|July 7, 2014 • VOL. 52, NO. 12 • Oakland, CA|
| Salute to our veteran priests
With this issue, The Catholic Voice salutes and thanks the religious men who have devoted their lives to serving the people of God. In the following pages, we honor parish priests who have given anywhere from 25 to 60 years in service of the Lord. Join us in offering them our thanks.60 Years of Priestly Ministry
Rev. Eugene D. Burnett, OFM
Birthplace: Roosky, Co. Roscommon, Ireland
Ordination: Dec. 18, 1954, Dublin, Ireland
Present ministry: Retired, Oakland
Past Service: Assistant pastor, St. Benedict's Parish, Seattle, WA. Chaplain to the Catholic Seamen's Club, Seattle, WA and maritime ministry. Provincial Treasurer for the Oblate Western Province. Pastor: Little Flower Parish, Billings, Montana; St. Patrick Mission, Port Costa; St. Rose of Lima Parish, Crockett.
I am ever grateful to God for the vocation to the Priesthood and the Religious life as a member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. As a priest I have found great joy in all the assignments given to me and great satisfaction ministering to the spiritual needs of the faithful. They in turn have been a source of inspiration and encouragement in difficult times. As a member of a religious community I have enjoyed the community life and benefitted from the support and good example of my brother Oblates. Finally, I must thank my parents who by word and example saw to it that the faith and prayer life was an important fabric of family life, thus preparing the way for the seeds of a vocation to the priesthood and religious life to take root. St. Peter on one occasion put the question to Jesus. "We who have left everything to follow You, what shall we receive in return?" Jesus responded, "All who have left everything to follow Me shall receive a hundredfold and possess life everlasting." Matt: 19:27-29.
50 Years of Priestly Ministry
Birthplace: Providence, Rhode Island
Ordination: Jan. 19, 1964, Lowell, Massachusetts
Present ministry: Director, Oblate Mission House, Oakland
Past service: Editor, Province Mission Magazine, Hudson, New Hampshire. Pre-novitiate formation, Maine; Massachusetts. Pastor, St. Jeanne d'Arc Parish, Lowell, Massachusetts. Provincial, Northern Oblate Province. Co-director/Director, Institute for Spirituality and Worship, Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley. Spiritual Director, JST and SAT. Ministry to homeless and HIV patients.
I am most grateful to the many people who during the past fifty years allowed me to enter their homes and hearts for a ministry of mutuality.
Ordination: Dec. 19, 1964, Santa Barbara
Present ministry: Director, San Damiano Retreat Center, Danville
Past service: Parish and novitiate team guardian, Sacramento. Director of post novitiate team, Oakland; Berkeley. Guardian, Franciscan headquarters, Rome. Director and guardian, Franciscan Renewal Center, Scottsdale, Arizona. Provincial vicar and definitor. Professor: FST, Berkeley; University of Santa Clara; Loyola University, New Orleans, Louisiana.
Golden! THE YEARS OF PRIESTLY MINISTRY: building faith communities in parishes; supporting spiritual growth in retreat centers; coaxing forth the Franciscan charism in formation work and in deliberations on provincial boards; and facilitating shared inquiry in the classroom.
Golden! THE MEMORIES: of a church (VAT II) in renewal; of a laity more educated and more involved; of the unique popes from St. John XXIII to our deeply human Francis; of the trust created in sacramental healings; of a deepened immersion in the Word to better teach, preach and preside; of the mistakes made and the humility and growth that followed.
Golden! THE GIFTS: to be raised in a family of faith; to be a member of so many families; to be a Franciscan and bring that glorious tradition to my priestly ministry; to be trusted in spite of the sometime-negative image of the priesthood; to be the first (because I am a priest) "…to become conscious of all that the world loves, pursues and suffers and be more nobly of the earth than any of the world's servants" (Teilhard); and now to be in the trenches of this "field-hospital" church.
