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St. Joseph the Worker, Berkeley

Name of Church: St. Joseph the Worker
Address: 1640 Addison Street, Berkeley, CA 94703
Phone number: (510) 843-2244
Website: (the parish has an attractive new website, parts of which are still under construction)
Mass times: Saturday vigil 4:30 & 6 p.m. (Spanish); Sunday 8 a.m.; 9:30 a.m.; 11 a.m. (Spanish); 12:15 p.m. (Eritrean Mass, Ge’ez: an African rite of the Church under the authority of Rome). Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m. & 6 p.m. (bilingual). Holy days, 7:30 a.m. & 12:15 p.m.
Confessions Saturdays, 3-4 p.m. & 5:30 – 6 p.m.
Names of priests: Fr. John Direen, pastor. In residence, Fathers Matthew Vanissery, Ghebriel Woldai, Joseph Thieu Nguyen.
School: No.
Special parish groups and activities: Legion of Mary, St. Vincent de Paul Society, Courage (apostolate for persons with same-sex attraction designed to help them live in accordance with Church teaching), Eucharistic adoration, Tuesdays & Thursdays, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. & Wednesdays, 5-6 p.m.
Priests/Homilies: Fr. Direen was ordained a decade ago, and is known for his piety and orthodoxy. He was a Franciscan for six years, but did not take final vows, and opted instead for the diocesan priesthood. He came to St. Joseph’s in 2009. While he would be warmly welcomed by many parishes, some at St. Joseph’s have called on Oakland Bishop Salvatore Cordileone to reprimand and sack Fr. Direen. He has been criticized for dissolving parish committees, converting a committee meeting room into a gift shop, asking a retired pastor in residence at the parish to leave and not speaking Spanish. On June 19, in fact, Bishop Cordileone came to the parish for confirmation and was met by scores of anti-Fr. Direen protestors.Fr. Direen, 49, is a very different -- traditional, orthodox -- pastor than St. Joseph’s is used to.

Fr. Bill O’Donnell, pastor and senior priest at the parish for 30 years, was outspoken for a plethora of left-wing causes. He was in residence at the parish until death in 2003. In typical Berkeley fashion, Fr. O’Donnell marched in protest for an endless list of radical causes -- protesting this or that war, non-union grapes (with Cesar Chavez), nuclear weapons, etc. -- and was arrested 250 times throughout his life because of his participation in such protests. One of his final arrests was in 2002, when he demonstrated against the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation at Fort Benning, Georgia, where the U.S. Army trains Latin American military personnel. He was convicted of trespassing, and served six months in jail. While in prison, he started a liberation theology group. The day after his release, he took part in a protest against the Iraq War. (An interesting side note: it was Fr. O’Donnell who played a key role in renaming the parish from “St. Joseph the Workman” to the more proletariat-friendly “St. Joseph the Worker.”)

Subsequent pastors, including Fr. Crespin, whom Fr. Direen asked to leave, were sympathetic to Fr. O’Donnell’s activism. The parish previously had identified with the political activism for which Berkeley is famous (of course, not for pro-life or traditional marriage!); it’s noteworthy that even the mayor of Berkeley, Tom Bates, wrote Bishop Cordileone to protest the new direction in which Fr. Direen was taking St. Joseph’s. (Imagine a conservative politician writing the superiors of a liberal pastor suggesting that he be removed!)

Based on comments from the Oakland diocesan spokesman, Mike Brown, Bishop Cordileone seems to be standing by his new pastor.
Music: Depends on the Mass: organ, cantors and choirs
Fellow parishioners: Many ethnicities, including Anglo, black, Hispanic and Asian.
Parking: The lot is pretty big; there is also plenty of parking on the street.
Acoustics: Fine.
Cry room: Yes.
Additional observations: St. Joseph the Worker is one of the Diocese of Oakland’s historic churches, established in the 1870s, about the same time the city of Berkeley itself was incorporated. The current church building is just over a century old. It’s an attractive structure, both inside and out. It has beautiful stained glass windows, carved Stations of the Cross and statues. The parish has a gift store, open Monday-Wednesday and on weekends.


Posted Friday, July 15, 2011 6:11 AM By St. Christopher
Excellent commentary! -- Save Fr. Direen!! However, he should eliminate Spanish, Eritrean, and bi-lingual masses and institute traditional Latin masses, with the fewest NO masses permitted. Who knows what Bp. Cordileone will do in the face of liberal whining, but he should appoint more like Fr. Direen.

Posted Friday, July 15, 2011 6:11 AM By st michael
I remember Father John Direen from St Michael Church in Livermore where Father John made an impact in a very short time. He is a very holy priest. No politics, only love for Jesus Christ and His Church.

