The Nation’s Gayest Catholic Church

Neighborhood’s Most Holy Redeemer One of a Kind

Parishioners line up in an informal procession before Palm Sunday Mass in the Castro.

 

 

 

 

On Easter Sunday, in the small corner of the world that is San Francisco, in a unique Catholic parish within our Castro community, this occasion is marked by events both within the centuries old Catholic liturgy and the modern world.

 

What makes the parish of Most Holy Redeemer (MHR) in the city’s LGBT neighborhood special is that it is overwhelmingly made up of gay parishioners and has long acted on behalf of emerging needs in the community such as responding to the ravages of the AIDS epidemic. With so many places intolerant of the gay community, this can seem like nothing short of a divine gift.

 

Community

 

What initially impresses a visitor to MHR is the exceptional sense of genuine community demonstrated by nearly everyone they meet. As the information brochure states, “Dedicated in 1901 and rededicated in 1999, MHR has weathered two major earthquakes and the twentieth century’s most profound social and demographic changes.”

 

If we pick up the story from the conformist post-war 50s and into the Mad Men 60s, during the era of Pope John Paul XXIII and the Second Vatican Council, families with children were moving out of the Castro and joining the great American suburban migration. At the same time young gay men were attracted to San Francisco and its Victorian and natural beauty, and in particular to the Castro where a charismatic newcomer named Harvey Milk was building a political and cultural base.

 

You can almost feel this particular community being forged by people decidedly out of the mainstream. As the church’s mission statement enumerates, “Most Holy Redeemer is a Christian Community in the Roman Catholic tradition . . . [drawing] people from isolation to community, from searching to awakening, from indifference to concern, from selfishness to meaningful service, from fear in the midst of adversity to faith and hope in God.” And in the process it offers a spiritual home to all: “seniors, youth, single people and families, straight, gay, lesbian, transgendered, the healthy and the sick, particularly persons with HIV disease.”

 

Gay But Welcoming All

 

With the recent exit of the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) from the Castro, Most Holy Redeemer is now the area’s primary church with a majority LGBT congregation.Does this mean that MHR is essentially a gay parish? Thomas C. Fox, publisher of the National Catholic Reporter, in an excellent, five-part series on Most Holy Redeemer, quotes a parishioner as saying, “There’s nothing gay about what we do here.” This was vehemently and proudly affirmed by another parishioner, a woman whom I met on the way to Palm Sunday mass.

 

Nevertheless, Fox observed that MHR tends to be identified in the outside world as a predominantly gay parish: “The parish has the reputation of likely being the ‘gayest’ Catholic parish in the nation. Eighty percent of its parishioners are LGBT people.” As with any group, individuals who share the same life experiences tend to come together. Shared experiences of being gay — perhaps the pain that comes from rejection and exclusion and that results in understanding and empathy — can result in a ready resonance at Most Holy Redeemer.

 

That said the parish is about much more than just one group. As Fox writes, MHR “has earned a reputation locally and beyond for being a distinctly open and accepting parish.” It actively welcomes everyone, no questions asked.

 

“People choose to be here,” Pastor Jack McClure said. “This makes a difference.”

 

And indeed, parishioners come from the entire Bay Area.

 

Moving Beyond a Destructive Past

 

Possibly the greatest obstacle to participation in the MHR community today is the lasting negative history of centuries of injustice by the institutional church. This disabling record is unfortunately refreshed by current examples of illiberal church positions and practices (Proposition 8, illegally binding teacher contracts, and dangerous homeless dousing immediately come to mind). In addition, the litany of negative attitudes towards sex, asserted by a rigid male hierarchy, stretches from the early Christian communities and Thomas Aquinas all the way to conservative Pope Benedict XVI in 1986 who called gays “objectively disordered.” The overall result was that with good reason many LGBT Catholics wrote off the church as uncaring and judgmental.

 

Hopefully this changed in 2013 when the new Pope Francis uttered his famous words, “If a person is gay and seeks God and has goodwill, whom am I to judge?” Let us hope for more.

 

Ministries and Programs

 

Most Holy Redeemer offers a number of ministries.

 

• AIDS Support Group: a highly respected San Francisco service provider that has cared for over 2,700 people and their families over three decades, having been formed in 1985, two years before the federal response.

 

• Wednesday Suppers: a signature MHR activity and a well known and very successful program dating from 2001, in which 40 volunteer parishioners prepare food and provide a festive community environment for up to 120 guests from all walks of life.

 

• Women’s Group: an active gathering that selects its own topics, speakers and activities.

 

• Young Adult Group: for youngsters 15 years and older, who also set their own activities and are electronically linked to the archdiocese young adults group.

 

• Sunday Night Mass: an energetic and peaceful time for prayerful reflection, in a candlelit ambiance, at the end of a busy weekend, a time especially popular with technology workers.

 

• Centering Prayer: a meditative and prayerful experience.

 

• Reconnecting: a series of Saturday mornings for Catholics who have been away from the church for a period of time and for those who have been attending mass and want to feel more connected to a spiritual community.

 

In addition, the parish administers a host of traditional Catholic sacraments, such as marriage (but only between a man and a woman at this time, because that is as far as the institutional church will go), baptism, first communion, confirmation and “reconciliation,” better known as confession.

 

Most Holy Redeemer is located at 100 Diamond St. in the Castro.

