The Rev. James Matthews was the first African American to be ordained in Northern California, in 1974. He passed away suddenly of an apparent heart attack Saturday evening. He was 70 years old.
In 2014, the Oakland City Council honored Rev. Matthews, recognizing May 6 as “Father Jay Matthews Day.”
He served as the pastor at St. Benedict Church in Oakland from 1984 to 2015. He also served as vicar for Black Catholics, as a member of the Diocesan Pastoral Council and as a chaplain for the Oakland Police Department and Fire Department.
He was born in Berkeley, and raised in Oakland.
California Governor Gavin Newsom issued the following statement on the passing of Father James Matthews of The Cathedral of Christ the Light Oakland:
“California stands with Oakland and Catholics across California as we mourn the passing of Father Jay Matthews. Father Jay was a trailblazer and ambassador who built bridges between people of different faiths and communities. Quick to lend a helping hand, he embodied the California values of generosity and acceptance. Father Jay has made a lasting imprint and set an example for all of us to aspire too.”