Posted Friday, July 15, 2011 7:43 AM By Dana
Beautiful, absolutely beautiful. This brought tears to my eyes reading about this wonderful young priest. May God richly bless him and this wonderful church! I wish I'd know about St. Joseph the worker the last time I was in Berkley!

Posted Friday, July 15, 2011 8:56 AM By Laurette Elsberry
How nice to see the interior shot of St. Joseph Church. My history with this church began with my Baptism in the late 30s and ended in the early 60s with the baptism of my children. It was always St. Joseph then. I don't recall the "workman" title at all, and I assume when the word "man" became anathema and and/or the socialist influence came to the fore, the "workman" took over. I loved St. Joseph Church. I sang in the choir, participated in various parish family events and went through grammar and high school there. One of my favorite memories was the yearly crowning of Mary in the Lourdes-type grotto on the grounds of the convent of the Presentation nuns across the street. One year my mother painstakingly wove a crown of dozens of pink baby roses carefully cut from a huge bush at our home. How beautiful it was. I haven't lived in Berkeley since 1964, but at my home now I have a small pink baby rose bush - a survivor of the original. I think about the beautiful crowning of Mary at St. Joseph Parish each time this little bush blooms.......Since St. Church appears to have shed its leftie superstructure, perhaps I will visit soon. I think that rose bush is still located where it was at my old residence. Maybe I'll see if it is in bloom. My little one is right now.

Posted Friday, July 15, 2011 10:02 AM By Lucia
Our Lord Jesus brought his faith to all , of all credos, rich and poor, holy and sinners. We the people of this Church( I have been attending S. J. T. W. for 30 years) found faith and refuge in it as it was. In the end Jesus came to renew our faith. He was poor, a "proletarian". He was unortodox, that is why the Farisees antagonized him and were instrumental to his death. Remember that He stated that "wherever people meet in His name, there is the Church"!. Form or Substance? Wrath and punishment or Love and Forgiveness? Also: is cultural appropriateness in worship also considered a " revolutionary stance"? Do we continue as a Church to respect the will of Popes such as John 23 and John Paul?, Fr. Direen shut down the "Committe of The Virgin of Guadalupe" at our Church, a very dear form of worship and source of consolation to our Latino Parishoners, who use to meet and pray the Rosary together as the Sacred Image of the Virgin visited their homes. Such committe also collected funds for the Church and the celebration of the virgin of Guadalupe festivities. Our Lady of Guadalupe was adhored by Pope John Paul and named by by him"the Empress of the Americas", yet under Fr.Direen such committe disappeared. It is very sad to disturb the faith and worship of immigrant people , away from their land............ Many focus on issues of form, I focus on the Compassion our Church had and on the fact that now it feels cold and impersonal. Between an Holy Ortodox priest and a Compassionate , Generous one I would chose the lattere as closer to our Lord Jesus. I pray that Generosity, Compassion and Forgivenes sreturn to SJTW Church. God Bless all people of good will.

Posted Friday, July 15, 2011 11:05 AM By Manel
(response to Lucia) The Legion of Mary exists at SJTW parish. Isn't this group and The Virgin of Guadalupe honoring the same person - The Mother of God and Our Lord? Also the Pastor is a most generous, compassionate and forgiving person - in imitation of Our Lord - and he is trying to live and teach as Jesus did - because "Jesus said so"! Do not judge, as by this judgement you may be judged.

Posted Friday, July 15, 2011 11:17 AM By devout
Great article! Fr. Direen is a holy man, cleansing our church of unholy political contamination.

Posted Friday, July 15, 2011 3:03 PM By nino mark
May God bless this parish and this Pastor! Called to shepard the good flock!

Posted Friday, July 15, 2011 4:25 PM By Katherine Wenc
Keep in mind the the church's lovely and impressive restoration occurred during Father George Crespin's time as pastor, with the significant and generous funds being raised and contributed by fellow Berkeley progressives such as myself and other social activists.

Posted Friday, July 15, 2011 6:15 PM By Fr. Paul Gofigan
Fr. Direen's holiness and piety are definitely not pretentious, but genuine. I admired these virtues which he possesses and wonder who could ever protest against him? Wasn't it Dorothy Day that said, "Christ came to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable?" Well, Fr. John, my friend, hang in there and I will certainly keep you in my prayers. I am so happy that despite all the protests and negative petitions against you, you also have multitudes who recognize you as "in persona Christi". Yes, the face of the priesthood has changed, but its essence, its foundation has always been there, Christ yesterday, today, and forever. God bless you Fr. John!!!!