Birthplace: The Netherlands
Ordination: Dec. 19, 1964, Santa Barbara
Present ministry: Pastor, San Carlos Apache Reservation, Arizona
Past service: Teacher, St. Elizabeth High School, Oakland. Pastor: St. Mark Parish, Phoenix, Arizona; Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Delano; Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Guadalupe, Arizona; St. Mary Parish, Stockton; St. Elizabeth Parish, Oakland; St. Anthony Parish, San Francisco; Mezquital, Guatemala; San Miguel Mission, San Miguel; Director, St. Anthony's Retreat House, Three Rivers; Missionary and Pastor, Tohono O'odham Reservation, Arizona.
The first basis of my life as a priest is being called. But I want to qualify that by saying that God calls us through our fellow human beings. As a theological student, when I went deeply into the person and teaching of Christ, my next thought was, "People need to hear and accept that message in order to have a good life." After I said my first Mass I walked out into the parking lot and an elderly woman asked me to bless a small statue. I realized at that moment that I was called to bring the sacred into people's lives. My first assignment was to teach religion at St. Elizabeth High School. You can't teach religion to high school students unless you can make them see the sense of religion. And you can do that only if it makes sense to you. And so it has gone through my life, whether it was working with farmworkers, inner city poor, Mayan villagers, Native American, who are so looked down upon by our society, people in prisons, whether it is persons who want their children baptized, young couples who want to get married, troubled persons who come to confession, being aware of unjust social situations, persons who come to mourn their children; each person in their own way call us to our priestly life. And in my heart I have always felt that it is God calling me through them and through them I was taught how to be a priest.
The second thought that I want to share is that, even though my life has not always been easy (I certainly would have loved to marry, to have children, and now have grandchildren), I do realize that, again, people of all walks of life, of all nationalities, of all ages, have shown me love, given me affection, made me feel worthwhile and respected. And I cannot think of any group or community where I have been where this has not been true. Yes, it takes a while for people to know you and have confidence in you. But then life and joy have been given to me through the people. And among the people I want to especially mention children and old people. Sometimes it is a special moment that people take advantage of to show their loving care. If this was a book I could fill pages with accounts of them.
The third basis of my life as a priest has been being in touch with God. This has a personal and a community dimension. I, throughout the years, have known that I needed to be in touch with God through personal prayer. He is the source of strength and peace. But also celebrating the Lord's Last Supper and other sacraments is a very special time when I feel that God is present. In my training, one professor told us, if a sacrament is not meaningful for you, it will not be meaningful for the people. This is very true. As a priest I need to celebrate the Eucharist with the meaning that it had for Christ and the Apostles. Being human, sometimes I am distracted, but most often it is a very sacred moment for me.
Birthplace: St. Henry, Ohio
Ordination: May 31, 1964, St. Charles Seminary, Carthagena, Ohio
Present ministry: Associate pastor, St. Edward Parish, Newark
Past service: St. Anthony Parish, Detroit, Michigan. Teacher, Cardinal Newman High School, Santa Rosa. Chaplain: Christian Brothers Retreat House, St. Helena; Angela Center, Santa Rosa. Associate pastor: St. Anthony Parish, Manteca; St. Agnes Parish, Los Angeles. Pastor: St. Francis Parish, East Palo Alto; St. Agnes Parish, Los Angeles. Provincial, Society of the Precious Blood, San Leandro. Formation work, Berkeley.
My overwhelming feeling for 50 years of priesthood is gratitude.
I am so much aware that everything I have been and done is simply a gift from God. The only part I can claim is when I have been selfish or afraid.
The invitations to different ministries have been varied and exciting. Some of them I would never have chosen on my own. Learning Spanish and inter-city parish work were not among my first choices: As a kid, I always wanted to be a priest but never wanted to preach a sermon. Yet now as a priest I consider the Sunday homily as the most important, challenging, and fulfilling thing that I do all week long. I consider all of my priestly activities as wonderful gifts from God. Many times I have needed a nudge. I am grateful for the nudges that came from my religious community and the people of God.
