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Catholic Churches (East Bay, CA)
As a Catholic but also a progressive person I have perhaps
finally reached the end of my rope. After a very dispiriting
year trying to attend various Berkeley Catholic parishes and
hearing close-mindedness or rote sermons, despite Berkeley's
liberal reputation, I feel I've got to look somewhere else.
I guess I am a ''spirit but not the letter'' Christian who is
also interested in Buddhism, women in roles as worship
leaders, and looking for a church that is both active and
yet allows one to hang back and participate anonymously as
well. Can anyone sympathize, share experiences and/or other
church or denomination recommendations? a seeker
Did you ever go to St. Joseph the Worker
in Berkeley? Years
ago, when Fr. Bill O'Donnell was still alive, I watched him
raise his fist in a sermon during the middle of mass and
say, ''The pope does not belong in our bedrooms!''. He was a
national firebrand loved by leftists in every movement, a
political force unto himself. St. Joseph continues with its
pro-worker / pro-activist agenda, but since Fr. Bill's
passing, is a little less at odds with Catholic dogma. I do
believe St. Joseph's still has a ''social justice committee'',
a liason to political groups around the bay area. There's
another priest in San Francisco that was his good
friend-in-struggle who I believe is with old St. Mary's.
Hopefully someone else will remember his name and write it
But within the bigger picture, I like the more
progressive Episcopalian churches. All the things I don't
like about Catholism (I'm sure you share at least some of my
specific dislikes) don't exist in that religion. Yet the
mass is nearly identical so it feels comfortable and
familiar. Lucky for us, we have some of the most progressive
Episcopalian parishes in the country right here. How many
established religions do you know who have a branch/wing
that openly supports gay marriage? Good luck on your
--In your shoes too.
I too was a practicing Catholic until 5 or 6 years ago. I found it hard
to reconcile being prochoice and in favor of gay rights & trying to call
myself a Catholic.
My husband was raised culturally Jewish but was frustrated with his
family's lack of practice and spiritual practice. We decided to learn
about both religions and choose one or the other for our family.
I found Jewish theology to be very interesting and much more intellectual
and open minded (at least in the reform community).
We now belong to Beth El
in Berkeley - a tremendously liberal family-
oriented congregation. We have made many great connections with other
preschool families and enjoy their life-long learning programs.
Have you tried the Episcopal Church? As a Catholic, I think you would
feel comfortable with the rites, the Sacraments, and such, but the
Episcopal Church is quite progresive and inclusive. I've attended
Souls Episcopal Church in Berkeley (corner of Cedar and Spruce) for many years, and I
cannot recommend it enough. The community there is great, there is a good
cross-section of people of all generations and interests, lots of great
programs to get involved in, but no pressure to do so. I've found people
to be very warm and welcoming, without being pushy. Check out our website
at www.allsoulsparish.org. Very happy Episcopalian
Ah, welcome to the journey. While my background wasn't
Catholic, I too spent time searching within the Christian
denominations, Buddhism and Judaism for my spiritual home. I
still read and study within all three religions as I find
meaning and value in all three. However, your question was about
congregations that might be more in line with what you're
looking for. You might try the Methodist or Lutheran
communities associated with the campus, or swing over to
Albany or El Cerrito United Methodist.
ordain females, and ECUMC has a dynamic female pastor taking
the church through a transitional period. The music program
is great, incorporating most of the congregation during the
advent season and into their Great Day of Music service in
spring. Loving a homey church.
As a ''fallen Catholic'', I consider myself both progressive
and liberal, and really sympathize with your frustration.
When I was seeking a new place of worship that would be
meaningful for me and interesting and welcoming to my young
children, a very dear friend of mine invited me to her
church St. John's Episcopal Church
in Montclair. I fell in love
immediately! There are women in roles as worship
leaders and one can be as active or as anonymous as one
likes. All are welcome at communion, unlike the very rigid
way communion is looked at in the Catholic church. The
welcoming congregation, the Goldy Play for children, youth
ministry for older youth, the choir (both adult and youth),
and sermons that hold meaning to me today in my life and the
world around us are just a few of the great reasons why I
chose St Johns. I invite you to visit us at St John's
(http://www.stjohnsoakland.org/)and see for yourself.