Posted Friday, July 15, 2011 6:26 PM By Brad
"He has been criticized for...not speaking Spanish." Criticized by white liberals who themselves do not speak Spanish.

Posted Friday, July 15, 2011 6:41 PM By Eliza
(reply to Katherine) Thank you for the contribution of the Church's inside restoration. But, I believe Our Lord would mostly be pleased with the spiritual restoration of its members.

Posted Friday, July 15, 2011 8:09 PM By bev
Manel: The Virgin of Guadalupe is revered by the Hispanics; the membership of the Legion of Mary is made up of non-Hispanic women.

Posted Friday, July 15, 2011 8:55 PM By Linda
(In response to St. Christopher): amor proximi= amor Dei. Allow the nations to Speak the Greatness of God in all languages, even in English. So that the all world will resonate with His Word. " Urbis et Orbis". Pax tecum,

Posted Friday, July 15, 2011 9:43 PM By Linda Maria
I attend the Tridentine Latin Mass at St. Margaret Mary's Church in Oakland-- but would also just love to belong to a parish totally under a pastor like Fr. Direen!! We need ALL of our priests to be just like him!! And have the Christ-like courage and dedication to lead their parishes like Fr. Direen does.

Posted Friday, July 15, 2011 10:45 PM By Matt T
I too remember Father Direen from St Michael. He actually quoted Encyclicals from Pope John Paul II in his homilies. What a great idea that should be emulated.

Posted Saturday, July 16, 2011 8:45 AM By MARKRITE
This is an ASTOUNDING story, if only for it happening @ a Catholic church in Berkeley, the HOTBED of RADICAL SOCIALISM for at least forty years. And it speaks VOLUMES about the LEADERSHIP of Bp. Cordileone that he's appointed such a GREAT PRIEST, Fr. Direen, to be pastor there. GREAT MOVE! I would take exception to a remark by St. Christopher about his expressed desire to disallow NO masses, however. To me, that's a comment from one of the "MORE CATHOLIC THAN THE POPE" crowd. For a Novus Ordo mass can be JUST as holy as a Tridentine mass; it all depends on the SPIRITUAL DISPOSITION of the priest-celebrant, doesn't it? I abhor this knee-jerk reaction from the Traditionalist Catholic mob, for I KNOW there are MANY,MANY NO masses offered by devoted priests that are ANYTHING BUT lax and disrespectful. Along that line I should recommend St, Rose of Lima Catholic church in Simi Valley as a CHURCH WORTH DRIVING TO. Pastored by Fr. Joseph Shea, who brought with him MANY CHANGES when he arrived as pastor over four years ago, it has DAILY ADORATION OF THE HOLY EUCHARIST (except sundays) and it's 24-7! Yes, you read right, 24-7. And Fr. Shea instituted CONFESSION for the parishioners FIVE DAYS A WEEK! Plus his masses, ALL NO, are dynamic and VERY reverential, with Fr. Shea ACTUALLY speaking in a HIGHLY INTELLIGENT, AND EFFECTIVLY EDUCATIVE WAY about the faith during his homilies. CHECK IT OUT when you can, I'm sure you'll agree. GOD BLESS ALL, MARKRITE

Posted Saturday, July 16, 2011 11:11 AM By gravey
Some of these comments are a perfect example of what's wrong with the dissenters at SJW. Liberation theology and the cult of personality are the order of the day. Their ignorance of the Catholic Faith/Catechism is obvious but their unabashed disobedience to the Church is most disturbing.

Posted Saturday, July 16, 2011 11:33 AM By Jacqueline Smay
Manel, certainly Mary and the Virgin of Guadalupe are one and the same person, but the characters of the Legion and the Committee of the V of C are very different; if you have never known the very special joy of witnessing or participating in the feasts and celebrations of the Blessed Mother's manifestation as Guadalupe, I am very sorry for you and hope you get the opportunity to experience it as soon as possible. If SJTW's Legion of Mary is making active outreach to the Committee of the V of G members and trying to incorporate its practices and feasts in order to make one large, inclusive group that celebrates Mary as she is known and loved in many traditions, that's all to the good, but I have not heard anything to indicate that this is so. Mary is an astonishing, wondrous person and Marian devotion is one of the central mysteries and beauties of the Church. Shouldn't a good pastor be encouraging as much of it as possible, in ways that will engage and spiritually enrich as many people as possible, instead of shutting down a group that has been a source of great devotion and growth to a huge portion of the parish?

