Dominican friars to leave Berkeley parish

They will also leave their ministry at Newman Centers at UC Riverside and UCSD

Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, celebrated Mass Dec. 18 at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Berkeley, assisted by pastor Rev. Carl Schlichte, OP, left, and Deacon David Paternoster, SJ. The long-scheduled Mass, in honor of the 800th anniversary of the founding of the Dominican order, came a week after the Western Dominican Province announced it would leave the parish after 93 years of service there. (MICHELE JURICH/THE CATHOLIC VOICE)

On the Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, the news was anything but joyful at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Berkeley.

The Dominican priests who have served the parish since its founding in 1923 are leaving, the pastor told the congregation.

The Berkeley parish, with 500 families and a vibrant elementary school, is one of three places in California from which the Dominicans will withdraw, the Oakland-based Western Dominican Province announced in a letter dated Dec. 11.

The Dominicans will also leave their ministry at Newman Centers at the University of California, Riverside, and the University of California, San Diego.

“Last week we met as the Provincial Council to begin the implementation of our province’s strategic plan. We made the painful decision that we must withdraw from St. Mary Magdalen’s Church and notified Bishop Barber that we will leave at the end of June in 2017,” a letter, dated Dec. 6, published in the parish bulletin said.

The Dominicans’ letter to parishioners said that they are an aging province, with just 41 priests available for 45 ministry assignments. The 24 students and novices in formation are years away from being ready for ordination and pastoral ministry.

Parishioners were, for the most part, stunned by the news. One recalled that her parents had bought their home, 57 years ago, to be in the Dominican parish.

Parishioner Laura Morland said the Dominicans’ departure “feels like a divorce.”

“But it’s worse than that: it’s like a divorce where the husband insists that the wife no longer use his name. I don’t know whether the Dominicans were aware of the pride that many of us feel in belonging to a Dominican parish… almost as if we were ‘4th Order Dominicans.’

“Now it’s like we’re being kicked out of the order, and the letter from the Provincial Council didn’t address these feelings at all. They didn’t write, ‘We’ll always consider you a part of the Dominican family.’ Maybe they couldn’t say that, or maybe they just wouldn’t. But being ‘divorced’ by the order really hurts.”

Full story at The Catholic Voice.



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  1. Novus Ordo priests are getting older, retiring, and dying with fewer to no replacements. This is just another example of the saga continues. Where will the faithful turn when there are no more priests? The protestant churches? They are also in decline except for the evangelicals. The Roman Catholic faith has eroded since the V2 Council and what hope is there in seeing it revive when the young are not formed in the faith? Like a old Roman Catholic priest told me, the V2 Church will collapse and out of the ashes will ignite the Roman Catholic Church practiced by those who follow tradition, the Latin Mass, and the old 7 Holy Sacraments. Seek and you shall find; knock and the door will be open to you. You may have a “latin mass”…

    • Jame, you make a comment that is heard often in these kinds of discussions -except for the evangelicals. I wonder, what do they offer, what is their attraction, etc. that is luring Catholics and other main stream Protestants? Even as we remain strong in our faith, what can we learn from them? Have we asked Catholics why they attend evangelical churches? How is it they can start in a store front and within a few years have a building that holds 3-5,000 people in each service? What could we learn?

      • Bob One asks? “How is it they can start in a store front and within a few years have a building that holds 3-5,000 people in each service? What could we learn?”

        Bob One, We can learn two simple things!

        1. You, can be, easily coddled and misled, to *temporarily* feel pretty doggone good with dodging Christ’s Church’s teachings on divorce and remarriage

        2. You, can be, easily coddled and misled, to *temporarily* feel pretty doggone good with dodging Christ’s Church’s teachings to avoid the use of artificial contraception.


        • continued,

          Always remember your parent’s very loving and wise advice! Don’t be fooled by numbers. Just because “Everyone’s doing it! OR “Because the crowds are there!” It does not always mean it is right or good.

          Matthew 7: 13-15 Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat. How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life and few there are that find it! Beware of false prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible

          • Has the fictitious “Our Lady of Akita” said anything about this to that poor, mentally-disturbed nun?

