With little warning, bishop changes leadership, direction of Berkeley campus ministry

Posted: March 31, 2014 at 10:49 am


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Berkeley, Calif.

Oakland Bishop Michael Barber's decision to change both the leadership and direction of ministry at Newman Hall Holy Spirit Parish here has left the community angry and mystified.

The decision, parish leaders told NCR, came without consultation with the pastor, campus minister, parish council, or the broader parish and student community.

Newman Hall Holy Spirit is a 1,300-member parish that serves as Catholic campus ministry at the University of California, Berkeley. It's been led by Paulist priests for more than a century.

A March 7 letter from Barber to parishioners -- three weeks after they learned their pastor and campus minister were being removed -- did little to clarify the situation. Barber wrote: "I believe we need to do more, to totally reinvigorate our evangelization efforts for the University Community at Cal Berkeley." In a parish with 26 specific ministries for the Berkeley student community and another 44 ministries for students and other parishioners, the statement has caused great puzzlement.

"He does not know the community. He has spent no time with us," said Jean Molesky-Poz, an active Newman Holy Spirit parishioner for 24 years who teaches in the religious studies department at Santa Clara University.

Parishioners first learned of the bishop's decision during Masses the weekend of Feb. 15-16. The following evening, more than 200 assembled in the chapel for a parishioner-led meeting to pray, hear the facts and discuss possible responses.

Gina Hens-Piazza, professor of biblical studies at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University, told the group that in November, the bishop asked Paulist leaders to withdraw the community from the parish, which they've served since 1907. Hens-Piazza was one of several parishioners the pastor, Paulist Fr. Bernard Campbell, consulted after he first heard the news.

The order reached a compromise with the bishop wherein two Paulists would be presented for the bishop's approval as replacements for Campbell, who's been pastor for the past seven years, and Paulist Fr. Bill Edens, student minister for the last five years. Neither had known that the bishop wanted them dismissed and a new direction taken in the parish.

Though Michael Brown, diocesan director of communication, told NCR the bishop had "a number of discussions with the Newman Holy Spirit parish priests" prior to the decision, Campbell called the statement "blatantly false."

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With little warning, bishop changes leadership, direction of Berkeley campus ministry

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March 31st, 2014 at 10:49 am