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In Berkeley, a church congregation is dismayed

Demonstrators outside St Joseph The Worker Church on June 19 expressed disappointment rather than anger. Photos: Tracey Taylor

A congregation that has run out of patience on Sunday demonstrated passively outside its own church while three morning masses were being held inside. The protest, about 150-strong, was directed at Father John Direen, leader of St Joseph The Worker Church at 1640 Addison Street, and it represented the culmination of many months of frustration and disappointment at actions taken by Direen, who has been in the post for two years.

The protests were timed to coincide with a visit from the Bishop of Oakland, the Most Rev. Salvatore Cordileone, who met with Father Direen and a select number of parishioners on Saturday.

“We are asking the Bishop to change the priest,” said Mario Ibarra, who has worked at the church for many years, including with Father Direen, and says the protest has been a long time coming. “This is an explosion of emotions because everyone is tired of him,” he said, speaking of Direen.

Ibarra said actions by Direen that have upset the community include dissolving several key committees, and closing the church doors to groups such as the Virgin of Guadalupe Committee and the Consejo Latino, as well as firing several members of the church staff.

“Since Father Direen’s arrival there have been many changes including dismissing many if not all of the Latino ministries and organizers in the church,” said Beatriz Leyva-Cutler, one of the organizers of the protest and the weekly Tuesday meetings that preceded it.

Direen’s recent dismissal of Rev. George Crespin, who is retired but was still working at the church, was seen as particularly egregious, as he was very popular among parishioners.

“That was when this tipped over. Father George did not appear to be part of Father Direen’s new direction but he is not communicating what direction that is to his congregation,” said Leyva-Cutler.

Jose Raiz from Hayward has been attending mass at St Joseph’s for 35 years and he joined in on Sunday afternoon as the parishioners, many of them wearing white t-shirts with the image of the Virgin Mary, sang a soulful song. The chorus was “Listen to your people Signor”. [Watch video of the singing.]

Protestors included the old and young, and spanned different ethnicities

Raiz said he wasn’t sure whether he would continue to come to the church if it continued to be the focus of such unrest. He said donations from parishioners had plummeted. “Father Direen has a new sign-up system for donations. Before we would organize dinners and festivals to raise funds.”

St Joseph The Worker was founded by Irish immigrant nuns in 1876 and has a legacy of harboring immigrants, in particular Latinos, and fighting for social justice. It provided sanctuary for farm worker advocate César Chávez in the 1970s when he was facing death threats and sheltering from the police. In 2001, the parish co-founded Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action (BOCA) and three years ago co-founded Berkeley’s 2020 Vision education program.

Ralph Nagel, a candidate for Diaconate at the church, watched with tears in his eyes as the protesters sang. “It’s a sad day,” he said. He described the congregation as diverse, with approximately 50% Latinos, and the rest made up of Anglos, African Americans, many from Louisiana, and a small but significant group from Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Several organizers pointed to the fact that two previous churches where Father Direen served have been closed down and said this contributed to their fears for the future of the historical church.

Ibarra said they are asking for new leadership because of Father Direen’s “non-communication, non-direction and conservatism”. He said the demand for dialogue has been ongoing since at least last August, and he has copies of 262 letters that have been sent to Direen and Bishop Cordileone requesting an audience with the parishioners.

Leyva-Cutler said that after Sunday masses, Father Direen does not stay to talk to the congregation, instead locking the church door and leaving.

On Sunday, after the final 11:00am mass, the protesters remained outside the front of the church talking, holding placards, singing and partaking of snacks provided by parishioners. A member of the congregation announced that Father Dineen had refused entry to the protesters into the church, unless they were attending mass. The group opted to go back into the church, ostensibly to attend a non-scheduled mass. This did not materialize, and, at around 12:45pm, two police officers came into the church and spoke with Direen near the altar. Eventually the congregation dispersed and people began to make their way home.

An email and voicemail left for Father Direen had not been returned at the time of going to press. We will update the story if we hear from him or more news develops.

