frosting.

Eleven weeks into a 12-week course, all 16 students were in attendance, heads covered with plastic caps. They bent over recipe books, weighed flour and butter, cut rolls of cookie dough, sliced onions and filled trays for the ovens. During slack time they would practice writing on cakes and fashioning roses out of icing.

Chef Jim McKee had organized the class into four teams, each with its own assignment for the day, so each student would have experience in preparing everything from challah bread to apple pies. They would leave the three-month course with hopes of landing a job in the food service industry.

This is the vision behind the Bread Project, a program created in 2000 by two Bay Area women, Susan Phillips and Lucie Buchbinder, who wanted to help low-income persons learn a marketable skill. The project teaches the basics of cooking and baking along with the skills needed to find jobs and keep them.

St. Vincent de Paul linked up with the Bread Project this fall, providing kitchen space for twice-a-week baking classes and holding job skills training in nearby Visitation Center, a St. Vincent de Paul program for women. The Oakland Unified School District supplies teachers for both phases of the program, and all the training is free to the students.

“In general, we’re all pleased and excited,” said Philip Arca, executive director of St. Vincent de Paul of Alameda County. “The students were happy, and I’m hoping they get some job placements.”

Leticia Burgos of Oakland, without work since June, had already interviewed for a restaurant job nearby on San Pablo Avenue. She wasn’t hired, but her hopes were high. She had learned of the classes through the Oakland Housing Authority and signed up readily.

“I like physical work,” Burgos said, and she was looking forward to a change of career. In the past she had worked in offices or as a caregiver.

Sophy Kim came to the course with no experience in baking. In her native Cambodia no one bakes at home, she said, and she still felt like a novice. After a year in the U.S. she was beginning to master English, and it was through her language classes at Oakland Adult School that she learned about the Bread Project.

St. Vincent de Paul may be sponsoring a second round of classes in February, Arca said, but in any case the organization was “looking to utilize the dining room space in some meaningful way in the afternoon for the community.” In the mornings volunteers use the kitchen to prepare food for the free lunch program.

McKee, who has 28 years experience as a pastry chef, was pleased with the chance to teach and the enthusiasm of the students. Four students dropped out early on, he said, but the rest have been consistent. “It’s pretty amazing they’re all still here,” he said, and he tells them that is the most important habit they can learn, showing up on time day after day.

The students quickly learn that baking is physical work and requires math skills. Although their employment training class includes math practice, the pupils have also learned some lessons the hard way. During one class a team poured two and a half pounds of milk into peanut butter cookie dough. The recipe had called for two and a half ounces.

His biggest challenge, McKee said, has been preparing recipes for class. He has had to write everything out with specific directions for non-professionals, and that takes time. With a short class period – from 1:30 to 5 p.m. - he also had to devise ways to prepare bread dough in advance, to leave it to chill in the refrigerator and bring it out at the next session to warm up, rise and go into the oven.

At the first class after Thanksgiving, the students faced a new lesson – what to do when the equipment fails. Over the weekend the refrigerator and freezer were left unplugged, some of the dough and ingredients were lost, and the class had to repeat some of their efforts.

“That comes with the business,” McKee told the class. “You’ve got to deal with it.” He has also prepared them for other realities in the baking business, such as midnight or 3 a.m. starting times. Over his years as a chef for Hyatt Hotels and running his own business, McKee said, he has worked every shift.

At least one of the students had an idea of what McKee was talking about. Larry Cornish of Oakland had worked in a bakery during his teenage years in Louisiana. The class was easier than his former job, he said, because the batches were smaller and he didn’t have to work with revolving ovens and other challenges.

Cornish had been out of work for a year and was trying hard to find a new job. He heard about the Bread Project during a career change meeting at the Employment Development Department, and it offered him hope of finding work in a field he dreamed of returning to. “I’ve saved up hundreds and hundreds of recipes already,” he said.

Charlotte Ward of Richmond had also learned baking, from her mother and grandmothers, but she had never worked in bulk. Now she was optimistic about starting a new life free from addiction. She had heard about the Bread Project when she was in an alcohol and drug recovery home.

“I love it,” she said. “I love the mixing.” Her kids also love it when she comes home with some of the treats from class, she said. Best of all, she is confident of finding work.

“I know that I’m going to get a job in this field. I don’t know when, but it will happen.” With the help of the program and friends, her chance will come, Ward said.