I'm also a catholic who needed something more/different. I found a
wonderful religious home at UUCB (Unitarian Universalist Church of
Berkeley) which inspires me and feeds my spirit. We don't have a
religious Dogma, we have principles and our members come from many
different faith traditions. I found it a very welcoming community and our
whole family attends Sunday service. We have many women ministers as
well. Check us out: http://www.uucb.org/index.php/newcomers/imagine-a-
I would like to invite you to
Hillside Community Church in El Cerrito.
This is a very small church in the El Cerrito hills. We are
Swedenborgians, very accepting of all faiths and incorporating the
traditions and beliefs of many of them. There are a number of former
Catholics among us. Hillside is at 1422 Navellier St., El Cerrito. The
phone number is 510-235-3646. Services are at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays,
childcare is provided and we hold a hospitality hour immediately after
On the Sunday preceding Thanksgiving weekend we will be holding a Harvest
Feast after services, turkey and all the fixings! If you plan to come
please feel free to bring a side dish that day, but it isn't required.
For information on Swedenborg, the national church site and Hillside's
site please try the links below:
For additional information you can also contact our administrator, Linda
Baker at email@example.com
I recommend First Covenant Church
on Redwood Road in Oakland
(http://www.oaklandfcc.org/newfcc/). My husband grew up Catholic and
shares a lot of your feelings. We have attended many churches from
Catholic to Presbyterian. This is the first community that we both enjoy
and feel a part of. It's very diverse (from an economics POV, age,
background, race), which we find very appealing, as it brings a broad
world view to the community.
You are very welcome to come and worship with us. We are a
multi-ethnic congregation, with both female and male
pastors. see our website for more info or you can contact me.
Church Without Walls in Berkeley
i recommend trying out
First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley near
Telegraph, at the corner of Dana and Channing. It's a very active,
engaged Christian community with women in leadership and definitely big
enough for you to choose your own level of involvement. There are
several Sunday services; the one at 11:27am might be a good first visit.
Hi, Catholic Looking for something...
Corpus Christi parish
on the Corner of Park & Estates in Oakland has
brought me back to my Catholic roots. Father Leo is the most amazing,
loving, funny, warm, priest I have experienced and gives meaning to the
words; Christ's Love. His sermons, although sometimes a bit long, are
real! He talks about real world issues and how they affect us and what we
as Christians can do to make this world a better place. He often brings
laughter and tears to the parishioners during Mass. He has arranged soup
nights with other Christian faiths so there would be more interaction and
understanding between faiths and churches in the area. If you are looking
for something different but Catholic please come try the 10:30 Mass @
Corpus Christi. I love the ritual of the Catholic church but like you
want something that inspires and speaks to my soul. a returned Catholic
I think you would find a warm, welcoming spiritual home at
Episcopal parish in Berkeley. My partner and I started attending services
there eight years ago, and were immediately welcomed as part of the
family. The parish is home to many former Catholics, including my
partner, who grew up in a VERY traditional Catholic family but has always
felt right at home at All Souls. The parish's associate rector is a
woman, and many of the deacons and lay ministers are women as well. There
are many in the congregation who combine Christian worship with elements
of Buddhism or other spiritual paths, and this is celebrated rather than
discouraged. The parish's frequent refrain is ''Wherever you are on your
spiritual journey, you are welcome here,'' and at least in my experience,
they truly live up to that sentiment. I would describe the parish as
traditional in that it celebrates all the Christian feasts and holy days,
but incredibly welcoming and liberating in that it considers doubt and
questioning as a part of being human -- NOT something to be discouraged.
While there are many ways to participate and volunteer at All Souls,
there is no pressure to do so at anything other than your own pace. Given
what you were seeking in your post -- progressive, no pressure, open to
other spiritual traditions, both women and men as leaders -
- I think this could be the place you're looking for.
Fellow Spiritual Traveler
I was also raised Catholic, and I tried for a couple of years after
leaving home to find a home in the Catholic church, but without success.
My reasons were similar to yours.
I have found instead the Unitarian Universalist church. I go to the
Unitarian Universalist Church in Berkeley
(in the Kensington hills), but
there is also a church in Oakland. The UU church does not espouse a
particular doctrine. The UU church has its roots in Christianity, but it
is no longer a Christian church. It draws people from lots of different
faiths. Instead, the idea is to provide a place for people to gather in
a religious community and to pursue their own sense of spirituality.