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  • paul quinlan

    considering the history and structure of r.c. church can anything be effective save long term witness within the Church itself.  paul quinlan

  • deirdre

    Very sad for a congregation that has emphasized social justice for decades. It was also celebrated in recent years for the personal sacrifices of Fr. Bill O’Donnell who was arrested and jailed many times for demonstrating against the School of the Americas:  http://www.peacehost.net/frbill/nytimes.htm

  • GPO

    So “faith” and “politics” are a toxic mix when we are speaking of evangelical fundamentalists, but heavily politicized “religion” is an expression of “social justice” when we like the political orientation?  Thanks for the enlightenment!

  • berkeleyhigh1999

    This seems to be much more about an internal political issue within the church than anything else – a church that helps people and builds community within the City of Berkeley. 

    Preconceived assumptions of political affiliations for a group of people you clearly do not know much about is kind of silly. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MYE33I4TTQKWXST7YHLXWAM57Y Captain Morgan

    It’s not a preconceived assumption, as the protestors themselves have stated that Fr Direen’s “conservatism” is one of their objections.  The protestors have already injected politics into the equation and identified which side they are on. 

  • GPO

    Exactly.  And, for the record, I don’t begrudge anyone either their political or their religious orientation.  I do object to hypocrisy.  If, as most of us do in Berkeley, we vociferously object to the Mormon Church meddling in politics and elections and want their tax exempt status revoked as a consequence, then we should also be wary of local activists hijacking a religious congregation and using it as a political platform and springboard for their “activism.”  You can’t have it both ways…  As much as possible, let’s keep religion and politics, like church and state, separate.

  • berkeleyhigh1999

    So in your eyes Cesar Chavez and the UFW was a “local activist hijacking a religious congregation and using it as a political platform and springboard for their “activism.”

  • GPO

    Is Cesar Chavez or the UFW in that crowd protesting the less activist oriented brand of Catholicism under Father Direen’s stewardship?  Berkeleyhigh1999, were you born yet when Cesar Chavez sought shelter there in the early 1970s? 

    More importantly, you ignore the obvious hypocrisy of your position because it would be an “inconvenient truth” to admit that politics is corrosive to the spirit of faith and religion.

  • Pablopare

    Unfortunately the most important part of one’s faith is letting it guide one’s action.  This false division between church and politics is only possible if your political convictions are completely independent of your faith and most deeply held moral, ethical and spiritual convictions.  This is impossible. Most of the criticism of the Mormon church is that it is actually out of step with the teachings of the good book not that faith should not guide their politics.  I think this is a week argument.  there is also the fact that over 20 million dollars spent on a policy campaign is a very different political level of involvement that having a tolerant congregation where vulnerable communities can seek refuge.  

    One of the major issues of the day is immigration and the treatment and mistreatment of the undocumented.  Anyone who assumes their God and faith expect them to be neutral to that conversation is spiritually shallow.  
    Let’s not sidestep the real issues here.  We are in a specific historical moment.  A national wave of anti-immigrant laws, campaigns, hate crimes and federal policies have a community of largely brown people on the defense.  In Berkeley the segregation along racial lines of our city is deplorable.  This church has historically been witness to this injustice and elements of this church are now decidedly turning against a vulnerable community.  Shutting down ministries, letting go priests, closing down dialogue are active not neutral steps.  

  • guest

    The Catholic Church is not now nor has it ever claimed to be a democratic institution.  Organized religion is about Control especially when it comes to the Catholic Church.  If you want a nearly identical religion where local parishioners make decisions about their church, do what thousands of ex-Catholics have already done and find yourself a nice Episcopal Church.  

  • berkeleyhigh1999

    Of course by my date of graduation in my avatar from the community’s High School you can determine my age. I do not ask yours as I aim to avoid ageism in life.  

    But I can look beyond your attacks on my wisdom or lack thereof and honestly say that many generations in the future will be inspired by Cesar Chavez even if they were not alive during his struggle.

    And yes, it is my understanding that some of those gathered outside the church were personally involved with working with Cesar Chavez. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MYE33I4TTQKWXST7YHLXWAM57Y Captain Morgan

     “Most of the criticism of the Mormon church is that it is actually out of
    step with the teachings of the good book not that faith should not
    guide their politics.”