The Bread Project has pledged to give Ward and her fellow students the help they need to find jobs and to stay with them as long as they need support. As of June 2004, the project had served over 200 low-income students in South San Francisco and Berkeley, and it reported that 77 percent of its graduates had found and retained jobs.

The Bread Project also benefits others in need. Students take home some of the treats they prepare, but some go to the Oakland Adult School office for sale and the rest to a homeless shelter as donations.

More information about the Bread Project is available at

Pleasant Hill parishioner leaves funds
to help immigrants in Monument Corridor

By Sharon Abercrombie
Staff writer

Mary Mahoney, a parishioner at Christ the King in Pleasant Hill who was active in social justice causes before her death in 2003, has left $55,000 to Catholic Charities of the East Bay to assist poor migrants and immigrants living in Concord’s Monument Corridor district.

Pais Bartin and Betsy Davis, Mahoney’s cousins and the executors of her trust, awarded the grant to Charities this past fall. It is paying the salary for a bilingual case manager as well as providing a small discretionary fund for critical family needs, such as housing, utility assistance, transportation and food vouchers.

Virginia Lizarraga, housing advocate for Catholic Charities, has been named case manager. Lizarraga began work Nov. 15 at the organization’s Concord Family Services Center where she heads up neighborhood outreach efforts.

As of Dec. 1, her staff is working with 10 families. Lizarraga connected with several of the new clients at the Monument Crisis Center’s food pantry – a good place to touch base with people “who don’t know there are services available to them,” she said.

The bequest marks the first step of an unfolding dream Mahoney, a Concord realtor, had for the Monument Corridor. After a cancer diagnosis in November 2002, she had confided to her friend and fellow parishioner, Bunny Griffitts, how guilty she felt “driving a nice car” when there were so many poor people who had no transportation to medical care, social services, or area churches.

The impetus for Mahoney’s increased concern was JustFaith, a 30-week social justice intensive program she organized at Christ the King Parish in 2000, according to Gwen Watson, another long-time friend and parishioner. As participants discussed world poverty, Mahoney would remind them, “We don’t have to go far to look for the poor. They are four blocks from here,” said Griffitts.

Watson and Griffitts were among a group of parish friends who often stayed with Mahoney after she became ill. “Often she was too tired or weak to converse or visit with us,” recalls Watson. But one afternoon during Griffitts’ watch, Mahoney rallied enough to share her idea for the Monument Corridor.

She envisioned a community center where the Monument Corridor’s predominantly Latino population could attend Mass, celebrate community events together and receive on-site support services.

Solomon Belette, director of programs for Catholic Charities, said Mahoney’s gift was very timely. The area – a three-mile industrial stretch — has added 5,830 new residents over the past 10 years, most of them low-income Latino families.

“Not surprisingly, the poverty rate of residents is more than twice the county rate,” reaching higher than 50 percent within several neighborhoods, said Belette. Families and children remain the hardest hit and most vulnerable.

Pais Bartin, one of Mahoney’s trustees, said the grant was given to Catholic Charities because of Mahoney’s interest in the agency’s work with Concord’s poor people. “We’d like to see Mary’s vision continued by a lot of groups, not just Catholics,” said Bartin.

Belette said that several other social service agencies are exploring how they can match the original $55,000 to expand services and find space for a community center.

Mahoney had a long history of support for farm workers. She helped organize a strawberry boycott in Salinas and enlisted members of the parish’s social justice committee to phone growers, Watson recalled.

Through her involvement as treasurer of the John Muir Mt. Diablo Health System Board of Directors, she was instrumental in arranging for the start-up of a mobile health clinic for the Monument Corridor.


Holy Names and USF receive major grants
for nursing programs

By Voice staff

Holy Names University in Oakland has received a $1.5 million three-year grant to create a Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) Master’s degree and a post-master of science certificate program in nursing.

Both programs will collaborate with several Bay Area healthcare institutions and the California Nurses’ Foundation to prepare clinicians to teach in clinical settings. This will decrease hospitals’ reliance on doctoral-level nurse educators who are in short supply. The courses will be delivered directly to clinical nurses in hospitals where they work, through the use of interactive video conferencing.

Holy Names has been educating nurses at the baccalaureate level since 1930. In 1995, the school initiated NEXUS, a videoconference-based program currently in collaboration with Catholic Healthcare West that is delivered from the HNU campus directly to registered nurses in the hospitals. Two years later, the university established its Master of Science in nursing program.