Birthplace: Columbus, Ohio
Ordination: Dec. 19, 1964, Waveland, Mississippi
Present ministry: Chaplain, Our Lady of the Snows Shrine, Belleville, Illinois
Past service: Lecturer at scholasticate. Novitiate director. Director of King's House of Retreats. Chaplain of those with HIV/AIDS and significant others, Archdiocese of San Francisco. Pastor, Sacred Heart Parish, Oakland.
Much of my priestly life has been dedicated to those who find themselves at the edge of the Church life. Working with these people has been a challenge and a joy.
Birthplace: Great Falls, Montana
Ordination: July 2, 1964, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin
Present ministry: Director, Holy Redeemer Center, Oakland
Past service: Assistant director of students, Holy Redeemer Seminary, Oakland. Professor of Moral Theology, Mt. St. Alphonsus Seminary, Esopus, New York. Director: Marriage Encounter, Oakland; Redemptorist Retreat Center, Tucson, Arizona; Foreign Mission Office, Glenview, Illinois. Province Treasurer Redemptorists, San Francisco. Provincial Superior Redemptorists, San Francisco.
My 50 years of priesthood have been very enjoyable, enriching, fulfilling — and non-typical of most priests. I have never been a pastor of a parish, or assigned full time to parochial work. Much of my priestly service to the Church was in education and administration, but not in isolation from the laity. In addition to help-out work in parishes, I have worked closely with people in non-parochial settings of faith formation and sharing, especially in renewal groups such as Marriage Encounter, Retorno, Cursillo, etc.
I have also been fortunate to see the Church in a broad way, with the opportunity to visit and experience faith in many countries. Preaching and bringing the richness of the Church's sacramental life to so many people over the years has made my life very fulfilling.
Birthplace: Jeanerette, Louisiana
Ordination: May 26, 1964,St. Perpetua Parish, Lafayette
Present ministry: Retired, Oakland. Assists with liturgies at St. Paschal, Oakland; Our Lady of Lourdes, Oakland; St. Anne, Byron.
Past service: Associate pastor: St. John the Baptist, San Lorenzo; St. Augustine, Oakland; St. Clement, Hayward. Campus minister, California State University-East Bay, Hayward. Diocesan director, Campus ministry. Director, Permanent diaconate program. Pastor, St. Augustine, Oakland. Director, HIV/AIDS services and of ministry with Gay and Lesbian Catholics and their families, Catholic Charities of the East Bay.
I am above all grateful to our loving and faithful God for sustaining me these 50 years of various ministries in the Oakland diocese. Each one was a challenge and opportunity for both service to a variety of ages, life experience, and spiritual journeys and for my personal growth in humanity and faith. So many people have helped me along the way to know Christ, especially in his wounded, troubled and alienated members. The priests of the Oakland diocese are wonderful in dedication, vision and mutual support. I am especially grateful for my priests' support group and to my extended family. Our retired Bishop John Cummins has been a steady anchor in the blessings of the Second Vatican Council and our Holy Father Francis is an assurance of the Holy Spirit's presence to renew us for our outward mission in today's world. When I was ordained in 1964, these words from Ephesians gave me great confidence as they do today: "Now to God, who by the power at work in us, is able to accomplish far more than we can ask for or imagine, be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forevermore."
Birthplace: San Francisco
Ordination: May 27, 1964, St. Benedict Parish, Oakland
Present ministry: Retired
Past service: Assistant pastor, Queen of All Saints, Concord. Chaplain, Newman Club D.V.C. and Mills College. Columnist, The Catholic Voice newspaper. Parochial administrator, St. Margaret Mary, Oakland. Dean. Director: Religious Education; CYO; Priest Personnel. Presbyteral Council. Diocesan Consultor. Diocesan Music committee and liturgical commission. Cathedral organ selection committee. Pastor, St. Joseph, Pinole. St. Agnes, Concord.