 

 

 

Photo: Bill Sywak

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

 

Residents Desire Bars, Trader Joe’s

 

Castro/Upper Market survey gathers data

 

 

 

The best way to find out what people really want is just to ask them.

 

Nine months into the year-long Castro & Upper Market Retail Strategy and with over 1,000 people surveyed, the project is well underway and on schedule. The goal is simple: to help bring exciting new businesses to the Castro & Upper Market retail corridor. But finding the most desirable retailers to fill the vacant storefronts is not an easy task. It is really a matter of supply and demand. The Retail Strategy aims to find out: what people want to buy, what businesses want to sell, what spaces are available, how much those spaces rent for, and what regulations govern those spaces.

 

According to Andrea Aiello, Executive Director of the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District, outreach for the Retail Strategy has included many stakeholders such as tourist locals, customers, merchants, brokers, landlords, developers and city agencies.

 

“We are trying to look at vacant spots based on the info we have gathered to recommend which vendors would be suitable,” Aiello said. “We can offer examples by looking at the vacancies with the knowledge we have gathered, but we can’t guarantee they will listen. [The Retail Strategy] is really about relationship development. There are a lot of players involved and there is a whole process that goes into it.”

 

The first portion of the Retail Strategy surveyed 1,200 local residents and 50 merchants to find out what they want to see in the Castro & Upper Market. The findings shed some light on aspects unique to the Castro. Aiello commented that she didn’t realize how many long-term (over 30 years), stable businesses there were in the area. Danny Yadegar, project coordinator for the Retail Strategy, was surprised to discover that out of the 1,200 residents who completed online and sidewalk surveys, 70 percent identified as LGBT. Further research is needed to determine how the demographic (i.e. age, sexual orientation, income) of the Castro & Upper Market is changing due to the new residents vs. the long-time residents. Focus groups and interviews were conducted in addition to the surveys to gather details regarding more specific preferences.

 

So what do people want to see more of in the neighborhood?

 

Some area residents have advocated for a bakery, meat market, and produce store on Castro Street, while others have voiced for a Chipotle, a donut shop and bathhouses.

 

Based on the data collected in the Retail Strategy’s surveys, more outdoor bars and cafes were the number one request by residents. High-end and quality food vendors took second place. In addition to requests for a bakery and a butcher, others wanted to see a vegan restaurant and a local produce store to avoid shopping at bigger chains like Safeway or Mollie Stone’s. On the other hand, there was a high demand for a Trader Joe’s in the area.

 

“It’s important to understand the desires/needs of the neighborhood in order to plan around them,” Yadegar said. “Of course there are nuanced challenges to why certain properties remain vacant and why certain retailers are hard to accommodate in the neighborhood. Trader Joe’s, for one, is extremely popular amongst neighbors, but it’s hard to find a space that works.”

 

Parking is one reason why a Trader Joe’s is difficult to accommodate in the neighborhood. However, according to Yadegar, the parking issue in the Castro isn’t as bad as they had suspected. The Castro Merchants had assumed that one-third of shoppers were walking into the neighborhood. But the surveys proved that about 60 percent of people enter the area by foot. He said that the majority of the people who said they had an issue with parking are coming to the neighborhood in the evening. During the daytime, parking does not prove to be an issue like it is in Hayes Valley, for example. Therefore, most people don’t think it is realistic or necessary to build a parking lot in the neighborhood.

 

The Retail Strategy is currently in Phase II. After analyzing the surveys, the next step is to further develop the market profile and prepare the retail inventory of the Project Area’s retail space. The aim of this phase is to compare the total vacant retail space with the total retail space, to determine the average length of time the store has been vacant, to understand the rents in the area compared to San Francisco as a whole and to obtain the vacant space ownership data. Interviews with commercial brokers, owners of vacated businesses and property owners are being conducted.

 

The effort is being led by the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District along with the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association, the Castro/ Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association, and the Castro Merchants. The Retail Strategy is budgeted at $87,200. A large portion of the funding comes from the Office and Economic Workforce Development, the rest from private donations.

 

A community meeting will be held in June to reveal the final results of the project.

 

Photo: Yevgenia Gorbulsky

 

 

 

 

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

 

Temporary Navigation Center Opens for Homeless

 

If you walk four blocks from the Castro down Mission and 16th streets you’ll notice two things: the BART station and people living on the street.

 

While this is a long-standing issue, the city has taken action by opening a temporary center in March that will provide resources for the homeless near this intersection. The new Navigation Center at 1950 Mission St. is a pilot program that will provide services for up to 200 people per month for a period of eight to 18 months, after which construction will begin on 125 units of below-market-rate housing.

 

“The purpose of the Navigation Center is to give people a place where there is storage, laundry, showers and bathrooms,” said Bevan Dufty, city director of Housing, Opportunities, Partnerships and Engagement (HOPE). Aside from those resources the center will also have counseling sessions for the people who enter.

 

In terms of assisting homeless youth, especially LGBT youth, Dufty’s solution is to “have a bungalow for people, under 30, certainly in the Castro neighborhood, and also to invite young people who don’t find regular shelters at all inviting.”

 

Before the Navigation Center was constructed, a school, the Phoenix Continuation School, occupied the bungalows. The center is said to hold 75 people at a time, with the chance for residents to actually be with their loved ones, and bring their pets as well.

 

In order to assist with supplies and services, Dufty said an anonymous donor gave close to $3 million to the San Francisco Interfaith Council, which in turn, gave it to the city.