The university also has a partnership with Samuel Merritt College of Nursing in Oakland in which students enroll for the first two years at HNU, then transfer to Merritt to complete their nursing degree.

The Moore Foundation also awarded a $1.3 million grant to the University of San Francisco School of Nursing to create a Masters of Science in Nursing program to prepare nurses for leadership positions in acute health care settings.

The USF program will being in summer 2005 and will admit 30 students per year.
THE USF School of Nursing was established in 1954 through St. Mary’s Hospital and the Sisters of Mercy.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2010 there will be a shortage of 1.2 million nurses, with about 70,000 of those vacant positions in California.

A squatters’ settlement makes up about 50 percent of Santa Maria del Camino Parish in Guatemala City adopted by St. Joseph Parish in Fremont. Several parishioners visited Santa Maria in September. Both communities have pledged to pray for one another and St. Joseph will raise funds to its “sister parish.”

Fremont parish visits its Guatemala ‘sister’

This girl takes part in an indigenous wedding ceremony demonstration at a Sunday fiesta prepared for the Fremont visitors.

After Mass at Santa Maria del Camino Church, a woman greets the visitors from California. Crafts from the women’s collective are now on sale at the Mission gift shop.

Children at the local elementary school are all smiles for their visitors, who did not see a single textbook at the high school they also visited. Some of the high school students work for five-six hours before attending classes.

Franciscan Father Ignatius DeGroot, former pastor of St. Elizabeth Parish in Oakland, is now pastor of the severely impoverished parish in Guatemala City.



Dave Brubeck receives honorary doctorate in sacred theology

By Sharon Abercrombie
Staff writer

Dave Brubeck, legendary jazz pianist and composer, has been honored by the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, with an honorary Doctorate in Sacred Theology for his contributions to the canon of sacred choral music. The award was given to Brubeck on Nov. 15 during the school’s annual Academic Day celebration.

World famous for his many popular jazz compositions, including “Take Five” and “Blue Rondo a la Turk,” Brubeck is the first performing artist to receive an award from the Swiss Catholic university in the category of religion or theology.

Dominican Father Michael Sherwin, a teacher of moral theology there, nominated him for the honor. Father Sherwin, a San Francisco native, wrote an article about Brubeck last year for America magazine, the Jesuit publication.

Brubeck created his first religious piece in 1968, an Oratorio on the teachings of Christ, “The Light in the Wilderness.” Subsequent compositions include a chorale and fugue for the entrance of Pope John Paul II into San Francisco’s Candlestick Park in 1987; “Earth is Our Mother,” based on the speech of Native American Chief Seattle; and “Hold Fast to Dreams,” a song cycle based on the poems of Langston Hughes.

He composed “Truth Is Fallen,” in 1970 as a response to the violent events at Kent State University.

In accepting the honor, Brubeck, 84, said he was ‘both very humbled and deeply grateful. I am very aware of how little I know compared to the theologians of the world. When I have been asked to set certain sacred texts to music, I immediately study the history of the text and try to understand the words. Then, I plunge in to find the core and set it to music.”

Sometimes Brubeck’s involvement in the creation of sacred music has been less than enthusiastic. In the article he wrote for America Magazine, Father Sherwin recalls how Brubeck was initially reluctant to accept a commission from Our Sunday Visitor to compose a Mass. “Not being a Catholic, he felt unqualified.” However, the publisher, Ed Murray, keep insisting for the next two years, and Brubeck finally agreed. The final result in 1979 was “To Hope! A Celebration!”

However, the “Our Father” was not listed among the parts given to Brubeck to set to music. When a priest heard the completed Mass and noticed the oversight, he pressed Brubeck to write music for it as well. Brubeck’s emphatic response was that he was tired and going on vacation with his family, Father Sherwin wrote.

But on the second night of his vacation, Brubeck dreamed an entire “Our Father.”

Brubeck told Father Sherwin that he jumped out of bed and wrote it down, because “I knew its simplicity was working and I didn’t want it to get away from me…and it’s so simple, but I heard the choir and the orchestration, everything.”

The experience had such a profound effect on Bruebeck that he became a Catholic. That very night he said to himself, “If this is what’s happening, I think I’ll join the church.”