Posted Saturday, July 16, 2011 1:52 PM By Manel
response to Jacqueline: Yes I have experienced the feasts and celebrations of Our Lady of Guadalupe with great joy for many years as I lived in a Spanish community. The main difference is the Legion of Mary tries to do works for Our Mother. Would your community reach out to them? Also the present Pastor may have had a good reason for shutting down your group, if, in fact, he did. We may not always understand why things happen, but as Fr. Direen and the Bishop are acting according to the Pope, I believe that obedience to them is in order here rather than criticism. One of the virtues of Our Lady is humility and obedience!

Posted Saturday, July 16, 2011 7:31 PM By Katherine Wenc
Dear Eliza: not sure what you're referring to. In addition to my progressive beliefs I, along with other current and former SJW parishioners, are pro-life weekly communicant Catholics: we're against war, the death penalty, euthanasia, and abortion-on-demand. We align with Pope Benedict on these and many other social justice issues. Judging and condemning doesn't align with the Spirit.

Posted Saturday, July 16, 2011 8:06 PM By paul quinlan
as for one who was a member of sjw for 28+ yrs i can attest to both fr o'donnell and fr crespin's theological orthodoxy. one quotes dorothy day but forgets her relation with hiearchy. and one of o'donnell's favorite bishop's: when i asked how poverty came they called me a 'communist.' if fr direen and the bishop are so unafraid of dialogue why have they not done so. the issue is not liberal v conservative. it is power v accountability. direen has NOT discussed any of his decisons with anyone before and after at all! where is the respect and compassion a spiritual leader is supposed to exemplify? o'd and crespin had and do have that!

Posted Saturday, July 16, 2011 9:37 PM By bev
Markrite: The laity must also be in the proper SPIRITUAL DISPOSITION to spiritually benefit from the NO Mass.

Posted Sunday, July 17, 2011 1:11 PM By Manel
To Paul: Did Jesus always explain His decisions with anyone? Does the Pope discuss his decisions with the laity? Did you forget that The Bishop and Fr. Direen had meetings with some of the Church's leaders and I believe they have said they are open to further meetings. Apparently you do not know the present Pastor very well or else you would agree he is a respectful and compassionate person. And, that works both ways!

Posted Sunday, July 17, 2011 3:15 PM By Lynn
Fr. Direen is doing what the Catholic Church has been passive on for too long. We need to get back to the traditional while keeping the joy of Vatican II. However, Our Lord is looking down on all His churches and those who chose to be more Modern than Traditional taking the flock away from the reverence of the House of the Lord will have to answer eventually to their actions. I am supportive of what I have read that Fr. Direen is doing. God Bless him.

Posted Sunday, July 17, 2011 3:59 PM By MARKRITE
bev, why the red herring? To be truly a HOLY SACRIFICE, a mass, whether Trindentine or NO, REQUIRES A PROPER SRIRTUAL DISPOSITION by the priest-celebrant, DOES IT NOT? But it's HOLINESS doesn't REQUIRE that the laity be the SAME WAY; they could be MISSING OUT on all the INFINITE BENEFITS of a NO (or Tridentine) mass just by NOT being properly spiritually disposed to what's taking place on the altar. Get it? Comprende? GOD BLESS ALL, MARKRITE

Posted Sunday, July 17, 2011 9:31 PM By bev
Markrite: Got it!

Posted Monday, July 18, 2011 12:51 PM By Jacqueline Smay
Manel, although the V of G group is not "mine" (alas, I am sadly monolingual despite my best efforts--I'm a little better than functionally illiterate in Latin and French and I speak Russian about as well as your average Russian toddler, but that's it), I feel compelled to stand up for them. The League of Mary certainly does invaluable work, but so does the V of G group -- encouraging personal devotion to Mary, family prayers, strengthening community and faith bonds between families. Their purposes appear to be complementary - one focused outward, turning devotion to Mary into positive ministry in the world, the other inward, to nourish that devotion on a community, family and personal level. I don't see that either group could completely replace the other, or take on all the work of the other without weakening its own unique mission. Certainly both should be working together, and encouraging (as neither currently does to any great extent) universal participation, but their purposes really seem more complementary than in competition with one another.

Posted Monday, July 18, 2011 1:48 PM By John F. Maguire
In regard to his intention, what is required from the priest-celebrant of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is that, in the context of his co-offering, together with Christ as the primary and sovereign Priest, this, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, he intends what the Church intends.

Posted Tuesday, May 22, 2012 1:10 PM By lan nguyen
I remember Father Direen from Saint Michael church and saw him at Saint Joseph the Worker. There must be a big misunderstanding about Father Direen does not speak Spanish. In fact, Father Direen speaks Spanish fluently on top of being a holy priest. If cloning is not a sin, I would request our Bishop to clone Father Direen and put one Father Direen in each of many parishes in Oakland Diocese. Then, our problems of unorthodoxy would go away. Dear God, Thank You for giving us Father Direen.

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