 

“The Interfaith Council has given this grant to the city, $2 million is being spent on the renovation and operation of the navigation center and close to $1 million is being spent to ramp up leasing of single room occupancies,” Dufty said.

 

Dufty’s hopes are for different groups to be exiting the streets and coming into the Navigation Center with the ultimate goal of getting them into permanent housing. He said the prominent location could aid this.

 

“People staying there will not be isolated,” he said. “It’s one of the most visible locations to address homelessness, and we’re grateful that the community has responded respectively.”

 

With the Navigation Center, Dufty states that he wants to “try something that would really have an impact on 16th and Mission, and the neighborhood has been really welcoming to the creation of the center.”

 

The center is not only capable of serving the Mission, but also the Castro just a few blocks away.

 

District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener said the new resources could only help tackle the problem of homelessness, which is also pervasive in the Castro.

 

“I’m very supportive of the Navigation Center and think it’s a very innovative approach,” Wiener said. “I think it’s a really positive thing and I’m really happy that this project is moving forward.”

 

In order to notify the people about the center, every area has designated outreach police officers trained to reach out to the homeless and offer them services. Wiener hopes that aside from the Mission, the focus will be to help people from the Castro neighborhood as well.

 

“The Mission will benefit greatly from the Navigation Center, but I want there to also be a focus on the Castro neighborhood,” he said.

 

Tommi Avicolli Mecca, who has been involved in the Housing Rights Committee for 15 years, also offered his views on the new center being built.

 

“The important thing is that it’s taking 75 people off the streets and putting them in a very humane and supportive environment where they can get help finding housing,” he said. “[The] space happened to be available — it used to be school property, just a matter of pure luck.”

 

Mecca said that he personally thinks there should be an area for LGBT folks and is hopeful for some homeless youth from the Castro to be able to live there.

 

“One of the bungalows will probably be for LGBT people, especially for trans folks,” he said.

 

Photo: Joshua Velasco

 

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

CCSF Journalism Dept. Chair Celebrates 30 Years

 

Journalists, local newspaper publishers, instructors and students gathered on March 20 at Randy’s Place in the Ingleside to honor Juan Gonzales for his 30 years as a faculty and chair of City College of San Francisco’s Department of Journalism.

 

The mix of former and current students and colleagues attested to his dedication as they mingled, shot pool and enjoyed spaghetti and drinks in the cozy neighborhood bar.

 

“What Juan does, it’s not an institution, it’s a community,” said Ingleside-Excelsior Light publisher, journalist and U.C. Berkeley graduate student Alexander Mullaney, who credits Juan for directing him toward the field as a freshman.

 

This year also marks the 80th anniversary of City College itself and its bi-monthly, student-run paper, The Guardsman, to which Gonzales serves as advisor.

 

One of the oldest community college newspapers in the country, the publication’s mix of local and campus news coverage regularly wins top honors—along with the department’s magazine, Etc.—at the Journalism Association of Community Colleges state convention.

 

“Juan emphasized the importance of learning by doing, holding us to a high standard but also encouraging our independence,” said former student Jennifer Balderama-McDonald, today a Chicago-based freelance writer and editor who once served as book editor for The New York Times.

 

“Because I had an interest in editing, Juan pushed me in that direction, and his crucial nudge set me on a path that led from an internship with the Dow Jones News Fund to, seven years later, a job at The New York Times.”

 

A community focus has always been part of Gonzales’ work at the journalism department.

 

El Tecolote, the Mission-based bilingual newspaper Gonzales founded in 1970, will celebrate its 45th year this August, and many of his students gain experience through it or other San Francisco Neighborhood Newspaper Association publications.

 

“For 31 years, we got some of our best interns and reporters from City College,” said former San Francisco Bay Guardian editor-in-chief Tim Redmond of his days at the now-departed weekly. Today, Redmond runs online newspaper 48 hills—which has also published student articles—and guest lectures at the school in an investigative reporting class.

 

Dan Verel, another former City College journalism student and now a health writer at MedCity News, agreed that the department’s high standards set him up for success after transferring to San Francisco State University in his mid-twenties.

 

“We were far ahead of other students,” Verel said. “I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but he was kind of a savior.”

 

Today, Verel said his old friends from the department are all working in the field, a journey that began with Gonzales and fellow instructors Jon Rochmis and Tom Graham.

 

A longtime advocate for San Francisco’s Latino community, Gonzales is a board member of the non-profit Accion Latina that provides educational and cultural services. He’s received a “Heroes of Excellence” award from KGO-TV and a “Distinguished Service Award” from the Society of Professional Journalists.

 

Gonzales has no plans to retire, and said he would continue to work as long as he felt he was “helping folks move on and achieve their goals.”

 

“It’s been a fun ride,” Gonzales told the crowd after being presented a Certificate of Honor from San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. “It’s not over yet.”

 

 

 

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

Close Encounters with Bugs at the Randall

 

 

The Castro is very fortunate to have the wonderful Randall Museum right in its own backyard. Tucked cozily into the southern slope of Corona Heights Park, the museum offers classes, workshops, clubs and events, including this month’s Bug Day, an all day affair on Saturday, April 18th. I spoke with Executive Director Chris Boettcher about Bug Day and what else is new at the Randall.