Dave Brubeck was born on Dec. 6, 1920, in Concord. His mother was a piano teacher, who gave her three sons music lessons. However, young Dave preferred to bang out his own selections and popular tunes instead of the classics. He graduated from the College of the Pacific in Stockton with a music degree in 1942.

Drafted into the Army that same year, Brubeck, a pacifist, spent two years in a camp band in southern California, and when he was shipped out to Europe, he went into the front lines armed with a piano instead of a weapon.

“The war instilled in him the conviction that something should be done musically to strengthen man’s knowledge of God,” Father Sherwin said in his article.

After the war Brubeck enrolled at Mills College in Oakland under the GI bill to study with French classical composer Darius Millhaud. As Millhaud trained him in polytonality and counterpoint, he advised his student, “If you want to express this country, you will always use the jazz idiom.”

Brubeck heeded the older man’s advice. He began his music career in 1947 by joining a jazz band at a San Francisco club named Geary Cellar. It was there that Brubeck ran into alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, whom he had met briefly while in the army. The two later joined forces as part of the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Brubeck still performs throughout the world.


Church-state group
sues to stop funds
to save Missions

By Adelle Banks
Religion News Service

A church-state separationist group has filed suit to try to halt a new law calling for the distribution of taxpayer funds for the historical preservation of California mission churches.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a Washington-based watchdog group, filed the suit Dec. 2 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, two days after President Bush signed the California Missions Preservation Act into law.

The act authorizes the secretary of the interior to provide up to $10 million in financial assistance over a five-year period to the California Missions Foundation to restore and repair 21 Spanish colonial missions in the state.

Americans United lawyers have asked the court to declare the act unconstitutional because they believe it violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

“Houses of worship must be maintained by their members, not the federal government,” said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of the watchdog group, in a statement. “All but two of these missions house active congregations and hold regular worship services. They are not museums.”

Americans United sued on behalf of four California taxpayers—a Unitarian Universalist, a Jew, a freethinker and a Buddhist, all of whom say they are offended by the use of tax dollars “in a non-neutral fashion to support government-designated houses of worship,” the suit says.

Interior Department spokesman Dan DuBray said providing funds to historic religious sites is part of the work of the federal government, which has funded such buildings as Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached, and Boston’s Old North Church, which played a role in American independence.

“The protection of historic sites across America is at the very heart of the Department of the Interior and its National Park Service,” DuBray told Religion News Service.

“A number of the key sites of our nation’s historic heritage also richly reflect our nation’s spiritual heritage.”



Protest against Ft. Benning training

By Voice staff

In the largest demonstration since protests began at the School of the Americas in 1990, more than 16,000 persons gathered last month to demand the closure of the facility, now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

Among the protestors were actress Susan Sarandon and actor Martin Sheen, who addressed the demonstrators during the weekend of Nov. 19-21. The crowd was so large that a traditional funeral procession with crosses bearing the names of those who have died at the hands of the institute’s graduates lasted more than two hours, an hour longer than in the past.

The protestors called for the closing of the school in Ft. Benning, Ga., where more than 60,000 officers from Latin America have been trained in commando tactics, military intelligence, psychological operations and other counter-insurgency warfare.

They commemorated the victims of the school’s graduates, especially six Jesuit priests who were assassinated in El Salvador in November 1989. Out of 26 officers found to be responsible for the atrocity by a UN truth commission, 19 were graduates of the School of the Americas.

More than 4,000 of the demonstrators were affiliated with Jesuit colleges, high school, parishes and Jesuit Volunteer Corps houses across the country. Ten faculty and students from Holy Names University in Oakland and members of social justice groups in local parishes also attended.

During the demonstration, at least 15 persons and perhaps as many as 20 were arrested for trespassing or other offenses.

One was arrested for wearing a mask, a crime under Georgia law, which is aimed at the Ku Klux Klan but rarely used. Among those taken into custody was Aaron Schumann of Oakland, who works with the Prison Activist Resource Center.

Many of those arrested scaled an outer fence with strands of barbed wire and an inner 10-foot chain link fence topped by concertina wire in order to enter the grounds of the institute. They face fines and the possibility of three to six months of prison.

Maryknoll Father Roy Bourgeois, who initiated the protests 14 years ago, addressed the crowd, saying, “How do you teach democracy behind the barrel of a gun? If they are so concerned about teaching democracy, then why not close this school and send these students to some of our fine universities?”