    First of all, I doubt that this is true.  I don’t have statistics to quote, but I have personally heard far more criticism of the Mormon church and Prop 8 that basically amounts to “they are forcing their religious beliefs on the rest of us” than criticism to the effect of “the Bible actually supports gay marriage”.

    Second of all, you are setting up a dangerous precedent if you go down that path.  Biblical interpretation is a contentious field that rarely admits straightforward answers.  After 2000 years, there are still many and deep divisions.  Who decides what are the authentic teachings of the Bible?  What if people disagree?  Does the civil government need to set up a theological inquiry every time a new law is proposed?

  • GPO

    Pablo wrote wisely, “Unfortunately the most important part of one’s faith is letting it guide one’s action.”  Yes, but let it guide your political passions and activism OUTSIDE of the church’s framework.  Let’s not mobilize churches into political action committees.  I don’t want religious congregations endorsing candidates, political parties or contributing directly to election cycles.  A church service and religious community should be a non-partisan setting where people of shared faith but differing political viewpoints can still share “communion”.
    Nothing is preventing likeminded members of this congregation from participating in activist causes not directly under the auspices of the Catholic Church.  If your faith inspires your politics, more power to you, but don’t try to co-opt a religious institution into a front for a political activist group.  When more conservative parishioners or church leaders do the same, you no doubt cry foul. 
     
    SACRAMENTO (California Catholic Daily) – The Yes on Proposition 8, ProtectMarriage.com campaign – also known as the California Marriage Protection Act – announced today that Catholics for ProtectMarriage.com, led by the Knights of Columbus, California Catholic Conference and Catholics for the Common Good, has been established as the official Catholic grassroots effort dedicated to passing Proposition 8. All lay Catholic organizations and individuals are invited to join.
     
    Catholics for ProtectMarriage.com is inspiring Catholics across the state to stand up for restoring marriage in California. “Our strong Catholic faith teaches us the importance of treating all of God’s children with love and respect, it also teaches us that marriage between a man and a woman is the foundation of the family – the first school of love, peace and justice,” said Bill May, chairman of Catholics for ProtectMarriage.com. “The ruling by the California Supreme Court nullifying the definition of marriage in state law was a shock to Catholics and other citizens who are concerned about how this will affect their own children’s understanding of marriage for their future.”

  • GPO

    Fair enough.  Please enlighten an older person about the current legacy of Cesar Chavez?  These days, who is picking all of that wonderful, cheap produce we choose from at Berkeley Bowl and Monterey Market.  Are these hardworking farm workers unionized by and large?  Do they have more labor rights to speak of?  Are they paid a fair and living wage?  Overtime?  Are they directly exposed to fewer pesticides in their work than 40 years ago?  Do many of them have any type of benefits or paid insurance?  What happens to them if they become sick or injured from their work?  Where is this inspirational legacy of Cesar Chavez, beside the chant, la raza unida, jamás será vencida?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MYE33I4TTQKWXST7YHLXWAM57Y Captain Morgan

    Berkeleyside, this was a good article, but I would like if you could dig a little deeper into the story.  Two suggestions:

    1.  How many of the 150 protestors were actually parishoners at St Joseph the Worker?  I understand that many of them were non-parishoners and even non-Catholics who were called in as “back up” by the disaffected members of St Joseph’s?  While I don’t begrudge non-Catholics their clear right to express their opinion on any subject under the sun, they really shouldn’t expect to have any influence on internal matters like which priest is assigned to which parish.

    2.  What were the reasons why some of the changes at St Joseph the Worker were made?  I realize that it is hard to give a complete explanation if Fr Direen has chosen to not comment, but you should at least ask the protestors why the several groups/committees were closed.