There are weekly sunday services which include music, a sermon, and a
story. It does feel like church, but it is very different from a mass.
The church also offers many other opportunities to get involved:
religious education classes for kids and adults, book groups, Thursday
night suppers, various committees...Check out the website. www.uucb.org.
I am a Catholic by upbringing, but can't really take it
anymore, either. I've been to two in the bay, looking for
the comfort of the service and maybe to find some
like-minded/progressive ''Catholics,'' but just had to give
up. I've only been a few times with a friend, but I really
liked St. Mark's Episcopal Church on Bancroft in Berkeley.
Female clergy, open and accepting, and enough similarity to
the Catholic mass that it felt homey and familiar right
away. Good luck!
I'd like to invite you to visit my church,
Walls. We are a group of folks who are trying to know and
follow God together. There are several folks that I know in
the church who are Catholic currently or who were raised
Catholic (including my husband). I feel like people are
welcome no matter where they are on their spiritual journey
and I never find the sermons rote or closed-minded. We meet
on Sunday evenings, 5pm, at 2117 Acton, just south of
I'm looking for a Catholic Church in the Berkeley /
Piedmont / Montclair area that is progressive, family
friendly to Non Catholics and open to a person looking to
I'm moving to Berkeley / Piedmont / Montclair at the end
of the month and have held off doing RCIA in my previous
location because I knew that my family would be moving....
My biggest priority is to find a parish that has a good
RCIA program, but would also be a loving enviroment for a
family that does not have other members of the family who
are Catholics or would convert to be Catholic...(My wife
is not affiliated with any Chruch, I'm Jewish looking to
convert and we have not yet placed our daughter into any
Any and all suggestions would be great!
I/we love the Newman Center near the Cal Campus. It's run by
the Paulists, so very service/community oriented and
progressive. Lots of students and families too. Wish we
love the Newman Center
Visit St. Augustine Church in Rockridge. It has a great
pastor, wonderful music and a warm, welcoming and diverse
community. I am a Catholic married to a Jewish man. We have
raised both our daughters at St. A's and feel a very strong
connection to the church --even my husband feels very
welcomed there even though he rarely attends. The parish has
many non-traditional families -- a true ''big tent'' church.
Masses are at 5 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m and 10:30 Sunday
(this is the family mass). Please feel free to email me if
you have any questions. Check out the website and watch one
of Fr. Mark's homilies on webcam.
I can heartily recommend that you check out
Newman Hall at
UC Berkeley http://www.calnewman.org/
I've attended services there for the past 3 years, after
looking for a community that was liberal and that I could
feel comfortable in.
I think that you will find it welcoming overall.
Please consider St Mary Magdalen
parish just off Shattuck in
North Berkeley. It is a wonderful blend of traditional
faith, marvelous music (one mass more post-Vatican 2, one
more traditional with amazing baroque and renaissance
pieces), a lovely small mission-style church, dedicated
Dominican priests, with a far more liberal, warm, and
accepting spirit than I recall from my Catholic youth. The
parish school results in many members with children, but the
congregation reflects the full range of Berkeley residents.
I also love the stained glass windows by David Lance Goines
of Chez Panisse fame....
found community and spirit
I was raised Catholic (lapsed now - surprise!) and my husband
was raised ''Christian'' - a little Catholic for a while, a
little Unitarian for a while, etc. We decided that we'd like to
raise the kids Catholic since I feel it's also a cultural thing
as well as a religious thing in my family. They can make
decisions for themselves when they are older, but we'd like them
to have some structure around a belief in God. Our kids were
baptized in the Catholic Church, so that's one sacrament they've
Now I am thinking I should at least make an effort to
religiously educate them and follow through with the sacraments,
starting with Communion. However, I remember my religious
education classes as nothing short of a horror: held on Saturday
mornings so I missed all the Saturday morning cartoons,
textbooks less about the bible and Jesus and being a good
person, and more about fear of God if you transgress from an
incredibly narrow world-view. As I got older and tried to ask
the harder questions, I was repeatedly shut down and told to
''stick to the text.'' I hated them at 5, and I loathed them by
In any case, is there a church around here where I can send my
kids for religious instruction and feel good about it? Where
they will enjoy the experience? Where I can attend a mass and
not be irritated by the homily? I'd like them to learn about
Catholicism in a positive way - and this kid from Long Island
did NOT have that experience. Something tells me that a Jesuit
bent may be what I am looking for - the only adults I know who
have stayed religiously Catholic had Jesuit educations, so they
must be doing something right.