During past demonstrations, U.S. Army officers have held press conferences to deny the protestors’ charges. This year they offered no response.




Father Stanislaw Zak

New pastor named at
St. Margaret Mary
in Oakland


By Carrie McClish
Staff writer

As the year 2004 nears an end, it marks a new beginning for Father Stanislaw Zak who became pastor of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Oakland on Dec. 1.
“I am very happy to be here,” Father Zak told The Voice. Although still in the process of unpacking and settling in, the priest had already begun learning about his new faith community.

He conferred with Father Paul Schmidt who served the parish as parochial administrator since 1999, met members of parish organizations, and joined parishioners at a reception following Sunday Masses on Dec. 5.

He learned that many of the 450 people who attend Sunday Mass at St. Margaret Mary do not live in the parish boundaries. Most are drawn to the parish because it offers two Latin Masses – the Novus Ordo and the 1962 Roman Missal.

Father Zak is well acquainted with Latin liturgies. He studied Latin while in high school in his native Poland and celebrated the Novus Ordo Mass during his first assignment after ordination in 1975.

The new pastor also described himself as a “bi-ritual” priest. “Nineteen years ago I was given permission to celebrate the Eastern-rite Byzantine-Ukrainian Mass,” he said.

In addition to his knowledge of various liturgical rites and languages, Father Zak brings a wealth of pastoral experiences to his new assignment. After serving as a parochial vicar in Poland, he moved to England in 1979 as a parochial vicar in London. Later he served as pastor at parishes in Manchester and Southampton.

He moved to the U.S. in 1990 and worked in Los Angeles before being appointed pastor at St. Brother Albert Polish Pastoral Mission in the San Jose Diocese (1991-96).

He attended the Vatican II Institute for Clergy Formation at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park before moving to the Oakland Diocese in 1997 as parochial vicar at Queen of All Saints Parish in Concord. He was also assigned to the Polish Pastoral Center in Martinez.

He just completed five years as parochial vicar at St. Isidore Parish in Danville, where he visited the sick and homebound, worked in religious education and was responsible for the Confirmation program.

“I liked working with the youth,” he said, adding that he would like to continue a ministry with the youth at St. Margaret Mary.

He also hopes to introduce some devotions such as the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament after morning Mass and a focus on the Sacred Heart on the first Fridays.

His greatest goal is to meet every member of his new parish family. “After Christmas I would like to visit all the parishioners, pray with them and their families, and get to know them,” he said.

Father Schmidt is leaving the parish for a study sabbatical before resuming ministerial duties.

The following permanent deacons have received assignments:
Deacon Charles Stanton, who has moved into the Diocese of Oakland from the Diocese of Orange, is assigned to St. Joan of Arc Parish in San Ramon.

Deacon Frank J. Barnes, returning from ministry in the Diocese of Raleigh, N.C., is assigned to St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Concord.
Deacon Luis Rivilla, returning from ministry in the Philippines, is assigned to St. Monica Parish, Moraga.


Concord family gives
$1 million to Catholic
university in Portland

By Voice staff

Silvio and Mary Garaventa Family Foundation of Concord has given a $1 million endowment to the University of Portland for a new center for the study of Catholic life and American culture on its campus.

The university, operated by the Holy Cross Fathers, will dedicate the Garaventa Center for Catholic Intellectual Life and American Culture in spring of 2005. Margaret M. Hogan, who holds the University’s McNerney-Hansen chair in ethics, will serve as executive director.

The center will integrate study and reflection of the Catholic tradition within the university’s various colleges and professional schools so that its students can became agents of peace and justice within American society.

Silvio and Mary Garaventa became associated with the university in 1967 when their son Silvio, Jr., enrolled as a first-year student. Two of his four siblings also attended the university. Silvio Garaventa Sr., the family patriarch, died in 1998. The family has also provided funds to St. Mary’s College in Moraga, and Carondelet and De La Salle high schools, both in Concord.

National study shows increase in lay leadership
of U.S. parishes

By Voice staff

Catholic parishes in the U.S. are experiencing “a new surge of lay leadership,” according to a recent study, which found that the number of parishes with no resident priest as pastor had nearly doubled between 1993 and 2003.

In a report by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, investigators found that laypersons and deacons have taken the reins of leadership in these parishes.

At the time of the survey in 2003, more than 530 U.S. parishes – up from 278 in 1993 — had a deacon, religious woman or a non-religious laywoman or layman in charge. (Religious Sisters and Brothers are technically considered laypersons because they are not ordained.)