  • sjtw parishoner

    I disagree that faith should only guide action outside of the church.  Churches should and do play an active role in building and shaping the wider society, whether through feeding the homeless or speaking up for workers’ rights, and have played a key role in changing attitudes about major social issues from abolition to civil rights.
    The only line that needs to be drawn is for budgetary purposes.  As I understand, as 501 3 c organization, Churches are prohibited from directly or indirectly intervening in political campaigns, however they are free to address broader political issues.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonpartisan_(American_organizations)   The objections to the Mormon church spending on the Prop 8 campaign may be valid from a legal standpoint, but I think that most liberals were upset simply because they disagreed on the social question of gay marriage itself, especially if the complaints were of the nature that religious conservatives were “forcing their beliefs on the rest of us.”  Yes, it stinks when you are on the losing side, but that’s kind of the essence of direct democracy.  
    GPO’s concern is that if churches enter the political sphere, they will become polluted by the political horsetrading games and adversarial rhetoric.  Interestingly, at the turn of the last century, churches were the center of womens’ social organizing and the same concerns were raised about women being given the vote and participating in politics.  
    The solution to our nasty political atmosphere is not to isolate pockets of non-partisan decency, but to elevate the tone, and I do think that includes giving religious organizations with moral authority a broad platform to talk and act about issues that matter to society.

  • Anonymous

    I’m no longer an active parishioner – I left about a year ago, prayerfully and tearfully, after 15 years with the parish (including being a lector, a baptism and confirmation sponsor for RCIA, brief membership on the parish council, marrying, and having my daughter baptized there) so I can’t speak with insider knowledge of very recent events, but I have been peripherally involved in the efforts to turn the parish back on track.

    Because my involvement has been peripheral, my answers are obviously not authoritative, but, to the best of my knowledge:

    1. Every effort was made to restrict the protest to current and former parishioners only; there was a handful of outsiders who had worked with Father O’Donnell in other organizations and showed up to honor his memory and what they believed he would have wanted, but I’d been at SJTW for a decade and a half and I’d say that of the 100-odd people who were there when I was, I recognized more than 3/4 from previous Sundays. A lot, like me, were people who hadn’t attended in over a year (and one complete stranger turned out to be the spouse of one of my RCIA sponsorees), but I saw very few people who didn’t have some connection to the parish.

    2. No reason was given for the changes, which is part of the problem; the parish has been very used to a much more collaborative, post-Vatican II way of parish life, but Fr. Direen is rather more of an old-school, top-down, the priest-is-The-Leader sort of pastor. Disbanding various long-established groups, making it prohibitively difficult for others to organize and meet, firing various staffers, rewriting the parish mission statement, firing the former pastor with the explanation that “I have a very clear vision for the direction of this parish, but you don’t fit that vision” (with no clarification either then or later of what that clear vision might be), and other actions that more recent parishioners can speak to, have been carried out without explanation to the (now-dismissed) parish council, in the weekly bulletins, during homilies, in special letters to the parish, or by any other means. Various individuals asked him directly for explanations, got promises that he understood the issues were important and would be addressed… and then they weren’t.

    Father Direen is absolutely not a bad guy. He’s been very compassionate and generous on numerous occasions for specific parishioners, and a lot of the changes that have occurred would have been more easily accepted if our feedback had been invited, or even if we’d just been told, “This is different from the way it’s always been, and it must be upsetting to you. Here’s why it’s happening.” But for a large community of people who’ve been worshiping and building the community a certain way for thirty years (and for whom there aren’t a lot of other local parishes that operate the same way or offer the same welcome), his management style has been mystifying and deeply distressing.

    Sorry to go on at such length, but I wanted to answer as fully and respectfully as possible!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MYE33I4TTQKWXST7YHLXWAM57Y Captain Morgan

    Thank you for your comments, I appreciate you taking time to share your experiences and it helped me understand the situation a lot better.
     

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MYE33I4TTQKWXST7YHLXWAM57Y Captain Morgan

    Thank you for your comments, I appreciate you taking time to share your experiences and it helped me understand the situation a lot better.
     

  • Justice Seeker

    I no longer live in Oakland or the Oakland Diocese but my heart is sad for the SJTW parishioners.  This parish community was just what the church should be – people caring and supporting one another in worship and in life.  Fr. Bill O’Donnell must be turning over in his grave at these acts of social injustice.  Fr. George Crispin is a highly educated soft-spoken humble man who deserves to live out his retirement anywhere he likes.  The people of SJTW deserve better than the treatment they are receiving by the current pastor, and by the bishop.

