Advice about Catholic Churches
Archived Q&A and Reviews
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 to you.
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 spiritual journey. --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. Good luck! Suzanne
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 All 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 communities and 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 . Both denominations 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. patricia
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- religion.html seportil
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 services.
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:
http://mb-soft.com/believe/txc/swedenbo.htm http://www.swedenborg.org/Home.aspx http://hillsideswedenborg.org/
For additional information you can also contact our administrator, Linda Baker at hourofpeace [at] yahoo.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. Good luck!
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 www.nowalls.org
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. fellow seeker
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 All Souls 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! Ellen
I'd like to invite you to visit my church, Church Without 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 University. anon.
Hi, 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 do RCIA.
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 religous program).
Any and all suggestions would be great! S.H.S
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 lived closer. 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. www.staugustineoakland.com Jacqueline
Hi, 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. Good luck. Claire
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 received.
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 14.
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.
Many thanks. Catherine
I'm not catholic, but I'm married to one, and we've felt welcome at St 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! anon
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. newly appreciative
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?
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. Joan
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. Susan
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 luck!
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? anon
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! Catholic searcher
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. Good luck. joan
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. Lori
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 choose. Jackie
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. anon
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 & tithing. 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. Non-traditional Catholic
- 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 attend.
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. Good luck Joan
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 www.stdominics.org.
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 www.calnewman.org.
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 www.bustedhalo.com
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! Trish