The non-priest parish leaders are known as parish life coordinators, though some dioceses call them pastoral administrators or parish life directors.
CARA has studied their work as part of a program called Emerging Models of Pastoral Leadership sponsored by six organizations — including the National Association for Lay Ministry, the National Foundation of Priests Councils, the National Association of Diaconate Directors and others – and funded by the Lilly Endowment.

The survey, completed in September 2004, found that 45 percent of the coordinators were religious Sisters, 24 percent deacons, 3 percent Brothers, and 25 percent other lay Catholics. Two percent were part of a leadership team, and three out of four of the non-religious laypersons were women, putting women the majority at more than 60 percent.

Oakland currently has one parish life director, Steve Mullin, at All Saints Parish in Hayward. In recent years a deacon, religious Sister and laywoman have all administered parishes in the Diocese of Oakland.

This places Oakland in the mainstream of the U.S., where two thirds of the dioceses have parish life coordinators. They are most numerous in dioceses where there are fewer active priests than parishes and where there is a great distance between parishes.

The Midwest leads the nation in parish life coordinators with 41 percent of the total, followed by 28 percent in the South, 21 percent in the West and 10 percent in the Northeast. The dioceses with the most coordinators are New Ulm, Minn., with 23; Albany, N.Y., with 22; Dubuque, Iowa, with 19;
Rochester, N.Y., with 17; Fairbanks, Alaska, with 16; Green Bay, Wis., with 16; and Jackson, Miss., with 15.

Most parish life coordinators work in smaller than average parishes. Their average age is 61, and two thirds of them are age 55 or older; they are highly educated, with many having attended graduate school; most of them are eligible for health and retirement benefits; and their median salary is $25,000 a year.

The study found that the coordinators were not “temporary fixes” for parishes without resident priests. Four in 10 had been in their parish for five years or more, and only five percent had been on staff less than two years.

Most have attended a ministry formation program sponsored by a diocese, a college, university, seminary or school of theology. In the Diocese of Oakland lay ministry training is available at the School for Pastoral Ministry and the Holy Names Masters Program in Pastoral Ministries.

Nearly all parish life coordinators (97 percent) “feel strongly” that their ministry
is a calling or a vocation, not just a job.

The Emerging Model project will use the research information to examine these parishes in order to provide information about creative ways faith communities are operating. This year the project has begun to hold the first of eight regional meetings with pastors, parish life coordinators, pastoral associates, deacons and representatives from parish pastoral councils.

For the full studies of parish life directors and the parishes they serve, see the website



Thirteen seminarians are preparing for priesthood in Oakland Diocese

By Voice staff

The vocations office has released a list of seminarians preparing for the sacrament of Holy Orders for the Diocese of Oakland and requests prayers for these men who will be serving in parishes in coming years.

Among the 13 current seminarians are two at Assumption Seminary in San Antonio, Texas: Robinson Maturana and Guillermo Morales, both in pre-theology.

Three others are serving their pastoral internship years: Lee Champoochan at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Concord, Paul Chen at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Fremont, and Carl Arcosa at St. Ignatius Parish in Antioch.

The other seminarians, all at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, are Paul Mendoza, 1st year theology; Ken Nobrega, 2nd theology; Peter Vo and Jim Sullivan, 3rd theology; Aidan McAleenan, Glen Naguit, Joseph Nguyen and Clarence Zamora, 4th theology.

The vocations office is also preparing for Operation Andrew, a program to encourage men to enter the priesthood. The program, which has been used successfully in other dioceses, asks parish priests to identify potential candidates for the priesthood and invite them to attend a diocesan forum.



National Shrine to host
Prayer Vigil for Life

The National Prayer Vigil for Life will take place in Washington, D.C., at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Jan. 23 and 24.

The vigil will begin at 8 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 23 with a Mass for Life celebrated by Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore. The Mothers of Mary will lead the recitation of the rosary at 10:30 p.m., and at 11:30 p.m. Bishop. Andrew Pataki, Eparch of Passaic, will celebrate Night Prayer according to the Byzantine rite.

From midnight to 6:30 a.m. Monday, Jan. 24, Seminarians for Life International will attend Holy Hours. Morning Prayer will begin at 6:30 a.m. followed by a Mass of Penance and Prayer.