I'm not catholic, but I'm married to one, and we've felt welcome at
Augustine on Alcatraz near Telegraph. We are discussing the pros and
cons of raising the kids catholic, so they've not yet been baptised,
plus we attend sporadically. Nonetheless, the priest and all the
folks there have been friendly and welcoming, even to a heathen (never
baptised) like me. The homily is not too heavy handed, they make an
effort to bring joy into the service, and they are really trying to
grow, so they love families!
As someone who has come back to the Catholic Church (in Berkeley)
after many years away--it is (or can be) a very different experience.
I attend St Mary Magdalen
which is a lovely small church, with a nice
community, thoughtful (Dominican) priests, and a good blend of
traditional and post-Vatican 2 worship (plus good music). I can't
speak directly to the childhood program, although the woman who runs
it is wonderful.
I, too, was a lapsed Catholic and when we had our baby 19 months ago,
we really struggled with the question of how to raise her. My husband
and I both had Catholic(ish) upbringings and I loathed the classes
growing up as well (my husband didn't endure that wrath!)
Now, our daughter isn't old enough to be attending classes, but we
pretty regularly attend Masses at St. Joseph the Worker
in Berkeley. I
really enjoy both of the regular priests, Fathers Stephan and George.
Both are bilingual and conduct a Spanish Mass on Sunday mornings as
well. Their homilies are much more New Testament than what I grew up
with as a kid. None of the ''wrath'' and all of the love, compassion,
understanding, and social benefit/community service.
They're both pretty extremely kind, from my experience, and Father
George even counseled my husband and I for a couple of months when we
were struggling to figure out some of the changes to our marriage
post-baby. Very non-judgemental and supportive.
The English Masses tend to be on the smaller size, when compared to
the showing at the Spanish Masses, but the community is pretty active
and vibrant. The kids in the CCD classes seem to enjoy them and
participate in the full Masses regularly by giving presentations or
being applauded for community service activities that they've
completed as a class.
Again, since I'm not a student myself and my daughter isn't old
enough, I can't speak directly about the classes, but I can say that I
have truly enjoyed finding my way back to a kinder, gentler Catholic
life through St. Joseph the Worker. Best of luck to you and your
Born again Catholic?
I attend St. Mary Magdalen
in Berkeley with my family. I love the
parish, the community is great. It is a Dominican Parish and the
Dominicans are known for their preaching. The CCD program seems to be
very good, I don't know first hand becuase my kids are in Catholic
school. I do know that the woman in charge of CCD might be the nicest
person I have ever known.
Any Catholic parish in the Bay Area is going to be a far cry from the
experience you had as a child. Shop around, although the summer is
not a great time to get a feel for any parish. The
Newman Center on
Dwight and College is also fantastic. They have really great
preachers and a big community of kids.
Good Luck. My husband is not Catholic and comes to mass with us every
Sunday. He feels that the community is great and that the message is
easy to take.
I, too, was raised Catholic, lapsed after college and returned as an
adult because I actually like going to church and nurturing my faith
in God. After shopping around the Oakland/Berkeley area for a while I
found the best fit for my son and I.
Newman Hall, Holy Spirit Parish,
on the Cal campus. The first time my son went to the kids play group
(ages 2-5) and I was able to sit peacefully through the most beautiful
music, choir and ''right on'' homily by the priest, I felt incredibly
happy. This parish is cool. My heart has been opened in ways I've
never thought possible. The people are thoughtful, kind and funny. The
priests are the most inspiring I've ever met. During the
Fall/Winter/Spring, kids in kindergarten - 8th? go to Faith Formation
while you are at 9:30AM Sunday Mass. My son really likes it and will
be starting the 2nd grade group in the Fall. They gather upstairs
with volunteer parents and college students. I like the fact that
these kids will make their Communion
and future sacraments together at Newman, as opposed to being the
outcasts at a parish/school. During the summer the kids can sit
through Mass with you or go with a group of kids to hear the readings
and ''talk about God.'' I would say just check it out for yourself on
a Sunday at 9:30. We like the tea, coffee, donuts and bagels after
Mass too. It is located at 2700 Dwight Way at College.510.848.7812.