    God Bless, I wish I was there to walk with you.

  • deirdre

    zmayhem, thank you for taking the time to explain your experience so carefully.

  • deirdre

    zmayhem, thank you for taking the time to explain your experience so carefully.

  • Pablopare

    Nobody is setting dangerous precedent here.  You are conflating a separation of church and state, which I agree with, and the elimination of all political activity in churches.  The two are extremely different.  Church is where communities especially low-income communities often come together.  It is one of the few places where any collective action can take place.  The civil rights movement understood this and the sanctuary movement understood this, liberation movements in many countries have understood this.  We are not talking about having the religious beliefs dictate law, we are talking about having centers of moral authority take positions on the issues impacting their community rather than allowing silence to mean compliance. 

     How can an institution that preaches every sunday that we are all God’s children, and you should love your enemy and so forth stay silent when some of God’s children are treated differently, and some are painted as enemies and criminals and persecuted.  To be silent in those moments is to be hypocritical.  The church can and should be a place where people digest their reality through a moral compass and discuss what is happening around them and attempt to find a position that is in keeping with the life that their faith tells them to lead.  

    All of this can happen and was happening at SJW for decades without event, without threatening the separation of church and state.  The only thing dangerous about this is that it threatened the segregated status quo in Berkeley because organized people of color debating the issues of the day is fertile ground for challenging that segregation.  This means those who believe they benefit from that segregation should be threatened.  Let’s not dance around the issues of race and class here as Berkeley loves to do.  

    Let’s name the fact that most of the changes are impacting the Latino congregation and this is happening in a time when there is a national anti-immigrant (especially anti-Latino immigrants) wave that is responsible for racial profiling laws like SB 1070 and it’s copycat legislations in Alabama, Georgia and now moving into Texas.  Let’s acknowledge that in the past two years this country has broken records in the arena of deportations that destroy families in this community.  We’ve seen bans on the teaching of Latino History, we’ve seen “Secure Communities” legislation making our community afraid to turn to the police even when they are victimized.  We’ve seen hate crime violence escalate across the country against Latinos.  It is a very difficult time with a lot of trauma in our community and we need to be able to heal from these experiences by naming them and openly discussing and addressing these issues in our spiritual spaces.  It’s easy to talk in the abstract about separation of church and politics when one is not living these things.

  • Joe

    Jesus said “you will know my disciples by the love they have among one another…”.
    Not much love seen here.

    Also the scriptures clearly say: “Now I exhort YOU, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that YOU should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among YOU, but that YOU may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.” – 1 Cor 1:10
    Again we dont see anything resembling this description of true worship.

  • http://www.webhamster.com/ The Sharkey

    I believe folks also took issue with pastors lying to their parishioners about the content of Prop 8, fanning the flames of anti-gay hatred/bigotry, and telling their flock that if they didn’t vote to ban gay marriage that they’d go to hell.

  • Anonymous

    If we aid and abet Egypt’s “Arab Spring”, why won’t we support a revolution against the regime that as had a death grip on Mexico’s wealth and opportunities for a century? Mexico’s is bleeding it’s most hard working and ambitious citizens across our borders because their country offers them no possibility of a decent life. Instead of arresting illegal immigrants we should be grooming them as a new generation of Poncho Villa’s.

  • Berkeley Mom

    Anti-immigrant laws?  Such as?  I note the enaction of laws on the state level (such as in AZ or GA…and did you know that CA has exactly the same type of law already on its books?) that enforce existing Federal laws against ILLEGAL immigrants.  Or, if you prefer, ‘undocumented’ immigrants.

  • EBGuy

    I’ll second what others have said.  It’s a very difficult task to report on stories like this and your comments are appreciated.
    The (I’m assuming) rewritten Mission Statement from their website:
    St. Joseph the Worker Parish is a diverse Catholic Community, which
    welcomes people from many different
    places in their faith journey and serves the Gospel of Jesus Christ
    through worship, education, social justice,
    service to the poor and engagement in community concerns.
    It does make me curious what the old one was.  Anyone?