In the past 50 years as a priest, I have done many things I expected to do. I celebrated Mass, preached, heard confessions, anointed the sick, presided at marriages, baptized babies and adults. I participated in the ongoing implementation of the documents of the Second Vatican Council. I helped congregations get accustomed to participating actively in the Mass. I helped to start and continue parish pastoral councils. I taught religion classes and supervised catechetical programs. I worked with young adults. I counseled people in trouble.
I have also done many things I never expected to do. I became an amateur general contractor in building and retrofitting projects. I was "head athlete" of the Diocese of Oakland as CYO Director. I became a columnist for The Catholic Voice. I dealt with priests at times of crisis. I directed a parish choir and a parish production of "The Mikado." I helped to select and design a pipe organ for the Cathedral of Christ the Light.
I cannot imagine another vocation which would have called on me to move in so many exciting directions. Through it all, I hope I can say, with my patron saint: "By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace in me has not been fruitless."
Birthplace: Talawakelle, Sri Lanka
Ordination: Dec. 21, 1964, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Present ministry: Resident at Sacred Heart Parish, Oakland
Past service: Fatima Church, Colombo, Sri Lanka; St. Mary's Church, Jaffna, Sri Lanka; St. Lucia's Cathedral, Colombo, Sri Lanka; St. Mary's Church, Negombo, Sri Lanka; St. Philip Neri's Church, Thoppu, Sri Lanka. Formation team, Oblate scholasticate, Kandy, Sri Lanka; Washington, D.C.; Chicago. Formation team, pre-novitiate, Bangalore, India. Santa Maria Church, Bronx, New York; St. Monica's Church, Opa Lacka, Florida; St. Stephen's Church, Miramar, Florida.
My 50 years of Priesthood has been a Mystery filled with Blessings, Surprises and Challenges, which has made my priestly life a joyful one and helped me to grow in my spiritual life. The Lord has been walking with me all the time, at times visible and at times invisible. He has called me to minister to his people in different life situations and places, Sri Lanka, India, Canada and the United States.
I Thank the Lord for being with me, walking with me, guiding me and filling me with his Blessings during these 50 years. I am grateful to The Oblates of Mary Immaculate, my family members, bishops, priests, sisters and all the people who have accompanied and ministered to me and who are continuing to accompany and minister to me in my journey.
40 Years of Priestly Ministry
Birthplace: San Francisco
Ordination: May 3, 1974, St. Francis de Sales Cathedral, Oakland
Present ministry: Retired
Past service: Associate pastor: St. Joachim, Hayward; Queen of All Saints, Concord; Santa Paula, Fremont. ACPE Chaplain, Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco. Director of Pastoral Care, San Jose Hospital, San Jose. Chaplain, O'Connor Hospital, San Jose. Catholic Chaplain, Mt. Diablo Hospital, Concord. Administrator, St. James the Apostle, Fremont. Pastor, St. James the Apostle, Fremont.
I think the most rewarding ministry during my past 40 years has been hospital ministry. Bringing the sacraments, comfort and support to patients and their families was a very rewarding ministry. I remember giving first communion to a little 5 year old girl shortly before her death from Leukemia. I remember being called in the middle of the night to discuss with a teenage girl how she wanted to be remembered and then celebrating her funeral one week later. I was invited to join the first medical ethics board in Santa Clara County in 1981. During the next two years we established a medical ethics approach for physicians to guide doctors in their complicated decisions concerning life, death and medical practice. These experiences were ministry at its best for me.
Birthplace: Deming, New Mexico
Ordination: Aug. 16, 1974, Our Lady of the Valley Church, El Paso, Texas
Present ministry: Parochial vicar, St. Bonaventure Catholic Community, Concord
Past service: High school teacher, Strake Jesuit College Preparatory, Houston, Texas. Parochial vicar, St. Rita Catholic Church, Dallas, Texas. Pastor, St. Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Community, Spring, Texas.