 

Wendy:

 

Let’s start with Bug Day, which is one of your biggest events. Generally the Randall Museum has several drop-in classes on Saturday, but not on April 18th, when Bug Day takes over the entire museum.

 

Chris:

 

It’s characteristic of our family events. We typically do four of these events per year. They’re usually seasonal and are thematic in some way. This one is unique in that nobody else does anything like this. It’s consistent with the Randall’s mission which is to expose people to nature and promote environmental stewardship. Most people don’t have close contact with a large variety of insects; most people are put off by insects so they don’t understand them or they don’t realize what a large variety of different species there are. The whole point of this event is to bring people in close contact to insects and all the varieties, everything from honeybees to insects that are only present in tropical climates. Some of the insects are very small; some are really large, and the idea is to give people an opportunity to see them close up and understand their habitat, some of the qualities of insects and why we need them, what their role is in agriculture and other things.

 

Wendy:

 

And as you said that’s a big part of the mission at Randall.

 

Chris:

 

The essence of our mission is to encourage environmental stewardship, but also to bring out the creative thread that runs through art and science. Everybody understands creativity in art; that’s essential to that, but they may not realize how true science has a very strong creative component to it. Part of it is understanding the world or the universe, but it’s also thinking of the right questions to ask that will help unlock some of the secrets of nature. One of the first steps in that kind of creativity is close observation of your environment or of the things that are in your environment. That’s what we’re hoping to achieve with Bug Day.

 

Wendy:

 

Aside from bugs on Bug Day, you have animals there for people to get to know, all different sorts of animals who, for one reason or another aren’t able to survive in the wild on their own. You have a drop-in opportunity to meet them on Saturdays, right?

 

Chris:

 

The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday every week but [on] Saturdays we have Meet the Animals class. We’ll have a docent bring some out, explain where the animal lives, what they eat, all them, their natural history basically, and answer some questions from the public. That’s a feature of our docent program. On Saturdays we do the Meet the Animals talk but on a regular day all the animals are available to the public to see.

 

Wendy:

 

It’s a perfect setting in which to connect to nature and the environment because you’re surrounded by so much beautiful land at the Randall; you’re introduced to so much of just that on the walk to the museum. You offer all sorts of ongoing classes; I believe you’re in your Spring session right now, classes from ceramics to wood working to gardening to nature and science classes, and those are available to all ages, children through adults.

 

Chris:

 

Yes. What I just explained about our philosophy applies to all of our programs across the whole demographic spectrum. We have classes [for] pre-school aged kids all the way to the upper age [group]; we have a fair number of seniors who take our classes or participate in programs.

 

Wendy:

 

Aside from the opportunities to partake in classes, you have volunteer opportunities for people who want to get involved on that level.

 

Chris:

 

Right. For example, on Bug Day we’re probably going to have as many as 90 or so volunteers from different community organizations who come and help us put on these events. When you have that many people in a place like this you need a lot of help to pull an event off like that. We have a relatively modest sized staff but we recruit a lot of volunteers from organizations like One Brick, the Junior League, others like that who make themselves available for these events.

 

Wendy:

 

I understand that the Randall is going to be revitalized soon.

 

Chris:

 

We did receive a grant from the state, the California State Parks Association; it was a grant that was given for nature education facilities and we qualified for that. We got the grant about three years ago. We’re in the process of designing how the grant is going to be [utilized], what improvements are going to be made.

 

Wendy:

 

Do you also seek volunteers from the community?

 

Chris:

 

Oh we do. We have volunteers - adults and we have some after school opportunities for teens; we have a fair number of teens involved here [with] our animals. We train kids to work in our live animal exhibit and we probably will have some of those kids here for Bug Day.

 

For those people who haven’t been to one of our family events, I would encourage them to come to Bug Day. It’s a unique event; it’s not like anything else they’ve ever been to. It’s a hugely popular family event for people of all ages. Kids can, for example, hold a huge Nicaraguan cockroach in their hand. We have San Francisco residents who keep honeybees in their backyards. They come out to this event to put on demonstrations and they allow people to sample a dozen different kinds of honeys from all kinds of specific locations. They brand the honey so you know where it’s from, what kind of flower the bee’s visiting to create that specific flavor of honey.

 

Wendy:

 

On Saturdays you have a lot of different drop-in classes for people who aren’t necessarily signed up for classes on a regular basis.

 

Chris:

 

That’s right. Part of our mission also is to have people have what we call first hand experiences, so we want people to come and actually make something or do something. There are a lot of museums where they have exhibits and people come and they see it once, and pretty much, they’re done with it; there’s nothing more for the exhibit to offer. In our facility we encourage people to engage in a much deeper way, so it’s more than just interacting with and exhibit. It’s usually participating in a workshop where you use raw materials of some type and create something or solve a problem in some cases.

 

Wendy:

 

It’s a beautiful walk up the hill to your museum and a great destination for families sure, but anyone really.

 

Chris:

 

It was a unique vision of Josephine Randall, the first superintendent of recreation under John McLaren. John McLaren was San Francisco’s Superintendent of Parks and later on, when cities became cognisant of the need to have subsidized recreation [for] the kids that live there. Josephine Randall was the first superintendent in San Francisco and had a very long career, so the museum was named after her.

 

 

Photo courtesy of the Randall Museum

© Castro Courier 2014 No part of this website or artwork portrayed may be redistributed or republished without the express permission of the Castro Courier. Opinions expressed are strictly those of the writers and do not reflect the opinions of the publisher or staff.

