The Oakland City Council this week honored beloved local priest Father Jay Mathews, who is celebrating his 40th anniversary in the priesthood and 25 years of service at Saint Benedict’s Church in East Oakland.
A City Council resolution proclaiming Tuesday, May 6 as Father Jay Mathews Day, introduced by Councilmembers Libby Schaaf and Larry Reid, passed unanimously at the Tuesday evening meeting. Father Mathews has traveled widely in the world, meeting the famous and the not so famous, said Councilmember Desley Brooks, speaking at the meeting.
Born James Vernon Matthews II in 1948 in Berkeley, Father Mathews was ordained on May 3, 1974, as the first African-American Catholic priest in Northern California. He spent his early school years in Albany and in Oakland, graduating from Skyline High in 1966. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Humanities and Philosophy from St. Patrick’s College, Mountain View.
He received a Master of Divinity degree from St. Patrick’s Seminary, Menlo Park, and, in 1973, he was a candidate for the Doctorate of Ministry at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley and completed his sabbatical studies in Church History at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 2000.
Besides serving at St. Benedict’s Church since 1989, he has worked as administrator at St. Cornelius Church in Richmond, administrator and Associate Pastor at St. Cyril Church in Oakland and All Saints Church in Hayward; Associate Pastor at St. Louis Bertrand Church, Oakland, Vicar for Black Catholics and In-Residence at St. Anthony Church in Oakland.
Father Mathews has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Martin Luther King Jr. Award for Outstanding Community Service, the Marcus Foster Educational Institute’s Distinguished Alumni Award19 and the Rose Casanave Service Award of the Black Catholic Vicariate.