Give yourself a little time to find parking.
Catholic and Happy
Dear Friends- Years ago, I too, was looking for a Catholic church that
didn't have simpering homilies and accomodated normal, restless
children. I was lucky enough to find St. Columba on San Pablo and
Alcatraz. Some people might not like the idea of a Full Gospel Mass,
but my kids loved it! And the members of the church were so welcoming
and real. Just try it one week-you might like it! We hold it very
dear to our hearts and never once felt uncomfortable during Mass. It
is Catholic and part of the Oakland Diocese, but it is unlike any
local church around. August is the choir's vacation, so go in July or
September to start.
I like Saint Mary Magdalene
in Berkeley. (There is a school there
called The Madeleine.)
I recommend it to you because I am like you. I have my kids hitting
the main points for the cultural advantages. We don't go regularly.
The music is good! The music director must be great because all of
these regular looking folks get up there & do a bebop / Doris Day
style thing that isn't boring at all. (Bad music is derigueure in
Catholic churches, right?)
The little Sunday school for toddlers was cute when we went to it. A
gal from the Parrish play group (meets in parks every Thursday) ran it
while breast feeding! Totally not what I was raised with and lovely.
The Sunday School teacher for 1st communion is a whimsical older gal,
very sweet. The classes are right after Sunday mass and there is a
Playground there in the school yard.
It worked for me.
You didn't mention where you lived. But,
St. John the Baptist in El
Cerrito is very good! My children actually go to school there so,
taking any classes in addition as you know is not necessay. But, I
know the woman over the children's religious studies and she is
amazing! My DD will also be receiving the Sacrament of Communion this
year (she is soooooooo excited!)
Good Luck on your search, I am sure that you will find a church home
that you are comfortable with.
Happy St. John the Baptist Mom
Newman Church on College Ave in Berkeley is very kid-friendly,
progressive, and just has an overall good vibe. I was initially a little put
off by the fact that it is the ''college'' church that caters to the
U.C. students, but in fact the congregation is much more than that,
and the 9:30 services are catered towards families (childcare, sunday
school for older kids, etc), with everyone getting together in the
central courtyard for coffee & pastries afterward. We haven't been in
a while since my tot is now too fussy to sit still for service, and
not into staying in the childcare, but look forward to going again
once he grows out of this phase! I'm not crazy about a lot of
official church doctrine, but I too yearn for many aspects of the
church and find a forward-thinking, loving aspect to this one. Good
My husband and I are lapsed Catholics and we are looking to join a church with our 4-year old to give
her a religious base. We would like to find a church community that is tolerant, all inclusive, has
community outreach and has a program for youngsters. While we would like to stay with the Catholic
church or something close to it, I don't really know if can find the qualities we are looking for.
Does anyone have an suggestions for churches in Oakland or Berkeley that we can try out?
It's wonderful that you're giving this some thought. I too was a lapsed Catholic
for many years, until my father's death brought me to a new way of thinking. We
attend Newman Center Holy Spirit Parish, the Newman center of the Cal community.
The 9:30 mass is very family friendly, both in the main sanctuary, as well as in
the ''little church'', which is a pre-school program which takes place during the
mass. There is a wonderful group leader for this program who is also a
Kindergarten teacher. She relies on parent volunteers to handle different Sundays
(basically, that means bringing a simple craft project idea or a book to share).
If you would like to try out the preschool program there, be prepared to stay with
your child the entire time for the first couple of Sundays. It helps him/her ease
into the experience. I find the 9:30 mass experience to be rejuvenating and
thought-provoking. The priests give engaging homilies, and the congregation does
not shy away from voicing their opinions (respectfully) about controversial issues within the church.
The congregation seems diverse regarding race, background, and sexual preference
(including same-sex couples with children). There is also a program specifically
for lapsed Catholics who are thinking about coming back to the church. Come some
Sunday at 9:30 and go upstairs afterwards for coffee and donuts, just to check out
the vibe. Good luck in your searching!