 

The Nation’s Gayest Catholic Church

Neighborhood’s Most Holy Redeemer One of a Kind

Parishioners line up in an informal procession before Palm Sunday Mass in the Castro.

 

 

 

 

On Easter Sunday, in the small corner of the world that is San Francisco, in a unique Catholic parish within our Castro community, this occasion is marked by events both within the centuries old Catholic liturgy and the modern world.

 

What makes the parish of Most Holy Redeemer (MHR) in the city’s LGBT neighborhood special is that it is overwhelmingly made up of gay parishioners and has long acted on behalf of emerging needs in the community such as responding to the ravages of the AIDS epidemic. With so many places intolerant of the gay community, this can seem like nothing short of a divine gift.

 

Community

 

What initially impresses a visitor to MHR is the exceptional sense of genuine community demonstrated by nearly everyone they meet. As the information brochure states, “Dedicated in 1901 and rededicated in 1999, MHR has weathered two major earthquakes and the twentieth century’s most profound social and demographic changes.”

 

If we pick up the story from the conformist post-war 50s and into the Mad Men 60s, during the era of Pope John Paul XXIII and the Second Vatican Council, families with children were moving out of the Castro and joining the great American suburban migration. At the same time young gay men were attracted to San Francisco and its Victorian and natural beauty, and in particular to the Castro where a charismatic newcomer named Harvey Milk was building a political and cultural base.

 

You can almost feel this particular community being forged by people decidedly out of the mainstream. As the church’s mission statement enumerates, “Most Holy Redeemer is a Christian Community in the Roman Catholic tradition . . . [drawing] people from isolation to community, from searching to awakening, from indifference to concern, from selfishness to meaningful service, from fear in the midst of adversity to faith and hope in God.” And in the process it offers a spiritual home to all: “seniors, youth, single people and families, straight, gay, lesbian, transgendered, the healthy and the sick, particularly persons with HIV disease.”

 

Gay But Welcoming All

 

With the recent exit of the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) from the Castro, Most Holy Redeemer is now the area’s primary church with a majority LGBT congregation.Does this mean that MHR is essentially a gay parish? Thomas C. Fox, publisher of the National Catholic Reporter, in an excellent, five-part series on Most Holy Redeemer, quotes a parishioner as saying, “There’s nothing gay about what we do here.” This was vehemently and proudly affirmed by another parishioner, a woman whom I met on the way to Palm Sunday mass.

 

Nevertheless, Fox observed that MHR tends to be identified in the outside world as a predominantly gay parish: “The parish has the reputation of likely being the ‘gayest’ Catholic parish in the nation. Eighty percent of its parishioners are LGBT people.” As with any group, individuals who share the same life experiences tend to come together. Shared experiences of being gay — perhaps the pain that comes from rejection and exclusion and that results in understanding and empathy — can result in a ready resonance at Most Holy Redeemer.

 

That said the parish is about much more than just one group. As Fox writes, MHR “has earned a reputation locally and beyond for being a distinctly open and accepting parish.” It actively welcomes everyone, no questions asked.

 

“People choose to be here,” Pastor Jack McClure said. “This makes a difference.”

 

And indeed, parishioners come from the entire Bay Area.

 

Moving Beyond a Destructive Past

 

Possibly the greatest obstacle to participation in the MHR community today is the lasting negative history of centuries of injustice by the institutional church. This disabling record is unfortunately refreshed by current examples of illiberal church positions and practices (Proposition 8, illegally binding teacher contracts, and dangerous homeless dousing immediately come to mind). In addition, the litany of negative attitudes towards sex, asserted by a rigid male hierarchy, stretches from the early Christian communities and Thomas Aquinas all the way to conservative Pope Benedict XVI in 1986 who called gays “objectively disordered.” The overall result was that with good reason many LGBT Catholics wrote off the church as uncaring and judgmental.

 

Hopefully this changed in 2013 when the new Pope Francis uttered his famous words, “If a person is gay and seeks God and has goodwill, whom am I to judge?” Let us hope for more.

 

Ministries and Programs

 

Most Holy Redeemer offers a number of ministries.

 

• AIDS Support Group: a highly respected San Francisco service provider that has cared for over 2,700 people and their families over three decades, having been formed in 1985, two years before the federal response.

 

• Wednesday Suppers: a signature MHR activity and a well known and very successful program dating from 2001, in which 40 volunteer parishioners prepare food and provide a festive community environment for up to 120 guests from all walks of life.

 

• Women’s Group: an active gathering that selects its own topics, speakers and activities.

 

• Young Adult Group: for youngsters 15 years and older, who also set their own activities and are electronically linked to the archdiocese young adults group.

 

• Sunday Night Mass: an energetic and peaceful time for prayerful reflection, in a candlelit ambiance, at the end of a busy weekend, a time especially popular with technology workers.

 

• Centering Prayer: a meditative and prayerful experience.

 

• Reconnecting: a series of Saturday mornings for Catholics who have been away from the church for a period of time and for those who have been attending mass and want to feel more connected to a spiritual community.

 

In addition, the parish administers a host of traditional Catholic sacraments, such as marriage (but only between a man and a woman at this time, because that is as far as the institutional church will go), baptism, first communion, confirmation and “reconciliation,” better known as confession.