Forty years a priest! It seems like yesterday that Bishop Metzger laid his hands on my head. The years have taken me to churches, schools, prisons, orphanages, homes, hospitals, confession rooms, cemeteries. Somehow the Spirit of Jesus led me to these places. But the treasure of ministry was never the place. It was the people who God placed in my life at one particular moment.
I have baptized infants at the font of new life in Christ, searched the scriptures with friends, celebrated first communions, felt the uneasiness and release in confession, intuited the hunger in communion, blessed two lives made one in marriage, conferred the anointing of the sick, mourned the sadness of death and celebrated life at funerals. I have stood at the grave of unspeakable sorrow. Yes, priesthood has placed many people in my life at the moment God encounters them. The encounter invites me into the mystery of God.
I believe that God loves people as the utmost priority. I am privileged to have shared in what God does best!
Birthplace: Los Angeles
Ordination: June 21, 1974, St. Francis de Sales Cathedral, Oakland
Present ministry: Prior, St. Albert Priory, Oakland
Past service: Campus Ministry; Order's "internal" ministry.
What drew me to the priesthood was the example of the Dominicans who taught me in high school. My classmates and I quickly perceived these men did not always agree, but we also realized they were able to lay aside their differences to pray and work together for a common goal.
I am an only child, so two hours in a college dorm convinced me I should embrace religious life if I felt drawn to priesthood. Most of my priestly years have been devoted to Campus Ministry or my Order's "internal" ministry, and I have loved both. I seem to have a gift for writing, and I cherish opportunities to preach. As Director of the Western Dominicans' Rosary Center, I have the privilege of writing down-to-earth reflections, "Theology for the Laity," six times a year. I am convinced no one is more blessed than I!
Ordination: May 3, 1974, St. Francis de Sales Cathedral, Oakland
Present ministry: Pastor, St. Benedict, Oakland. Dean, Deanery 4
Past service: Associate pastor, St. Louis Bertrand, Oakland. Associate pastor and administrator: All Saints, Hayward; St. Cyril, Oakland. Vicar for Black Catholics, Diocese of Oakland. Administrator: St. Cornelius, Richmond; St. Paschal Baylon, Oakland. As a seminarian taught at Serra High School, San Mateo; Bishop O'Dowd High School, Oakland. Deacon, St. Columba, Oakland. Chaplain: Oakland Fire Department; Oakland Police Department.
As far back as I can remember I have cherished all things religious. As a little tyke I was captivated by the stained glass windows of our home parish, St. Ambrose in Berkeley. The artwork depicted scenes of our salvation history and I felt good about being a part of that history.
In the mid-fifties we moved into St. Bernard parish in Oakland. By the time I reached the age of reason, I put aside imagining I was the Long Ranger and the Cisco Kid (two of my childhood heroes), and believed I could be like Father Denis Kelly and Father Ernie Brainard. Here were priests who dedicated their lives to God and to His people and seemed very happy in serving the parish and school.
But it was three beautiful women who moved me along towards priesthood. My maternal grandmother who is Catholic wisely encouraged me to listen to the whisper of God. She even went so far in helping me when I was 8 and 9 in making vestments so that I can "practice saying Mass." My poor sister and childhood friends would have to suffer through this as the congregation (though I would persuade them to participate with Necco wafer candies). My Methodist paternal grandmother gave me my first Bible as a First Communion gift that prepared me along the way to do very well in my scripture courses in the seminary. And then there was Holy Cross Sister Bernard Joseph who esteemed my piety and prayed my way to the seminary.