Our Church is not in Oakland or Berkeley but, it is a very welcoming Parish and
may be a good fit ... St. John the Baptist in El Cerrito. Definitely come and visit
us the Family Mass is at 9:30 which is when I go with my Family. There is a Sunday
School Class that is held during the 9:30 Mass for Pre-K and Kindergarten. Grades
1 through 9 meet from 10:45am to noon. My Daughter did this two years in a row and
will now be joining us at Mass since she is in Kindergarten there and receiving
theology in a daily basis. Now, it's my Son's turn and he is thrilled! Pam
Vincent is the Director of this Program and she is great!
I have to give a plug for my parish, St. Mary Magdalen. The church is on
Berryman between Milvia and Henry. The family-oriented mass is 9:30. During
the school year we have a Children's Liturgy for preschool through fourth
grade during the readings/homily with the kids rejoining their families for
the Liturgy of the Eucharist. There is a separate CCD program for
kindergarten and up. The parish has a peace and justice committee that
sponsors dinner for the poor on the first and fourth Sunday of the month.
There is a coffee hour (donuts) after mass that is fun for the kids and the
grownups. We also have a playgroup that meets on Thursday mornings. I have
been in the parish for eight years and have met many very nice people.
I would also recommend the Holy Spirit Parish (Newman Center) at Dwight and
College. They have a great children's program and I have always found the
preachers to be terrific. We don't go there because that I wanted my kids to
go to Catholic school and the School of the Madeleine is excellent. Luckily,
the parish has been great also.
I would suggest visiting a few different parishes to see what works for your
family. I think that you will find that most Catholic parishes in this area
are pretty liberal.
St Alban's Episcopal Church
(which is located directly on the Albany-Berkeley
border just off Solano, at Curtis and Washington) would probably meet your
needs. My husband was raised Catholic and I was not, and we went to St
Alban's as a kind of middle ground. It's a small church with great music, a
nice community feeling, and blossoming youth programs, including a Godly Play
session for 4-7 year olds.
After being raised Catholic and then not attending church for about 10 years, I am
excited to become part of a church community again and especially excited about
exposing my two young children to religion. I have attended mass at a few churches and
have decided that I'd like to join the parish of either St. Theresa or Corpus Christi,
both in Oakland. I am also making plans to have my children baptized at this time.
Can members of BPN and parishioners of these churches give me any insight into why you
may have chosen to become part of one community over the other?
Thank you for any thoughts you may have on these churches.
Back to religion
I attended both parishes when I was picking a church and ended up at
St. Augustine Church in
Rockridge. It's warm, friendly, with great music and a fabulous pastor and associate pastor.
We have lots of young children and a good children's liturgy program. Check it out before you
We recently moved to the bay area and tried several churches, including Corpus Christi. We really love St. Mary Magdelene in Berkeley,
it's got a great and very active church community, as well as a great children's program. We
also really like the new pastor Father David and always look forward to his homily. We have
to drive a ways to get to St. MM but it's definitely worth it.
I'm new to St. Theresa's, but I'm very encouraged by 4 things:
1. their women's group (WINGS - Women in God's Spirit), is very friendly/welcoming,
organized by theme throughout the year, and has a speaker, prayer, small group discussion,
and ... childcare (for the daytime WINGS)! WINGS is a good mix of 30 somethings
with small children and wonderful grandmothers with life experience to share.
2. the 9am family mass' Kinderchurch (Pre-K & K, like Sunday School), is age appropriate,
caring, organized, with crafts, story, song, prayer - my nervous, clingy little guy now
forgets to say, ''Bye, Mom!'' - since he enjoys it so much.
3. the general friendliness of everyone I've met 4. it seems to be a well-off parish, in
terms of family income. However, according to the fast fundraising for a new school building
campaign, it appears the parishoners put their money where their mouth is in terms of giving
Take it with a grain of salt - I'm still new there - but I can't wait to get more involved.
It seems a good fit for our family.
A good way to meet people, too, is to take your kids to the church/school playground for the
15 minutes they open it up right after the 9am mass.
happy to be home
I am originally from Argentina, a mainly but not only Catholic
country. So, eventhough I consider myself an agnostic now and
I don't agree with religious institutions I am culturally
Catholic and I would like to pass that 'culture' to my son. I
feel torn, though, because in general I find the religion's
principles to be too conservative. Basically, what I need, is a
very liberal church, if there is one...:) And, if possible, do
you know of a church that is old enough that looks like the
century-old European ones?