 

Most Holy Redeemer is located at 100 Diamond St. in the Castro.

 

 

 

Photo: Bill Sywak

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

 

Residents Desire Bars, Trader Joe’s

 

Castro/Upper Market survey gathers data

 

 

 

The best way to find out what people really want is just to ask them.

 

Nine months into the year-long Castro & Upper Market Retail Strategy and with over 1,000 people surveyed, the project is well underway and on schedule. The goal is simple: to help bring exciting new businesses to the Castro & Upper Market retail corridor. But finding the most desirable retailers to fill the vacant storefronts is not an easy task. It is really a matter of supply and demand. The Retail Strategy aims to find out: what people want to buy, what businesses want to sell, what spaces are available, how much those spaces rent for, and what regulations govern those spaces.

 

According to Andrea Aiello, Executive Director of the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District, outreach for the Retail Strategy has included many stakeholders such as tourist locals, customers, merchants, brokers, landlords, developers and city agencies.

 

“We are trying to look at vacant spots based on the info we have gathered to recommend which vendors would be suitable,” Aiello said. “We can offer examples by looking at the vacancies with the knowledge we have gathered, but we can’t guarantee they will listen. [The Retail Strategy] is really about relationship development. There are a lot of players involved and there is a whole process that goes into it.”

 

The first portion of the Retail Strategy surveyed 1,200 local residents and 50 merchants to find out what they want to see in the Castro & Upper Market. The findings shed some light on aspects unique to the Castro. Aiello commented that she didn’t realize how many long-term (over 30 years), stable businesses there were in the area. Danny Yadegar, project coordinator for the Retail Strategy, was surprised to discover that out of the 1,200 residents who completed online and sidewalk surveys, 70 percent identified as LGBT. Further research is needed to determine how the demographic (i.e. age, sexual orientation, income) of the Castro & Upper Market is changing due to the new residents vs. the long-time residents. Focus groups and interviews were conducted in addition to the surveys to gather details regarding more specific preferences.

 

So what do people want to see more of in the neighborhood?

 

Some area residents have advocated for a bakery, meat market, and produce store on Castro Street, while others have voiced for a Chipotle, a donut shop and bathhouses.

 

Based on the data collected in the Retail Strategy’s surveys, more outdoor bars and cafes were the number one request by residents. High-end and quality food vendors took second place. In addition to requests for a bakery and a butcher, others wanted to see a vegan restaurant and a local produce store to avoid shopping at bigger chains like Safeway or Mollie Stone’s. On the other hand, there was a high demand for a Trader Joe’s in the area.

 

“It’s important to understand the desires/needs of the neighborhood in order to plan around them,” Yadegar said. “Of course there are nuanced challenges to why certain properties remain vacant and why certain retailers are hard to accommodate in the neighborhood. Trader Joe’s, for one, is extremely popular amongst neighbors, but it’s hard to find a space that works.”

 

Parking is one reason why a Trader Joe’s is difficult to accommodate in the neighborhood. However, according to Yadegar, the parking issue in the Castro isn’t as bad as they had suspected. The Castro Merchants had assumed that one-third of shoppers were walking into the neighborhood. But the surveys proved that about 60 percent of people enter the area by foot. He said that the majority of the people who said they had an issue with parking are coming to the neighborhood in the evening. During the daytime, parking does not prove to be an issue like it is in Hayes Valley, for example. Therefore, most people don’t think it is realistic or necessary to build a parking lot in the neighborhood.

 

The Retail Strategy is currently in Phase II. After analyzing the surveys, the next step is to further develop the market profile and prepare the retail inventory of the Project Area’s retail space. The aim of this phase is to compare the total vacant retail space with the total retail space, to determine the average length of time the store has been vacant, to understand the rents in the area compared to San Francisco as a whole and to obtain the vacant space ownership data. Interviews with commercial brokers, owners of vacated businesses and property owners are being conducted.

 

The effort is being led by the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District along with the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association, the Castro/ Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association, and the Castro Merchants. The Retail Strategy is budgeted at $87,200. A large portion of the funding comes from the Office and Economic Workforce Development, the rest from private donations.

 

A community meeting will be held in June to reveal the final results of the project.

 

Photo: Yevgenia Gorbulsky

 

 

 

 

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

 

Temporary Navigation Center Opens for Homeless

 

If you walk four blocks from the Castro down Mission and 16th streets you’ll notice two things: the BART station and people living on the street.

 

While this is a long-standing issue, the city has taken action by opening a temporary center in March that will provide resources for the homeless near this intersection. The new Navigation Center at 1950 Mission St. is a pilot program that will provide services for up to 200 people per month for a period of eight to 18 months, after which construction will begin on 125 units of below-market-rate housing.

 

“The purpose of the Navigation Center is to give people a place where there is storage, laundry, showers and bathrooms,” said Bevan Dufty, city director of Housing, Opportunities, Partnerships and Engagement (HOPE). Aside from those resources the center will also have counseling sessions for the people who enter.

 

In terms of assisting homeless youth, especially LGBT youth, Dufty’s solution is to “have a bungalow for people, under 30, certainly in the Castro neighborhood, and also to invite young people who don’t find regular shelters at all inviting.”

 

Before the Navigation Center was constructed, a school, the Phoenix Continuation School, occupied the bungalows. The center is said to hold 75 people at a time, with the chance for residents to actually be with their loved ones, and bring their pets as well.