  • Anonymous

    I’m not actually totally sure – unfortunately, all the Crespin & O’Donnell-era weekly bulletins I ever had are either long since recycled or packed away in a box in my dad’s basement; I can check with the friend (former parish council member) who told me about the change and about her asking Father Direen to please discuss it and getting a kindly, polite deferral of the question that was never followed up.

  • Mgrimmelmann

    I do not live in Berkeley, though have been hearing the exact same perspective you have, every week for almost a year.  Per my 80 year old very concervative Mother who is holding a sign in protest…  This is so not like her, yet she feels the community needs to be validated by Fr. Direen, who has dismissed everyone in the way of his  vision… My whole family is speechless because we would never have thought we would see the day our Mother, Grandmother, & Great Grandmother would be this bold.  Yet, she stands on conviction of treating people with dignity and basic respect.  Never did she think a pastor would turn his back on his congregation.  This is what has been deeply distressing to everyone.  The congregation is asking to be validated as many  have a long history prior to Fr. Direen’s leadership.

  • Lucy

    Check out http://www.insidebayarea.com/breaking-news/ci_18343897 for the latest autocratic deed by an Oakland Diocese pastor .

  • Zorba the Greek

    How about a comment from the other side?  What kind of journalism is this?  If Fr. Direen is not available, he must have some defenders you should quote.  This story should not have run without such comments.

  • Rousse

    Read the last paragraph of the story. Father Direen was given the chance to comment, and has stayed silent. Seems ridiculous to say they can’t publish the story without his comments.

  • Rousse

    Read the last paragraph of the story. Father Direen was given the chance to comment, and has stayed silent. Seems ridiculous to say they can’t publish the story without his comments.

  • http://berkeleyside.com Tracey Taylor

    We made considerable efforts to speak to Father Direen, or somebody who would speak on his behalf, for this story, but we our calls and emails were not returned. 

    However more calls did result in us securing an interview with Father Direen two weeks after this story appeared. 

    You can read it here: http://www.berkeleyside.com/2011/07/05/after-protests-st-joseph-pastor-hopes-to-return-to-normal/

  • Vicentefuentes

    My family and I have a lot of  good memories at st. Joseph church. We went to school and to mass every Sunday at St. Joseph church when we where young. We the PEOPLE is what makes the church and we should do what is best for the people.

  • Commander Kevin

    No, that’s not what GPO said. Although Cesar Chavez and the UFW were political activists, were not parishioners of St. Joseph The Worker, not part of its congregation. they were merely “guests” who were given temporary sanctuary from persecution, and this gift of sanctuary did not tear the congregation apart.

  • paul quinlan

    the unspoken statemenvt of john direen is that fr o’donnell was a ‘political’ activist’ and not a faithful priest.  and that he was somehow ‘pro-choice’  while he was alive he could do his own defending and was quite good at it.  i knew him for 36+ years and he was not motivated by ‘political’ morality.  it was definitely something that sprang from his deep religious faith and spirituality.  to imply without saying it that he was ‘pro-choice’  would have infuriated him to put it mildly.  he was one who martin sheen described as one who demanded the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  and lived accordingly.  so i will follow as i tell people on the streets the  same thing to john direen and other manipulators of the truth: ‘you quick telling lies about me i will stop telling the truth about you!’

  • FOB

    FURTHER IN DEFENSE OF FR. BILL O’DONNELL, FORMER PASTOR OF ST JOSEPH THE WORKER

    I am not a parishioner, but I was a close friend of Fr. Bill O’Donnell for the last dozen years of his life, and he celebrated my marriage at St. Joseph the Worker. He inspired me to become an activist for social justice, and I was arrested with him on a handful of the 200+ occasions when he put himself on the line for his beliefs.

    Fr. Bill’s activism was the natural development of his compassion for the poor and powerless, as well as his belief in the ‘seamless garment’ of life, and it was always mediated by a strict adherence to nonviolence,

    The first time I heard him speak, he clarified for me the meaning of social justice:  “Charity,” he said, “is saying, ‘Isn’t it sad that poor people exist.’  Social Justice is asking *why* they are poor in the first place.”