For information call the US Catholic Bishops Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities at (202) 541-3070.


Science offers new theories on
Star of Bethlehem

By Margie Wylie
c. 2004 Religion News Service

In the Gospel of St. Matthew, it’s the apparition that heralds the birth of Jesus. Today, it features in Christmas trappings from tree toppers to carols to cards. No children’s Nativity play is complete without its tinfoil likeness above the storied stable.

But what was the Star of Bethlehem?

Suggestions have included a comet, a supernova, meteors, bright-shining planets—even a UFO. The truth may be more subtle.

Using reconstruction software and the historical record, astronomers increasingly have come to believe that the three wise men “following yonder star” may have been interpreting astrological omens so esoteric that only the learned would have noticed anything unusual in the night skies.

While scientists disagree on the particulars, “one thing is absolutely certain,” said Mark Kidger, an astronomer with the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias in Spain’s Canary Islands. “Whatever the Star of Bethlehem was, it was not an extraordinarily spectacular object.”

King Herod hadn’t seen the sign that drew the Magi to Judea. Even the meticulous astronomical observations of the Chinese show nothing truly spectacular in the years around Jesus’ probable birth date.

In fact, this “star” may not have been visible at all.

Michael R. Molnar proposes that the heavenly sign was an eclipse of the planet Jupiter that took place in the constellation Aries, among other regal portents, on April 17 of the year 6 B.C.

That morning, just before dawn, Jupiter, a planet associated with kings, emerged from behind the sun to rise in the east, appearing as a morning star. Later that day, the moon moved in front of—or occulted—Jupiter.

While such events can be dramatic, this one was invisible, lost in the glare of the noonday sun. Even so, the Magi would have predicted it, argues Molnar, a retired Rutgers University astronomer who lives in Warren, N.J.
“It was something very subtle, only something an astrologer would have seen as important,” he said.

The occultation happened in Aries, which ancient astrologers thought ruled the fate of several Near East kingdoms—including Judea, which was struggling under the yoke of Roman rule. Hence, Molnar concludes, the wise men would have read the birth of a new Jewish ruler, perhaps even the long-prophesied Messiah, in this configuration of heavenly bodies.

Kidger, author of “The Star of Bethlehem: An Astronomer’s View,” disagrees.

Occultations aren’t rare and so wouldn’t have excited seasoned skywatchers, he said. He noted that the moon occulted various planets almost 200 times between 20 B.C. and 1 B.C.

Kidger argues that what the Magi observed was a series of astrological portents, each of which has been individually suggested as the star.

Together, they led up to a not particularly brilliant, but long-lived nova —a distant, exploding star—recorded by the Chinese in 5 B.C.

To the Magi, “any single event wouldn’t have been special enough,” Kidger said. Instead, “They saw something that made them sit up and pay attention and cast their horoscopes and wait.”

As sign followed sign, culminating in the appearance of a “new star,” they struck out for Jerusalem, site of Herod’s court.

According to Chinese records, the 5 B.C. nova appeared low in the eastern sky in the constellation Aquila and lasted 70 days. If the Magi arrived in Jerusalem two months after they set out, Kidger said, the new position of the Earth would have made the nova appear to hover in the south over Bethlehem — where Herod directed them.

Molnar begs to differ.

Tying a rational explanation of the star to pagan superstitions can make scientists uneasy, so they often start by searching for a unique astronomical event and then attempt to tie it into the astrology of the time as Kidger has done, Molnar said.

But, he argues, Hellenistic astrology was the high science of its day and surely the lens through which the Magi would have viewed the world.
Astrologers’ associations of Pisces or Leo with Judea date to the 15th century or even later—long after the time of Jesus, Molnar said.

But in the case of the 6 B.C. occultation of Jupiter, he argues, there were many impressive portents in play.

Not only was Jupiter occulted by the moon, which greatly increased its power and influence, but the planet had just emerged from behind the sun and was stationed in the east—two more factors pointing to a regal birth.

In addition, the sun, moon, Jupiter and Saturn all were massed in Aries, characteristics of the horoscope of a “divine and immortal person,” as one prominent Roman astrologer wrote.

Molnar’s theory uses the astrology of the day to explain several aspects of the star story that have defied logic for years.

When they arrived in Jerusalem seeking a future Jewish king, the wise men said they had “seen his star in the east.” Yet they were traveling westward to reach Judea, probably from Persia or Babylon. And when they left Jerusalem, the star “went before them” on their southward journey, then “stood over” Bethlehem.

