OAKLAND, CA – On Saturday, April 22nd, the Dominican Friars hosted an intimate evening with friends in support of the Order’s efforts to advance the New Evangelization in an apostolic age.
Held in the beautiful monastic setting of their house of studies, the Priory of St. Albert the Great, the Cloisters Gala honored two dear friends who have been devoted allies in the Dominican mission to preach the Gospel: Dorothy Portner, DM, and Dr. Scott Hahn. Dorothy is a member of the Oakland Location. She was invested in the Order in 2012 and attended the 2011 Lourdes Pilgrimage as a Malade.
“Celebrating those who help us in our apostolic mission is truly rewarding,” said the Very Rev. Christopher Fadok, O.P., Prior Provincial of the Western Dominican Province. “Their example inspires the friars and is a light to others working to build the Kingdom of God.”
The Alemany Award was established in 1988 and named after San Francisco’s first Archbishop, the Dominican friar, Fr. Joseph Alemany, O.P. The award is given to those who have shown exemplary Christian service in helping advance the Dominican mission in the West.
Fr. Michael Sweeney, O.P., a past President of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, and long-time close friend of Dorothy’s, presented the Alemany Award, noting Dorothy’s friendship with the Dominicans began in 1975.
“Dorothy…opened the Portner home to our Dominican brothers in formation, and the enjoyment of [her] hospitality became significant —and very much appreciated— moments in the formation of our young friars,” reflected Fr. Sweeney.
Continuing, Fr. Sweeney shared that Dorothy served as a Trustee for the DSPT, and that she “...has been particularly invested in the education of our young friars. Her contribution to the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology was to provide our chapel for the School, that we might always keep in mind the love of Christ we, as Dominicans, are to proclaim to the world.”
The Alemany Award was established by the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology to recognize men and women who have made significant contributions to the work of the Church, especially in the territory of our Province. It is named for Archbishop Joseph Sadoc Alemany, the first Archbishop of San Francisco, who was a Dominican from the province of Spain. This evening we wish to acknowledge Dorothy Portner who, with her family, has been a particular friend and collaborator of our Western Dominican Province.
Dorothy and Peer Portner arrived in Berkeley, California from England with their daughters Catherine and Karen in 1966. Dr. Peer Portner, a physicist, had been invited to participate in a new venture in medical technology. Peer’s research would eventually lead to the development of the Novacor ventricular assist device that permits patients in heart failure to survive until a heart transplant could be performed or, in some cases, until the heart was able to repair itself. Thousands are alive today because of Peer’s work, for which he was named a Fellow of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in 2007.
The Portner family were active members of the Church of England. They discovered St. Mary Magdalen Parish when they enrolled their daughters in the School of the Madeline. Catherine, who has a love of music, was invited to join the parish choir, and the family began to attend Mass regularly to support their daughter. The Portners were received into full communion with the Catholic Church in December 1975.
Dorothy immediately became a principal collaborator of our Dominican friars at St. Mary Magdalen, serving as a lector, minister of Holy Communion, catechist, and sponsor of many new Catholics in the RCIA program. For several years she participated in a radio program with Fr. Kieran Healy, to evangelize the Berkeley community.
Dorothy also opened the Portner home to Dominican brothers in formation and the enjoyment of Dorothy and Peer’s hospitality became significant —and very much appreciated— moments in the formation of young friars. Dorothy delighted in meeting novices and then accompanying them with her prayers and encouragement, always present at the professions, ordinations and first Masses of the brothers.
Over the years, Dorothy and Peer contributed generously to the Dominican Province, and to the Diocese of Oakland. Dorothy has been particularly invested in the education of young friars. Her contribution to the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology was to provide a chapel for the school, that Dominicans might always keep in mind the love of Christ that they are to proclaim to the world. From 2009 until 2015 Dorothy served as a Trustee of the school in which capacity, she opened her heart and her home to many of lay students, offering them both spiritual counsel and practical assistance.
"Dorothy’s zeal for the faith has been exercised beyond the Western Dominican Province, as she has served as a Dame of the Order of Malta. She is also known to our confreres at Black Friars, in her beloved Oxford. When Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, former Master of the Order, spent a sabbatical semester in residence at St. Mary Magdalen, a friendship was formed based, as Dorothy recalls, upon the sharing of their common faith, friends they held in common in England, and the sharing of a common language —English."
Fr. Michael Sweeney concluded by saying, "Dorothy cannot be with us this evening, as she must now be under twenty-four-hour care due to her declining health. But she remains very much present to us in our minds and hearts. Those of us who have been privileged to know Dorothy well will remember her deep love of Our Lord and her constant encouragement that we must always do our best for him. We present the Alemany Award to Dorothy this evening with deep gratitude for her decades of loving collaboration with us as friend, benefactor, and coworker in the vineyard of the Lord. Dorothy’s daughters, Catherine, and Karen will receive the award on Dorothy’s behalf."