Supernatural is Supernormal at Bernal’s Chapel of the Immaculate Conception


Chris Roberts recently paid a visit to the tiny little Chapel of the Immaculate Conception at 3255 Folsom in North Bernal, where encounters with the supernatural are considered perfectly normal. Writing for SF Weekly, he reports:

Near the tail end of services on Sunday at the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, the well-dressed middle-aged woman sitting in the pew in front of me handed me a business card.

On one side was printed the question: “Do you have Supernatural FAITH?” On the other, written in black ink in her hand, was a direction: “ASK THE FATHER ABOUT THE MYSTERIOUS GREEN CROSS THAT APPEARED IN THE KITCHEN WINDOW.”

There is a certain amount of mysticism — what many might call “hocus pocus” — in any Catholic Mass. With the wave of a priest’s hand, bread and wine become the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ.

At this tiny, colorful, and low-ceilinged chapel on the north slope of Bernal Heights, odd phenomenon even church theologians cannot explain are normal.

It was here, 20 years ago, that a parishioner first observed a Marian apparition. One day after services, someone noticed something on the copper-topped gables of the church roof — an image of the Virgin Mary. Frequent scrubbings could not remove it. Word spread, and eventually, so many people came up Folsom Street to see the “miracle” that police had to close the street.

At the center of this house of the unexplained is a quiet man in his 80s who is so small in stature that, when celebrating Mass, he barely peeks above the altar. Mystery and coincidence have followed Immaculate Conception’s Father Guglielmo “William” Lauriola his entire life.

PHOTO: Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, by Rosabell M. on Yelp. (Four stars!)

Saturday: You’re Invited to the Bernal Mosque and Islamic Center’s First-Ever Open House


Ask and ye shall receive! Thanks to the the amazing response we received for Bernalwood’s interview with Zishan Safdar about South Bernal’s Mosque and Islamic Center, the mosque is holding an open house for the Bernal community this Saturday, November 14.

Zishan extends the invitation:

This is going to be ICSF’s first open-house event since it was founded in 1959. Better late than never, right?

We’re all super-excited and hope you are, too! During the event, there will be background history about the mosque, the events that go on there, Q&A, and most importantly, some mouth-watering snacks.

We look forward to seeing all of you at the event on Saturday, November 14th, 2015.

EVERYONE is welcome! 🙂

The open house will go from 12pm to 2pm at the mosque on the corner of Crescent and Andover. If you plan to attend (and you should!), please RSVP to Full details below:


Meet the Community from the Mosque and Islamic Center on Crescent



The Mosque and Islamic Center of San Francisco Waqf on Crescent and Andover has long been a fixture in South Bernal, but we seldom hear much about it.  In fact, it’s the oldest mosque in the Bay Area, as well as the second-oldest mosque in all of Northern California. Plus, four stars on Yelp! Who knew?

David Young, Bernalwood’s newest correspondent, recently reached out to Zishan Safdar, a Bernal native and lifelong attendee of the mosque, to learn more about this unassuming neighborhood institution:

Bernalwood: How long the mosque has been around?

Zishan: The Islamic Center of San Francisco (ICSF) was founded in 1959. It was founded when many brothers of the community decided that they, as Muslims, needed a place to pray and establish a foundation for the future generations. It’s the first mosque in the City of San Francisco, the first mosque in the Bay Area, and the second mosque in the entire Northern California. (The first is in Sacramento.)

The Islamic Center is a waqf. What does that mean?

Taken from Google, Waqf is defined as, “an endowment made by a Muslim to a religious, educational, or charitable cause.” Waqf in the Arabic language means to stop, contain, or preserve. So when this word is attached to the mosque or any religious institution, it also means that specific building can never be donated as a gift, inherited, or sold.

What about the community of Muslims who make up the mosque? Where are they from?

The community members who attend the mosque are from various backgrounds — including myself. I was born and raised in Bernal Heights on Cortland and Nebraska!

We have other members from India, Pakistan, Palestine, Yemen, and even Saudi Arabia. A majority of the members are San Francisco residents, including a good handful from Bernal Heights; a lot of commuters also drop by throughout the day to offer their prayers. There are a lot of converts who attend the mosque as well, including a few African-American converts and a Latino convert.

Besides daily prayers, what sort of events are held at the mosque?

Other than daily prayers, the mosque also hosts weddings, classes for both adults and children, Taraweeh prayers (prayers offered only during the month of Ramadan, the month Muslims fast in), the two Eid prayers, Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha, and also funeral services.