In 1960 my family moved into St. Benedict parish and the great influences there were Father Dan Finnegan and Holy Family Sisters Margaret Mary and Josita. It was on my confirmation day in 1962 that Bishop Floyd Begin invited me to become a priest. Excited by the invitation I wanted to enter St. Joseph's Seminary. My parents felt that I was too young to make such a life-altering decision, and the compromise was to wait until after high school. In the meantime Bishop Begin stayed in touch with my parents, and in the fall of 1966, I was seminary bound.
As a Vatican II seminarian the Church and the world were rapidly changing and I wanted very much to be a part of that change. During this time there was a renewed hope and vitality for embracing diversity within the Church and society. Bishop Begin supported this change, and knowing he would ordain the first African American priest in Northern California, expected me to be a full participant in this movement.
During those years I grew to appreciate the uniqueness of my heritage coupled with Catholicism. My Catholic roots come from southern Louisiana and I can trace my roots back to the eighteenth century. I realized that if I persevered through the seminary I would become the third priest in my family. At the turn of the twentieth century my great-grandmother's first cousin, Father Pierre Oscar Le Beau, SSJ, was the first Josephite missionary in Louisiana (a town is named after him). My cousin, Father John Rodney, SVD, is a retired seminary professor of the Society of the Divine Word. My greatest mentor, though, was Father Clarence Howard, SVD, the venerable pastor of St. Patrick Church in West Oakland. He preached my First Mass and shared quite eloquently the reason why I became a priest: "It is all about sacrifice and service that is pleasing to God, and His love reflected in what you say and do…"
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York
Ordination: May 4, 1974, St. Paul the Apostle Church, New York, New York
Present ministry: Newman Hall/Holy Spirit (in residence). Sabbatical, Sacramental assistance: St. Perpetua, Lafayette; St. Michael, Livermore; Our Lady of Lourdes, Oakland; Newman Hall/Holy Spirit, Berkeley.
Past service: Deacon, Newman Hall/Holy Spirit, Berkeley. Parochial vicar: Good Shepherd, New York, New York; St. Thomas Aquinas parish, University of Connecticut; Old St. Mary's parish, Chicago. Pastor, St. Paul the Apostle church, New York, New York. Catholic Chaplain, M.I.T., Cambridge, Massachusetts. Formation team, St. Paul's College, Washington, D.C. First consultor, Paulist Fathers. Vice president, Paulist Fathers. Sacrament minister, Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis. Campus minister, University of Minneapolis and Macalester College, St. Paul, Minnesota.
The greatest grace of serving as a priest has been my experience of God's work among the Catholics of many, many settings. In parishes and campus ministries, I have been blessed to know faith-filled Catholics and their communities and dedicated priests and other ministers. To serve with them in celebrating the Eurcharist and other sacraments, in preaching, teaching and pastoral care has been a privilege that has deepened my own faith and love of Christ. Over the past year in our Diocese of Oakland, I have assisted in parishes that together are a wonderful witness to the universality of the Catholic Church, from the Latino community in Livermore, the Catholic parish community of Lafayette and the University community in Berkeley, and the urban Our Lady of Lourdes parish. Their priests and people inspire me to follow Jesus more closely in prayer and ministry and to realize how much I have been blessed to serve in the ordained priesthood with them.
Birthplace: Benin City, Nigeria
Ordination: December 8, 1974, Nigeria
Present ministry: In residence, St. Cornelius, Richmond
Past service: Ministered: St. Mark, Richmond; St. John the Baptist, El Cerrito.
God is so good that He shared his life with us. Jesus is aware of this precious gift and validated it in John's Gospel, 10:10; "I came so that they might have life and have it abundantly." It is a blessing to be called by God to help provide more abundant life to His people. The nurturing of Christian life has been my focus during the 40 years of my ministry. The preaching of God's message has been meaningful and practical, utilizing Christian daily experiences. There are moments when one has to leave the parish comfort zone to reach out to the marginalized, the homeless, the poor and the needy. People who need to talk to someone receive pastoral counseling. We plan to work in collaboration with God's people to ensure the continuity of divine message.
