The December 2006 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

The Poor Will Perish Without Housing

We Accuse the US Government

The Works of Mercy: Thoughts on the Death of a Homeless Man

Greed Fuels Oakland Condo Conversion Law

Berkeley Food and Housing Project

Happy Holidays: Berkeley Targets the Homeless

Claire Burch Documents Life on the Streets

St. Joseph the Worker Needs Support

94 Years Old and Still Homeless

Judge Orders Fresno to Uphold U.S. Constitution

Stranded in the Season of Giving

Stories of Street Survival

A Criminal of Poverty

New Media Offensive for Iraq War

Poor Leonard's Almanack on Religion

AIDS & Poverty: A Deadly Link

Mysteries in Our Own Back Yard

December Poetry of the Streets


November 2006

October 2006

September 2006

July 2006

June 2006

May 2006

April 2006

March 2006

February 2006

January 2006

November 2005

October 2005

September 2005

August 2005

July 2005

June 2005

May 2005

April 2005

March 2005

February 2005

Street Spirit is published by American Friends Service Committee.

All works are copyrighted by the authors.

The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.

St. Joseph The Worker Church Needs Community Support

by Randall Busang

Father Bill O'Donnell was the priest at St. Joseph's for 30 years. Eric Robertson photo

St. Joseph the Worker Church in Berkeley, long the stomping ground of legendary pastor, "Wild Bill" O'Donnell, is in dire financial trouble.

According to Father Stephan Kappler, St. Joseph's parochial administrator since last October, the economic situation has steadily worsened for the past ten years. The impoverished parish isn't able to make ends meet with income from the weekly collections.

Father Kappler, who has worked unstintingly for improvements at St. Joseph the Worker since his arrival, had a financial assessment report enclosed in a recent church bulletin.

For 30 years home to Father Bill O'Donnell, one of Berkeley's best-known and most beloved radicals, St. Joseph's has been kept afloat since O'Donnell's death by longtime assistant, Reverend George E. Crespin, remaining as pastor emeritus. The parish continues to attract young newcomer priests like the German-born Kappler and Aussie Tom Martin, both determined to carry on Wild Bill's legend.

St. Joseph the Worker may be Berkeley's most important church, remaining as a beacon to the ideals of Berkeley's reformers.

Maria King's memorial service was held at St. Joseph in response to the tragic murder of the homeless woman who was killed where she slept, not far from the church. The surrounding community is, by and large, low-crime and gang-free, a tribute to O'Donnell's dedication.

Father "Wild Bill" O'Donnell was assigned to St. Joseph the Worker in 1973 and remained there for the next 30 years, until the Sunday he died while writing a sermon. Soon after his arrival as assistant pastor, O'Donnell got the church's name changed from "St. Joseph the Workman" to give equal honor to working women.

"Wild Bill" was arrested more than 220 times for civil disobedience. He was a familiar sight for three decades, in worn leather jacket, black jeans and Roman collar, at the head of marches and rallies for workers all over the greater Bay Area.

Among his more notable demonstrations were walking the picket lines with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers, the Justice for Janitors strikes, and being arrested with hotel workers at the San Francisco Marriott Hotel.

Father Bill was also a tireless peace activist and was arrested at nonviolent demonstrations against Ronald Reagan's Central American Contra wars, and for protesting against the proliferation of nuclear weapons at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

In 2002, at age 72, Father O'Donnell served a six-month sentence at Atwater Penitentiary, a high-security federal facility near Merced, California, for trespassing at the Western Hemisphere Institute of Security at Fort Benning, Georgia -- formerly known as the School of the Americas or School of the Assassins.

"Your honor, you are pimping for the Pentagon," Father O'Donnell sternly told a federal judge before his sentencing in November, 2002.

Will Bill was determined to force closure of the CIA's so-called School, which trains South and Central American military and security forces in guerilla warfare, torture and killing techniques. The School promotes the continuing widespread bloodshed in those parts of the Americas already devastated by decades of killing and poverty. The assassins of El Salvador's Bishop Oscar Romero were trained at the School of the Americas.

"Bill is one of the scariest people I know," actor Martin Sheen once said about his close friend, "because he makes us tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, all the time. He takes the cup as it is offered, not altered."

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