Father Roberto Corral, OP
July 2008

I was born August 31, 1954 in East Los Angeles, California, the youngest of seven children: 6 boys and 1 girl. After having five boys in a row, my parents decided to call it quits with me! They were both born in Mexico: my father in Magdalena, Sonora, and my mother in Torreón, Coahuila. My siblings and I were born in southern California, and everyone is married and has children except for me. I have been surrounded with love and support all my life by my wonderful, large family. Presently I have 20+ nephews and nieces and 20+ grand nephews and nieces, and there's no end in sight! I do lots of family weddings, baptisms and funerals.

A great appreciation for my Mexican heritage and for music have been passed on to me from my youngest years. Many musicians, singers and dancers have graced my immediate and extended families in southern California since the early 1900's. My father, uncles and older cousins formed a group called the José Arias Troubadours, and achieved quite a level of fame, appearing in movies, TV programs and cultural events -- including the annual Ramona Pageant in Hemet, CA -- for almost ninety years. Check out the web site: www.ariastroubadours.net

I went to St. Alphonsus Grammar School, Archbishop Cantwell High school and Occidental College, all in the Los Angeles area. My major at Occidental was mathematics, and it was there that I first met the Dominicans. Frs. Tom DeMan, O.P., Raymond Finerty, O.P. were the campus ministers during my four years at Oxy from 1972-76.

In August, 1980, I entered the Dominican Order in Oakland, California and was ordained in 1988. My first assignment was at Arizona State University as a chaplain at All Saints Catholic Newman Center from 1988-91. From there I was assigned to Holy Rosary Parish in Antioch, California from 1991-95. In 1995 I was sent to St. Dominic Parish in San Francisco as pastor for the first time. In 1999 I was moved to Most Holy Trinity Parish serving as pastor until January, 2003 when I was elected provincial of the Western Dominican Province.

A Reflection on Being Provincial

As I look back on my four years as Provincial I can honestly say that I enjoyed many aspects of the ministry. It was not only exciting to travel to numerous new destinations in the U.S., Europe, Africa and Latin America and to meet Dominicans, other religious and Church leaders in those places, but these experiences also served to broaden my perspective and appreciation for the diversity in the Order and in the Church.

I also enjoyed getting to know the student brothers as they made their way through formation. Our students are energetic, devout and anxious to serve God and the Church. It is heartening to see that young men continue to be attracted to our way of life.

Most importantly, my time as Provincial enable me to get to know my Dominican brothers on a deeper level as I was often able to share in their greatest joys, successes and challenges. It was so good to hear parishioners at our parishes, Newman Centers and other ministries say again and again how thankful they are for the preaching, ministry and community of the friars.

There were certainly many challenges that the Church in general and the Province in particular had to deal with during my four years in office. I was called upon to make a number of difficult decisions; it was humbling -- and a bit scary -- to know that my decisions would impact the lives of the brothers and the direction of the Province. Thankfully, from the time I was elected in 2003, I received generous support from so many people within and outside the Province. I was blessed to work with an energetic and insightful Provincial Council, a caring and hardworking provincial leadership team and a dedicated staff at the Provincial Office.

Sabbatical Year

After leaving office in January of 2007 and taking some time for a retreat and rest, I was blessed to serve at our mission parish in Mexicali until June. It was a good feeling to get back to pastoral ministry and a great opportunity to improve my Spanish!

Then, beginning July 1, 2007 I was granted a sabbatical year by the new Provincial, Fr. Emmerich, for which I was extremely grateful. I used the time to engage in a variety of activities: I spent a semester (September until mid-December) to do some studies at a sabbatical program at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, spent Christmas with my family for the first time in almost 25 years, then spent the 2nd half of my sabbatical visiting Dominicans, family and friends throughout the western U.S. I visited San Diego, Tucson, Berkeley and Seattle for about a month each and had the opportunity to reconnect with many people who have been important in my life. In some places, I was able to visit with friends whom I hadn't seen in more than 10, 20 or 30 years!

I finished my sabbatical year with a fantastic pilgrimage to the "Lands of Dominic," an annual experience sponsored by Parable, a Dominican retreat and pilgrimage ministry headquartered in Chicago. I traveled with a group of about 30 other Dominicans - mostly sisters, but also a handful of laypeople - for two weeks, June 15-July 1. We began in Caleruega and Osma (where St. Dominic was born, raised and studied), Spain and then we went to southern France -- Prouille, Fanjeaux and Toulouse -- where he preached for a number of years and founded the friars in 1216. The last leg of the pilgrimage was in Italy. We spent a day in Bologna where St. Dominic died; one of the most moving experiences for me was to be able to celebrate Mass at St. Dominic's tomb there. We also made stops in San Remo, Florence, Pisa, and Siena to visit the home of St. Catherine of Siena and the church where some of her remains are kept. Finally we ended the pilgrimage by spending three days in glorious Rome visiting St. Peter's, San Clemente (the historic Dominican church under the care of the Irish Dominicans), Santa Sabina (the world headquarters for the friars), and a number of other sites. It was my fourth time in the Eternal City, and it was a great experience as always.

The pilgrimage was lovely and fun but it was also a very stirring experience for me to be at so many important Dominican sites and to meet Dominican friars, and nuns all along the way. It was especially meaningful for me since I was the designated lecturer for the Pilgrimage and I had studied a lot of Dominican history to prepare for it. So at each place I felt a special closeness to Dominic and the early Dominicans. I also had a very beautiful experience when we stopped overnight at Lourdes - what a powerful place that is! How exhilarating it was to see and hear people from all over the world walking, praying and singing in so many different languages. Particularly touching was seeing the people on wheelchairs and even on stretchers being escorted so lovingly to the shrine and the water.

Anyway, I returned home to Berkeley on July 1st and then moved to my new parish, Holy Rosary, in Antioch (northern California about an hour east of San Francisco) on July 3rd where I had previously been assigned from 1991-5. I still haven't had a chance to completely unpack because I have been so busy. It's a parish of about 4,000 families. We have a large Hispanic community (two Masses in Spanish on Sunday) and a sizable Filipino community too. Our school has 620 students and our RE program has another 650 or so. So there is a lot to do! But I am very happy to be back at this warm and vibrant parish and to be back in parish ministry. My brothers in the Dominican community -- Frs. Frank Vicente, Ed Krasevac and Dismas Sayre -- are very supportive and we get along well together. I look forward to an enjoyable and fulfilling assignment here.