          • Steve Phoenix says:

            The unjustified as well as unfactual attack (“poor, mentally-disturbed nun”) on Sr. Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa, the receiver of the three 1973 messages at Akita, goes back to an undocumented claim when Bp. John Shojiro Ito first requested a review by the CDF after his collection of information regarding the “weeping statue” of Akita and Sr Agnes’ accounts to him. Bp. Ito (d. 1993) stated in 1984 pastoral letter that he had known Sr. Agnes for over 10 years, had studied her, and found her to be a reliable, stable witness.

            If anyone wants to read a remarkable 1st-hand account, I recommend “Akita: The Tears and the Message of Mary”, written by Fr. Teiji Yasuda (d. 2013), Sr Agnes’ director, and a solid, cool assessment of the…

          • Steve Phoenix says:

            .. real facts surrounding the little chapel at Akita, the statue (which was verified by independent experts, who controlled the site, to have human tears weeping continuously from the eyes of the statue), and Sr. Agnes.

            Perhaps functionally-agnostic small-c catholics cannot admit the uncomfortable possibility that God may have spoken through a humble witness and a statue at Akita—just as through 3 unwashed shepherd children at Fatima, or 2 similar shepherd children at La Salette, or for that matter through the birth of a child in a shepherd’s enclosure in Bethehem 2000 years ago. Times have not changed, then, have they?

          • Steve Phoenix says:

            Also, the long, complicated history of “non-decisions” by the CDF has been twisted to state that Akita is “not an approved revelation.” The local ordinary, Bp. Ito, after an exhaustive study, wrote his pastoral letter approving the events and finding nothing contrary to faith and morals (22 Apr 1984). Many subsequent statements by the CDF have resulted in “no formal statement.”

            However in Oct. 13, 2013, the new bishop of Niigata Diocese named the shrine as the official Marian shrine for Japan in a world-wide Marian celebration with 9 other shrines around the world, a commemoration requested and initiated by P. Francis, for the celebration of the Fatima message. So, if that is not approval, others can make their own…

          • Steve Phoenix says:

            ..conclusion, but the evidence direct and indirect is that Akita is a message to which one should attend.

        • Your Fellow Catholic says:

          Gosh, I think Jesus went from a “storefront” of 12 Apostles and pretty quickly ramped up to crowds of thousands, and I don’t recall Catherine ever saying that Jesus coddled anyone.

          Sure, most of them fell away during the Passion, but the Gospel spread from the Pentacost pretty rapidly. I don’t recall Catherine ever saying Saints Peter and Paul coddled, say, the Thessalonians or the Romans.

      • Linda Maria says:

        Bob One, tragically, the mainstream Protestant churches, along with the Catholic Church, all collapsed morally, during the 1960’s. So, lacking a strong and authentic Biblical moral backbone—- many of their former members have searched in evangelical groups, for this — Biblically authentic teaching and preaching, to support their spiritual and moral lives, and for their marriages and children. Many Catholic families are also very afraid of raising their kids in our Church, crying many tears over the lack of proper moral and spiritual leadership. They greatly fear for the futures of their children.

        • Linda Maria says:

          Many Protestant evangelical Biblically-based, non-denominational groups believe as Catholics do, on Christian morality– no pre-marital sex, birth control, abortion, divorce, gay sex and “marriage,” etc. Many are very active in pro-life and pro-Traditional Christian Marriage and Family work. They also run lots of schools, K-12, for children, as well as colleges– and teach Biblically-based (non-denominational) Christianity in these schools.

    • Michael McDermott [ii] UK says:

      Salford England has been brought to its knees, unfortunately not in prayer, by the decline in clergy numbers. The response of the Ordinary – the laity and the permanent diaconate, coupled to parish closures.

    • John Feeney says:

      Well said James.

    • Anonymous says:

      Whatever priest told you that is a heretic. You should get away from him. There is one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

  2. Unfortunately, I only a bit surprised. I have been aware for some time that the Western Province has been declining in its available non-retired-age working numbers of priests. During my time attending UC Berkeley, St Mary Magdalene was available weekdays morning and evening with Masses, for the average joe. It is sad and I can empathize much with the parish people.

    The church itself is a gem, mostly untouched by the modernist “Vatican II” revisions, the focus remaining on the altar of sacrifice; the Dominicans also had public morning and evening prayer before Mass, joined by lay people and some college students; and the Dominican parish was a refuge from the ideological nonsense mostly prevalent in Oakland Diocese under…

    • ..former Bishop Cummins. Their sermons were always Christ-focused and Scripture-based. It is a loss for the parish people, and I empathize with them much. I too feel like I have lost out somehow along with them.