 

In order to assist with supplies and services, Dufty said an anonymous donor gave close to $3 million to the San Francisco Interfaith Council, which in turn, gave it to the city.

 

“The Interfaith Council has given this grant to the city, $2 million is being spent on the renovation and operation of the navigation center and close to $1 million is being spent to ramp up leasing of single room occupancies,” Dufty said.

 

Dufty’s hopes are for different groups to be exiting the streets and coming into the Navigation Center with the ultimate goal of getting them into permanent housing. He said the prominent location could aid this.

 

“People staying there will not be isolated,” he said. “It’s one of the most visible locations to address homelessness, and we’re grateful that the community has responded respectively.”

 

With the Navigation Center, Dufty states that he wants to “try something that would really have an impact on 16th and Mission, and the neighborhood has been really welcoming to the creation of the center.”

 

The center is not only capable of serving the Mission, but also the Castro just a few blocks away.

 

District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener said the new resources could only help tackle the problem of homelessness, which is also pervasive in the Castro.

 

“I’m very supportive of the Navigation Center and think it’s a very innovative approach,” Wiener said. “I think it’s a really positive thing and I’m really happy that this project is moving forward.”

 

In order to notify the people about the center, every area has designated outreach police officers trained to reach out to the homeless and offer them services. Wiener hopes that aside from the Mission, the focus will be to help people from the Castro neighborhood as well.

 

“The Mission will benefit greatly from the Navigation Center, but I want there to also be a focus on the Castro neighborhood,” he said.

 

Tommi Avicolli Mecca, who has been involved in the Housing Rights Committee for 15 years, also offered his views on the new center being built.

 

“The important thing is that it’s taking 75 people off the streets and putting them in a very humane and supportive environment where they can get help finding housing,” he said. “[The] space happened to be available — it used to be school property, just a matter of pure luck.”

 

Mecca said that he personally thinks there should be an area for LGBT folks and is hopeful for some homeless youth from the Castro to be able to live there.

 

“One of the bungalows will probably be for LGBT people, especially for trans folks,” he said.

 

Photo: Joshua Velasco

 

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

CCSF Journalism Dept. Chair Celebrates 30 Years

 

Journalists, local newspaper publishers, instructors and students gathered on March 20 at Randy’s Place in the Ingleside to honor Juan Gonzales for his 30 years as a faculty and chair of City College of San Francisco’s Department of Journalism.

 

The mix of former and current students and colleagues attested to his dedication as they mingled, shot pool and enjoyed spaghetti and drinks in the cozy neighborhood bar.

 

“What Juan does, it’s not an institution, it’s a community,” said Ingleside-Excelsior Light publisher, journalist and U.C. Berkeley graduate student Alexander Mullaney, who credits Juan for directing him toward the field as a freshman.

 

This year also marks the 80th anniversary of City College itself and its bi-monthly, student-run paper, The Guardsman, to which Gonzales serves as advisor.

 

One of the oldest community college newspapers in the country, the publication’s mix of local and campus news coverage regularly wins top honors—along with the department’s magazine, Etc.—at the Journalism Association of Community Colleges state convention.

 

“Juan emphasized the importance of learning by doing, holding us to a high standard but also encouraging our independence,” said former student Jennifer Balderama-McDonald, today a Chicago-based freelance writer and editor who once served as book editor for The New York Times.

 

“Because I had an interest in editing, Juan pushed me in that direction, and his crucial nudge set me on a path that led from an internship with the Dow Jones News Fund to, seven years later, a job at The New York Times.”

 

A community focus has always been part of Gonzales’ work at the journalism department.

 

El Tecolote, the Mission-based bilingual newspaper Gonzales founded in 1970, will celebrate its 45th year this August, and many of his students gain experience through it or other San Francisco Neighborhood Newspaper Association publications.

 

“For 31 years, we got some of our best interns and reporters from City College,” said former San Francisco Bay Guardian editor-in-chief Tim Redmond of his days at the now-departed weekly. Today, Redmond runs online newspaper 48 hills—which has also published student articles—and guest lectures at the school in an investigative reporting class.

 

Dan Verel, another former City College journalism student and now a health writer at MedCity News, agreed that the department’s high standards set him up for success after transferring to San Francisco State University in his mid-twenties.

 

“We were far ahead of other students,” Verel said. “I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but he was kind of a savior.”

 

Today, Verel said his old friends from the department are all working in the field, a journey that began with Gonzales and fellow instructors Jon Rochmis and Tom Graham.

 

A longtime advocate for San Francisco’s Latino community, Gonzales is a board member of the non-profit Accion Latina that provides educational and cultural services. He’s received a “Heroes of Excellence” award from KGO-TV and a “Distinguished Service Award” from the Society of Professional Journalists.

 

Gonzales has no plans to retire, and said he would continue to work as long as he felt he was “helping folks move on and achieve their goals.”

 

“It’s been a fun ride,” Gonzales told the crowd after being presented a Certificate of Honor from San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. “It’s not over yet.”

 

 

 

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

Close Encounters with Bugs at the Randall

 

 

The Castro is very fortunate to have the wonderful Randall Museum right in its own backyard. Tucked cozily into the southern slope of Corona Heights Park, the museum offers classes, workshops, clubs and events, including this month’s Bug Day, an all day affair on Saturday, April 18th. I spoke with Executive Director Chris Boettcher about Bug Day and what else is new at the Randall.