Thanks a lot.
Corpus Christi Oakland
Our Lady of Lourdes Oakland (3 reviews)
St. Mary Magdalen N. Berkeley
I believe Newman Center in Berkeley is fairly liberal.
We attend the Church of the Assumption in San Leandro. While I
would not call it liberal, we are lucky to have finally been
sent a priest who is inclusive with both adults and children.
Our experience at our son's recent first communion was great.
Another church in town is St. Leanders. The few times I have
been there, it seems quite lively. I believe they have mass in
Spanish. The church is old but the pews have been turned
sideways in an attempt to make it more modern. The place to
avoid is Margaret Mary in Oakland - they still have mass in
Latin and from what I hear its quite dogmatic. Good Luck
Returned to the Church
I am a practicing Catholic in Berkeley. In my experience, most
of the Catholic churches in Berkeley are pretty liberal.
When I was younger (before kids) I really enjoyed mass at the
Newman Center at Dwight and College. That is the most liberal
church I have ever attended.
I am currently a member of St. Mary Magdalen parish, at
Berryman and Henry, and I love it. I have three kids and there
is a very family friendly congregation. We go to 9:30 mass,
which is the mass that most of the families with small children
As far as the physical church, St Joseph the Worker on Addison
is a beautiful church. They have a mass in Spanish at 11:00
a.m. and a very diverse community.
I understand your concerns about the institutional Catholic
church. I was raised Catholic but drifted for many of the
reasons you cite. When I moved to San Francisco, I literally
bumped into a wonderful Dominican church and I became very
active in its young adults group. Not only did I return to the
Catholic church, I returned as an adult who had questions and
struggles and some anger too- and found that I was welcome. I
still have issues with some Catholic teachings- as do many of
my Catholic friends- but it is my spiritual home, and I feel
nurtured and fed by the Sacraments, the community and the
exceptional lay folks and clergy I have found in many
different parishes over the years. I also should mention that
there are many teachings of the Church that are in fact,
exceptionally progressive - for instance, the social justice
teachings on immigration issues. If you are interested in a
welcoming community with a brilliant, thoughtful and
progressive pastor and the architecture you mention, check out
St Dominics in San Francisco - their website is
You need not go as far as SF to find a progressive Catholic
church, luckily. If you check the BPN files, you'll see
recommendations for several churches in Berkeley/Oakland that
sound wonderful. (St Augustine and St Columba sound great- I
have never been there but hope someone from there weighs in
with more info). It also mentions Holy Spirit Parish/Newman
Hall which I have attended - it is affiliated with UC, is
Paulist (a very progressive order and community) - but probably
not the architecture you are looking for. Their website is
When we moved to the East Bay and became parents, we discovered
another Dominican Church called St Mary Magdalene in North
Berkeley. (note: the Dominicans are an order of the church
known for, among other things, great ''preaching'', i.e.
thoughtful homililes!). Their website is www.marymagdalen.org.
We have found it to be a very warm and welcoming community. We
go to the 9:30 on Sunday a.m. and hang out in the back with
other parents of small (semi-noisy!) kids. During the ''liturgy
of the word'' (the first half of the mass) they often have
a ''children's dismissal'' where you can go with your little one
down to the parish hall and they have a more age-appropriate
telling of the gospel, some artwork etc.
If you just feel alone in your struggles, you might want to
check out a light-hearted but smart website (again, run by
Paulists)which has a very contemporary flavor, great articles,
forums for actual disagreements among Catholics etc. It's
Many Catholic churches also have a wonderful, welcoming, lay-
run program called ''Landings'' for returning Catholics who have
questions, concerns etc.
Wherever your path leads you, I sincerely hope that you find a
growth-filled spiritual home for you and your family. Even when
our kids are being squirmy or fussy, even when we are late or
cranky or work has been nuts, we find that mass provides the
one guaranteed time of the week where my husband and I share an
authentic moment of catching each other's eye and acknowledging
the amazing blessings that we have in our children and each
other. It is something that truly sustains me during the wild
ups and downs of parenting!
this page was last updated: Feb 24, 2011
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