“If you’re going to take the Gospels literally, then you’d better go for the miracle explanation, because no star acts that way,” said David Dearborn, an astronomer with California’s Livermore National Laboratory and co-editor of Archaeoastronomy: The Journal of Astronomy in Culture.


Consider alternative means for Christmas gift giving

By Voice staff

Christmas gift giving can be an opportunity, not only to please friends and loved ones but also to benefit those who need help providing for their families or communities. Monasteries, cooperatives, fair trade associations and others offer gifts that contribute to more than a corporate balance sheet.

To this end, the Voice has compiled a list of sites that provide these kinds of gifts. Buying from these sources will help Native Americans, the environment, religious orders, families in developing countries, and poor communities throughout the world.

Some of the organizations provide opportunities to make donations in the recipient’s name. Others sell goods made by members of cooperatives or other groups that guarantee a fair wage for producers.

Catholic Relief Services – CRS has two programs appropriate for Christmas giving – CRS Gifts and CRS Fair Trade. The first takes donations for specific projects, such as drought relief or education; the second sells fair trade coffee and provides a link to SERVV. Visit www.CRSGifts.orgor

Global Exchange – Books, chocolate, coffee, clothing, jewelry, toiletries and other gifts are available at Global Exchange stores or online. The organization supports fair trade for its producers. Bay Area stores are located at 110 Capp St., San Francisco and 2840 College Ave., Berkeley. To order online visit

Heifer International – The project is completing its 60th year providing everything from bees to goats for rural communities in developing countries. Donors can pay for chicks, pigs, llamas or other farm animals at prices ranging from $500 for a heifer to $20 for a batch of ducklings. They can also buy shares of these gifts for as little as $10. Call (800) 698-2511 or visit

Monasteries - Trappist monks at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky are ready with fruitcakes, candy, cheese and other items. Call (800) 549-0912 or visit Other monks and nuns have pooled their offerings in the Monastery Greetings catalog. They sell calendars, cards, food, religious items, books and recordings. Call (800) 472-0425 or visit

Navajo Co-op - Purchases made from the co-op catalog support health and literacy projects on the Navajo Nation. The items include turquoise and silver jewelry, pottery, and other crafts. Call (800) 862-5763 or visit or

Pax Christi USA – This Catholic organization, devoted to promoting peace, sells books, cards, apparel, calendars and other items with peace themes or logos. Call (814) 453-4955, Ext. 231 or visit

SERVV – The organization, which supports native craftspeople in many countries, offers a wide variety of goods – kitchen utensils, table settings, vases, food, Christmas ornaments, manger scenes, baskets and more. Call (800) 422-5915 for a catalog or order online at

Local charities – For the Christmas “wish list” of local charities, please consult the Nov. 22, 2004 issue of the Voice at the website Charities are in need of financial contributions, books, clothing, auction items, office supplies, food and other donations.



Christmas TV Masses

The following Christmas Masses will be televised over EWTN.
Solemn midnight Mass with Pope John Paul II from St. Peter’s Square in Rome, Dec. 24, 6 p.m. (CST).
Mass of Christmas Eve from the Basilica of the National Shrine in Washington D.C., Dec. 24, 10:30 p.m. (CST).
Christmas Mass, Dec. 25, 1 a.m. (CST).


Diocese clarifies times of Christmas
and Sunday liturgies

By Voice staff

With Christmas Day falling on a Saturday this year, the diocese has issued clarifications for parishes, setting out the times to observe Christmas liturgies and the usual Sunday Masses.

Parishioners should be aware that Masses held on Saturday evening, Dec. 25, will be Saturday vigils for the following Sunday, not Christmas liturgies. On Sunday, Dec. 26, parishes will observe the feast day of the Holy Family.

The Holy Family is celebrated on the Sunday falling within the Octave of Christmas. If no Sunday falls within the Octave, it is observed on Dec. 30.

On Jan. 1, the feast day of Mary, the Mother of God, parishes are encouraged to celebrate the day in a festive manner, but it is not a holy day of obligation since it takes place on a Saturday.

On Jan. 2 parishes will celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord, because that date is the Sunday occurring nearest to the traditional date of Jan. 6. The feast commemorates the “manifestation” of God in the world through the birth of Christ.