 

Wendy:

 

Let’s start with Bug Day, which is one of your biggest events. Generally the Randall Museum has several drop-in classes on Saturday, but not on April 18th, when Bug Day takes over the entire museum.

 

Chris:

 

It’s characteristic of our family events. We typically do four of these events per year. They’re usually seasonal and are thematic in some way. This one is unique in that nobody else does anything like this. It’s consistent with the Randall’s mission which is to expose people to nature and promote environmental stewardship. Most people don’t have close contact with a large variety of insects; most people are put off by insects so they don’t understand them or they don’t realize what a large variety of different species there are. The whole point of this event is to bring people in close contact to insects and all the varieties, everything from honeybees to insects that are only present in tropical climates. Some of the insects are very small; some are really large, and the idea is to give people an opportunity to see them close up and understand their habitat, some of the qualities of insects and why we need them, what their role is in agriculture and other things.

 

Wendy:

 

And as you said that’s a big part of the mission at Randall.

 

Chris:

 

The essence of our mission is to encourage environmental stewardship, but also to bring out the creative thread that runs through art and science. Everybody understands creativity in art; that’s essential to that, but they may not realize how true science has a very strong creative component to it. Part of it is understanding the world or the universe, but it’s also thinking of the right questions to ask that will help unlock some of the secrets of nature. One of the first steps in that kind of creativity is close observation of your environment or of the things that are in your environment. That’s what we’re hoping to achieve with Bug Day.

 

Wendy:

 

Aside from bugs on Bug Day, you have animals there for people to get to know, all different sorts of animals who, for one reason or another aren’t able to survive in the wild on their own. You have a drop-in opportunity to meet them on Saturdays, right?

 

Chris:

 

The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday every week but [on] Saturdays we have Meet the Animals class. We’ll have a docent bring some out, explain where the animal lives, what they eat, all them, their natural history basically, and answer some questions from the public. That’s a feature of our docent program. On Saturdays we do the Meet the Animals talk but on a regular day all the animals are available to the public to see.

 

Wendy:

 

It’s a perfect setting in which to connect to nature and the environment because you’re surrounded by so much beautiful land at the Randall; you’re introduced to so much of just that on the walk to the museum. You offer all sorts of ongoing classes; I believe you’re in your Spring session right now, classes from ceramics to wood working to gardening to nature and science classes, and those are available to all ages, children through adults.

 

Chris:

 

Yes. What I just explained about our philosophy applies to all of our programs across the whole demographic spectrum. We have classes [for] pre-school aged kids all the way to the upper age [group]; we have a fair number of seniors who take our classes or participate in programs.

 

Wendy:

 

Aside from the opportunities to partake in classes, you have volunteer opportunities for people who want to get involved on that level.

 

Chris:

 

Right. For example, on Bug Day we’re probably going to have as many as 90 or so volunteers from different community organizations who come and help us put on these events. When you have that many people in a place like this you need a lot of help to pull an event off like that. We have a relatively modest sized staff but we recruit a lot of volunteers from organizations like One Brick, the Junior League, others like that who make themselves available for these events.

 

Wendy:

 

I understand that the Randall is going to be revitalized soon.

 

Chris:

 

We did receive a grant from the state, the California State Parks Association; it was a grant that was given for nature education facilities and we qualified for that. We got the grant about three years ago. We’re in the process of designing how the grant is going to be [utilized], what improvements are going to be made.

 

Wendy:

 

Do you also seek volunteers from the community?

 

Chris:

 

Oh we do. We have volunteers - adults and we have some after school opportunities for teens; we have a fair number of teens involved here [with] our animals. We train kids to work in our live animal exhibit and we probably will have some of those kids here for Bug Day.

 

For those people who haven’t been to one of our family events, I would encourage them to come to Bug Day. It’s a unique event; it’s not like anything else they’ve ever been to. It’s a hugely popular family event for people of all ages. Kids can, for example, hold a huge Nicaraguan cockroach in their hand. We have San Francisco residents who keep honeybees in their backyards. They come out to this event to put on demonstrations and they allow people to sample a dozen different kinds of honeys from all kinds of specific locations. They brand the honey so you know where it’s from, what kind of flower the bee’s visiting to create that specific flavor of honey.

 

Wendy:

 

On Saturdays you have a lot of different drop-in classes for people who aren’t necessarily signed up for classes on a regular basis.

 

Chris:

 

That’s right. Part of our mission also is to have people have what we call first hand experiences, so we want people to come and actually make something or do something. There are a lot of museums where they have exhibits and people come and they see it once, and pretty much, they’re done with it; there’s nothing more for the exhibit to offer. In our facility we encourage people to engage in a much deeper way, so it’s more than just interacting with and exhibit. It’s usually participating in a workshop where you use raw materials of some type and create something or solve a problem in some cases.

 

Wendy:

 

It’s a beautiful walk up the hill to your museum and a great destination for families sure, but anyone really.

 

Chris:

 

It was a unique vision of Josephine Randall, the first superintendent of recreation under John McLaren. John McLaren was San Francisco’s Superintendent of Parks and later on, when cities became cognisant of the need to have subsidized recreation [for] the kids that live there. Josephine Randall was the first superintendent in San Francisco and had a very long career, so the museum was named after her.

 

 

Photo courtesy of the Randall Museum

© Castro Courier 2014

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