    It was Fr. Bill’s friendship with Cesar Chavez that occasioned the SJTW rectory to be the ‘refuge’ for him and other activists of the migrant workers movement. A skilled carpenter himself, Fr. Bill was a friend to all workers, and could be counted on to march with workers of all stripes at every labor demonstration in the Bay Area. 

    However, I happen to be a pro-choice Catholic, and I can assert that that was the
    one area in which we differed. Once Fr. Bill invited me to dinner with a
    couple of friends who also had also protested with him — but in their
    case, it was for pro-life demonstrations.  Fr. Bill was also behind the
    controversial ‘clean-up’ of prostitution on University Avenue in the
    early 1980s.  (Newcomers to Berkeley might be surprised, but when I
    moved here in 1979 there were streetwalkers every night on most corners
    between Sacramento and San Pablo Avenues, as well as four houses of
    prostitution [so called ‘massage parlors’] situated on University and
    Shattuck Avenues, one — the “Xanadu Pleasure Palace” — in the very
    heart of Berkeley, at the intersection of Shattuck and University
    Avenues!)

    Fr. Bill was passionately opposed to the death penalty, and was present
    for every midnight execution at San Quentin.  He was equally
    passionately opposed to the building of nuclear weapons near his
    childhood home in Livermore, and was one of the leaders the annual Good
    Friday protest at Lawrence Livermore Labs. 

    But it was Fr. Bill’s opposition to the training of Central American military men on U.S. soil — who went on to use their specialized training to massacre their own peoples — that caused him to be incarcerated for six months in Federal Prison.  I visited him there, and he had become a minister to the other prisoners in his cell block, when he was not having to clean the toilets!

    Fr. Bill died nine months to the day of his release from Federal prison.  The outpouring of public grief was so huge that a separate memorial service had to be held for him the evening before his funeral. The event lasted over three hours, and was broadcast live by KPFA. Many of his good friends spoke, from Martin Sheen and Barbara Boxer to a formerly homeless man, who represented a new ministry Bill took up towards the end of his life.

    P.S.  Fr. Bill was far more than an activist.  He was a true pastor who radiated love to his entire flock.  Not every parishioner at St. Joseph the Worker agreed with his views, but nearly everyone appreciated his presence, his warmth, and his accessibility to anyone in need.  Of all the reasons Fr. Bill might be turning in his grave right now, as someone mentioned above, the lack of pastoral care would doubtless grieve him the most.

  • Ken Kietzman

    Hey Paul,

    Its Ken Kietzman.  I have been reading up on the latest atr St. Joe,s.  As for me and my house we’re going to the Latin Mass and the Benedictine Monastery.  It would be great to catch up with you.  Hope you’re doing ok

  • Alcophil

    Just because you have the right to protest and express your freedom will make you the bearer of truth, NO–remember that in the kingdom of Christ there is neither contest of who is right and wrong, nor a decisive favor of what is right and left but all share the encompassing beauty of service to His holiness. I am perfectly sure that Fr John Direen loves you. Give him the chance to become a pastor for you and to all of you, especially the poor and needy who is very close to Fr Direen’s heart. Fr John Direen is a Holy Man but I guess that it takes another holy one to recognize one.

  • AL Coja

    in these times of chaotic trend you should support the one that is advocating stability and sustainability–not the one who is making it all worse than what it is..WARLORDS!

  • Alcophil

    when you mentioned Cesar Chavez and his legacy without mentioning the poor Carlos Bulosan is just a sin.

  • Alcophil

    Because you are warlords and love chaos, protests and wars, which I think is a manifestation of your violent culture–who want to talk to you? Probably another warlords and sure not Fr John Direen.  

  • PAUL

    where r u?  am grandpa 2x.  phone is 510 208 3697; e mail is pjqcatholicworker@gmail.com.  problem at st joe’s ccaused by pastor’s  inability and or unwillingness to discuss his decisions with ANYBODY1