Birthplace: Mala, in the state of Kerala, India
Ordination: Dec. 21, 1974, at Irinjalkuda, in the state of Kerala, India
Present ministry: Parochial administrator, St. Anne, Walnut Creek
Past service: Administrator, Don Bosco Technical School, Guwahati, Assam, India; Don Bosco High School, Dibrugarh, Assam, India. Headmaster, Don Bosco School, Doom Dooma, Assam, India. Parochial vicar, pastor and headmaster, St. Mary's, Margherita, Assam, India. Parochial vicar: Amguri, Assam, India; St. Mary, Walnut Creek; St. Edward, Newark.
I was ordained a priest on December 21, 1974. But the journey towards that path began a little over 15 years earlier. A Salesian missionary and priest came all the way from Calcutta to Kerala to select boys aspiring to be priests and religious. I happened to be among the 45 boys chosen and four travelled for days to Calcutta and commence a life that would entail a lot of challenges and commitment for the next 15 years.
I entered the Salesian Novitiate in 1965 along with 31 others after completing high school studies. This involved traveling further to the northeastern part of India in Shillong. Life in the Novitiate lasted just a year, followed by three years of college and philosophical studies. I was sent to a technical high school to teach boys preparing to complete high school and technical studies. This was a way of testing and preparation for the life that was to follow as a priest later. After three years of teaching I was sent to the "Garden City" of Bangalore in 1970 to begin theological studies for priesthood.
My priestly ministry initially involved educating young boys and girls in various schools and parishes. Looking back over these years I am amazed at the number of lives that I have touched and impacted and who in turn enriched my life and enabled me to remain faithful. Many of these students still keep in touch and recall the days when I was their teacher, headmaster, priest and mentor. It must be said that the students as well as their parents have always expressed great regard and appreciation for all that I did in guiding and helping those in my charge. The same feelings have been conveyed by parishioners as well in the various parishes that I have been assigned.
I have completed 14 years in the Diocese of Oakland. Coming from another land and culture can be a real challenge. But a disciplined and all-round Salesian training that I received have come a long way in coping with the challenges faced. Today I am honored and proud to be a diocesan priest but I will always remain a Salesian at heart. Through this column I wish to express my deepest gratitude to all my Religious and Ecclesiastical Superiors and to all my fellow priests. A "BIG THANK YOU" to all the parishioners for their support, prayers and encouragement.
Ordination: May 3, 1974,St. Francis de Sales Cathedral, Oakland
Present ministry: Parochial administrator, St. Ignatius of Antioch, Antioch
Past ministry: Associate pastor: St. Agnes, Concord; Corpus Christi, Piedmont; St. Leander, San Leandro. Pastor, St. Paschal Baylon, Oakland. Parochial vicar: Queen of All Saints, Concord; St. Bonaventure, Concord.
It hardly seems possible that 40 years could have gone by so quickly! It only seems like a short time ago that I was ordained by Bishop Begin in St. Francis de Sales Cathedral. In looking over these years of ministry, I have so much for which to be grateful: being born and raised in Oakland as one of its native sons; for my Norwegian ancestry and Lutheran heritage; for the way God worked through the events and people of my life to bring me to the Catholic church and priesthood; the privilege and honor of serving our country as a Chaplain in the United States Air Force; being able to receive the Doctorate in Ministry Degree from the JSTB and then to go on to receive a post-doctoral degree in Liturgy from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.; to travel to Lisbon, Portugal to study Portuguese Language and Culture at the University of Lisbon; to travel to Mexico City and Cuernavaca, Mexico to study the Spanish Language and Culture; being able to serve in various capacities at the Diocesan level as a member of the Priestly Life and Ministry Committee, the Worship Commission, and the Pastoral Leadership Placement Board; serving as the Chaplain for the San Francisco Chapter of the American Guild of Organists for many years; serving as Chaplain for the Oakland Fire Department, Antioch Police Department, Martinez Police Department, Contra Costa Fire Services, and the East Bay Regional Park District as well as Catholic Chaplaincy for the former Merritt Hospital and presently for Sutter-Delta and Kaiser Deer Valley hospitals.
