The Very Rev. Jay Matthews, the rector of the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland and a fixture in Oakland's Catholic community for three decades, died Saturday night of an apparent heart attack, the Diocese of Oakland announced.
Priests and diocese chancery staff members found Matthews unresponsive in the cathedral rectory at about 7 p.m. and called emergency services, which took him to Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, according to the diocese.
Matthews, 70, was the first African-American ordained priest in Northern California, joining the priesthood in 1974, and served as pastor of St. Benedict Church in East Oakland for 26 years before taking over as rector of the cathedral, the centerpiece of the diocese, in 2015.
"Father Matthews' infectious love for his faith, his parishioners and his community was a source of joy and inspiration for me," Oakland Bishop Michael Barber said in a statement.
Matthews was born in Berkeley and raised in Oakland, where his family moved in 1960.
The Rev. Jayson Landeza, who succeeded Matthews as pastor of St. Benedict, said in a post on Facebook that he "lovingly referred" to Matthews as "Mr. Oakland."
Matthews also served as a chaplain for the Oakland police and fire departments. In 2014, the Oakland City Council proclaimed May 6 as "Father Jay Matthews Day."
In a statement, U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, paid tribute to Matthews' years of service to the Oakland community.
"Father Jay lived a life of both faith and works - a life of love in service to others," Lee said. "We will miss his great wisdom. His passing is a loss for our entire community.
"Father Jay and I were personal friends - and like for so many, he was there for me in good times and bad times."
Funeral services are pending.