The mosque is also a hangout spot, especially for commuters who choose to come in and relax while waiting for the traffic to die-down, or who simply want to hang out between the prayers to enjoy some tea. There are also many youth programs, including monthly trips, dinners, and sporting events.

How would you describe the mosque’s place in the local Islamic community?

ICSF plays a major role in the Muslim community. Not only is it a place of worship, it’s also a community center for its attendees. Along with religious classes, which are offered to adults and children, we also have people from different professions who act as guidance counselors for anyone seeking advice. The mosque is a means for people to stay in touch as well; knowing you’ll have a shoulder to lean on when you’re in need is one of the most beautiful things we have to offer.

We focus a lot on the youth, too, and do our best to guide them to get the best of educations, be the best person they can be, and help them out if they’re facing any problems, whether it be family trouble, drugs, etc. We recently added a basketball court in the back of the mosque, too. There have also been tutoring sessions for students who need help with homework and we, as the elders in the community, try our best to guide the upcoming generation, both in terms of secular studies and religious studies.

What about the mosque’s role in Bernal?

The mosque plays a major role in the Bernal community as well. One of things I love most about San Francisco is how diverse it is, and, aside from all the awesome cultural food you’ll find in the city, you have people from many religious backgrounds here.

There are many churches in the Bernal Heights community and, as part of cultural diversification, it’s crucial to have a mosque to show the rest of the world how welcoming we are, regardless of one’s background.

ICSF  —or any mosque for that matter — isn’t only limited to the people who follow the Islamic faith. Mosques are open to everyone, regardless of their background or religion, and at ICSF we always welcome everyone with open hearts.

I’d like to stress: We’d love to have more people from the Bernal community drop by the mosque to learn more; we’re always open to visitors! We’d love to have a “community night” at ICSF if the Bernal Height community is interested. I think it would be an amazing event where everyone could get to know each other and just have a good time.

PHOTOS: Top, Zishan Safdar. All photos by David Young for Bernalwood

New Bernal Hill Music Video Features Divine Co-Star

Malki Means King recorded much of his new rap video atop Bernal Hill, and no wonder: He was looking for a location that embodies the grandeur of the Almighty:

Malki Means King raps about letting go and giving your faith to a higher power in this video. In order to achieve your goals and overcome any obstacle, I believe a faith in a higher power is needed. Nobody can do it by themselves, Let go and let God!

The Yin and Yang of Safeway After the Rains

Sutro Yin and Yang

Walking out of the Safeway on Sunday afternoon, I felt the sun on my face for the first time in days, and I noticed that our Safeway’s familiar yin-yang mosaic was interacting nicely with the wet pavement — and Sutro Tower beyond.

It was so Zen. And in that moment, I realized that the universe is truly composed of opposites, such that there can be no One without the Other. No Sun without Rain. No Good Life Grocery without a Safeway nearby. No Sutrito Tower without a Sutro to aspire to become. You get the idea. Ommmmmmmmmmm.

Then, upon my return home, I looked to the north, and found Rainbow Enlightenment:

Rainbow Enlightenment


My friend @lbm was taking at walk on Bernal Hill when the rainbow appeared. Check out this full-spectrum amazingness:

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics, @lbm

The Yoga of Bernal: Drive. Slow Down. Wave. Yield. Connect.

No, After You

Andrea Ferretti moved to Bernal Heights last year, and she’s noticed that living here has had an enlightening influence upon her approach to daily life. She traces the root of that experience to the ritual that take place when two cars try to pass one another on one of Bernal’s tiny, narrow streets. Andrea calls this “The Yoga of Bernal”:

Bernal marches to its own drummer and the pace of that drummer is verrry slow. When I first moved there and I would drive home from work, I found myself exasperated as soon I reached Bernal. I would be in fast-twitch, downtown mode, eager to get home when suddenly I’d be halfway down a steep, narrow hill nose to nose with a driver coming the other direction. One of us would have to awkwardly back up or pull into a driveway to let the other pass.

Then one day something shifted. I noticed the rhythm to driving in Bernal: If you see another driver coming toward you in the distance, you pull over to the right—this is easy to do once you reach a small intersection—and it allows you smoothly weave around each other in a sort of dance. You do this over and over again as you drive through the neighborhood—either you choose to yield or the other car does— and it works out perfectly. When I clicked into this simple Bernal dance I felt like I’d finally arrived as a local. Sure, you have to slow down a bit, you have to give your neighbor driver a friendly wave, and you have to be willing to yield. But that’s all part of what living in Bernal is all about. Slowing down, giving a wave, yielding when it’s necessary.

PHOTO: “No, After You!” by Telstar Logistics