  3. So very sad! Unfortunately, we are going to see more of this. Archbishop Cordilene recently merged two parishes in San Francisco. It is time for the option of married priests!

  4. St. Christopher says:

    “I am the vine; you the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.” John 15:5.

    Old orders that have embraced the new Mass, the Novus Ordo, will die. They have purposefully turned away from centuries of Church Tradition, from the Saints, from Catholicism’s DNA. The Church cannot succeed with such men, and they will not last. Remember, ” . . . without me you can do nothing.”

    Return to the blessed Church, while there are at least some of the Order left.

  5. Notice that part of the reduction is at two University of California campuses. Others may quibble about the educational quality of these institutions. For better or worse, this is where some of our next generation of leaders are learning. The Church must maintain a strong presence for those youth NOW or wonder not why these people are elsewhere on Sunday morning twenty years from now.
    George, traditions are like poker hands know when to hold and when to fold. What about the lady in red on the right of the picture? Perhaps that tradition will too change.

  6. George, Married priests will not solve the problem, it will only worsen it. That is what happens all the time when liberal actions are taken to fix a problem. By experience and in general, when problems aren’t well defined, they are not wholly understood, and when that is the case the real fixes to the cause will not come to fruition and those solutions attempted happen to only be bandaids that don’t really solve the problem.

  7. Romulus Augustus says:

    James, you are 100% correct, and YES The True Mass of All Times will be reborn with the help of The Holy Ghost.

  8. Romulus Augustus says:

    George that is a CLOSED issue, look to the Episcopalian’s if you want married priests, off you go!

  9. John Patrick says:

    Not surprised. The Church continues to decline. Some dioceses pushing Communion for those living in mortal sin, pushing same sex marriage. What is left?

  10. Another factor often mentioned in the decline of such orders is mathematical: with the advent of artificial contraception/sterilization many Catholic families are smaller; consequently there is a smaller pool from which to draw candidates. I too lament the decline of the Dominicans.

  11. anne o. nymous says:

    Very sad. BUT history has NO reverse gear. The Church of the 1940’s – 50’s
    or anytime in the past is NOT coming back. Pope Benedict has said the Church in the future will be much smaller. Jesuits have recently withdrawn from Our Lady of Sorrows in Santa Barbara. Carmelites have recently withdrawn from St. Jane Frances de Chantal in North Hollywood. Holy Cross Brothers have completely withdrawn from Notre Dame High in San Fernando Valley – brothers’ residence converted to Admin Bldg. All after having served many many decades at their assignments.
    We’ll have to learn to deal w/ the new reality …….. More Prayer for one.

  12. Bob One, You ask a good answer. I went to an evangelical service (the Rock mega-Church) here in San Diego one morning after Holy Mass as it was only 2 blocks down the street and many immodestly dressed women and sloppily dressed men with some carrying their protestant bibles with them. When the “pastor in blue jeans” fiddling with his bass guitar introduced himself as a former Catholic I was surprised, but then again not. There is no doubt attendees are going there to feel good and feel they met their obligation. With all the religious rock music they enjoy tapping their toes and hearing some clean lyrics. Some men likely go to look at and pick up the immodest girls, while maybe the girls are looking for a religious man? Who knows?

  13. Fr. Vincent Serpa OP is also leaving his long-term assignment as chaplain of CATHOLIC ANSWERS in San Diego. My prayers that they find a good replacement chaplain, and prayers for Fr. Vincent on his new assignment

  14. Bob One, The bottom-line is perhaps the evangelicals prefer to be entertained rather than worship. Now this is what I think was partially the reason behind the V2 Council. The liberals wanted a “new and refreshing spirit” under a different name may have meant entertainment instead of what some may have thought the Roman Catholic Church was hum-drum boring. If so, that was a fault of the bishops and pastors for not teaching and explaining to their flocks the solemn reasoning and meaning behind tradition i.e. the Holy Latin Mass and Sacraments and the old Catechism at their parishoners level of comprehension. Roman Catholic subjects as these are so interesting and informative and help us appreciate everything.

