St. Joseph the Worker
Re: Catholic looking for something different
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 to you.
Re: Catholic Church for our family to join
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 family! Born again Catholic?