  15. Start with Vatican II. Recently read that Bishop Robert McElroy wants to canonize Henry VIII. Is this madness or what??? Check with the training that the young men are receiving in our local seminary in the S.F. Bay Area. Some Bishops and Archbishops are now sending candidates to the Midwest for training. No surprise here……they are orthodox. Also, why does EWTN always have candidates for ordination?? Once again orthodox training.

    • Your Fellow Catholic says:

      The article saying that Bishop McElroy want so canonize Henry VIII was parody. It even SAID it was parody.

      • Steve Phoenix says:

        Misses the point — if it is reasonably believable, as Diego thought, that McElroy “could have said it”, there is a problem. And it isn’t with Diego.

        In past times, no one would have ever believed for a split-second such a claim. Not so any more.

        • Your Fellow Catholic says:

          Well, I don’t want to pin something on Diego specifically, as I suppose he was just simply mislead to believe the parody to be a news item, but “if it is reasonably believable” is the crux of your issue, here, SteveP. People who utilize CRITICAL THINKING in their reading wouldn’t “reasonably believe” the many of the things CCD commentators believe about the Bishops and the Pope, especially the idea that a Bishop could canonize ANYONE, let alone a schismatic protestant.

          • Steve Phoenix says:

            It must take an enormous amount of productive energy, even by those who are the proudly self-congratulatory “critical thinkers” among us (They like to call themselves, “the adults in the room”, I have also noticed) that they have a problem. The problem isn’t with Diego.

            It is this (you have to state things VERY clearly for the “critical thinkers”):

            In past times, no one would have ever believed for a split-second such a claim about Catholic leadership. Not so hard to believe any more.

  16. Linda Maria says:

    For many long decades, since Vatican II– I have had the unfortunate experience, of dealing with many Dominican priests, who are against Church teaching– and actively support all of the “Death Culture” agendas– cohabitation, birth control, abortion (“women’s choice”), feminism, women priests, gay priests, gay sex partners, gay “marriage,” etc. Also, the Dominican Order has struggled, due to many convicted pedophile priests and brothers! What a shame!

  17. Recommendation: Pray, pray, and pray devotedly that God will show you His way, how He wants you to worship Him and where He wants you to worship Him. Then pray some more, best prayer of all is the Rosary. God will not let you down. He will answer your prayers and show you His way. Don’t be surprised that God steers you to a Roman Catholic Church in your neighborhood that practices tradition in the Holy Latin Mass, 7 Holy Latin Sacraments, teaches the Roman Catholic Catechism and Doctrine before Vatican 2. Seek and you will find, pay a visit to there is a directory there with most of all of the Roman Catholic Parishes that practice tradition.

  18. Correction: website name is, not

  19. Yes, it was a parody about Bishop McElroy suggesting the Henry VIII be canonized. But if you have followed Bishop McElroy and his thinking over the past few years, at first reading you would be inclined to believe it. The bottom line is that we must pray that the Catholic Church will return to it being the One, True, Catholic Church. Many Cardinals and Bishops are leading the flock away. You can start with Bishop McElroy’s mentor, Cardinal Mahony and then go down the line. Pray, pray, pray like your salvation depends on it – as it truly does.

  20. The church has changed over the years. The quality of priests too. I is true that part of the decline has happened prior to Vatican 2. I started shortly after WW2 when the soldiers came back.
    People started working more were caught up in a capitalistic ME MYSELF I bonanza. The church became more money oriented itself and put cash before God.
    When man got richer, he put God aside. The Virgin Mary has told us on many occasions.
    For those of true faith the true apostles they know this has been for cast. In the later days people will fall away from their faith.
    There was one prediction in which Mary says we will have two snow storms one after another. We did!! She spoke of a scandal that will cost careers. We had that. I can…

  21. Where do you live if you are seeing a decline. A decline in Mass attendance by the progeny of the baby boomers, perhaps. But a great influx of converts and reverts in many parishes. Do not judge all of the Church by shriveling folk Masses with seniors playing Beatles songs in the sanctuary.

  22. david drewelow says:

    the parishes being left behind seem to be important, close to headquarters. it would be interesting to see what the other parishes are that have been chosen over these for survival. at the present, africa is blooming with dominican vocations, especially english-speaking nigeria. why couldn’t a temporary transfusion have been worked out? likewise flourishing is the eastern USA province. is there more to the story?

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