But at the very heart of ministry for all these years have been the parishes and the incredible faith-filled people with whom I have been able to minister and serve.
What a privilege it has been to begin ministry following the Second Vatican Council, to empower our people to live their baptismal priesthood, to experience their growth, development, and taking responsibility for building the reign of God in our midst, to share in the major sacramental moments of their lives and being welcomed into their homes as "family."
In every parish I have served I have found the most generous, kind, understanding, forgiving, compassionate and passionate people who have made life and ministry the great experience it has been.
I am indebted to them for teaching me what it means to serve, to truly be a "foot washer" following the example of Jesus, and to love without counting the cost. To you I offer heartfelt gratitude for your support, prayers, and love that has sustained me for all these years and made my life so fulfilling. God willing, and with the blessing of good health, I pray that I may continue to serve for another ten years to my Fiftieth Anniversary!
25 Years of Priestly Ministry
Birthplace: Ullo, Ghana
Ordination: Dec. 16, 1989, St. Andrews Cathedral, Diocese of Wa, Ghana
Present ministry: Study leave, Ph.D program, Sacred Scripture, GTU, Berkeley
Past service: Teacher, St. Francis Xavier Minor Seminary, Wa, Ghana. Associate pastor, Nativity of Our Lady parish, Ko, Ghana. Licentiate in Sacred Scripture, Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome. Diocesan coordinator, Biblical pastoral ministry, Diocese of Wa, Ghana. Rector, St. Michael's Seminary, Kaleo.
I have had the privilege of forming seminarians and frequently they want to know how they can be sure they are in the right place. My answer — if you are happy helping people, if you find joy listening to people, if you are happy comforting people and raising their spirits in troubled times, if you always find a way of lighting a candle in darkness — you can be pretty sure this is the life for you! Can you ever be one-hundred percent sure? No, like many of the prophets, like Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jonah or even Jesus in Gethsemane, there is always a part of our human nature that keeps resisting and dragging its feet and asking God that "our" will be done instead! St. Paul aptly describes the reality of our ministry when he writes: "We hold this treasure in pots of earthenware, so that the immensity of the power is God's and not our own." 2Cor 2:7
Birthplace: Soyapango, San Salvador, El Salvador
Ordination: Dec. 16, 1989, St. Anthony of Padua Church, San Francisco
Present ministry: Pastor, St. Elizabeth Parish, Oakland
Past service: Assistant pastor, St. Anthony of Padua, San Francisco. Definitor (Provincial council) for the Franciscan Friars of California. Pastor, St. Anthony of Padua, San Francisco. Studying medicine in El Salvador and helping out in different parishes in San Salvador.
The call to the priesthood is a mystery. God calls whomever he wants, whenever he wants and however he wants. I never dreamed of becoming a priest. I had other plans for my life, but when God calls you, you have a choice, either obey him or ignore him. My response was to obey him, and He would take care of how he would mold me to his image. It does not matter how good or bad we are. It is his call and it is our response. When we first realize God's call, our first reaction is to say: "Please God, not me." Then, we realize that we just respond to his enormous gift of love and forgiveness that we have received.
It's hard to believe that time has flown so fast. It has been almost 25 years since my ordination. How important it is to accept that in order to continue in this ministry, we need to leave time for prayer, without which we can do nothing. I am so privileged to be a priest in our church. God uses the least to bring peace, joy, reconciliation, forgiveness to His people. As a priest, I recognize that God wanted to use some men to be his shepherds after his own heart, and I have the privilege to be one of those men.
It is impossible to separate the priesthood from the Eucharist. Whenever I celebrate the Eucharist, I come in closer contact with Jesus, the one who called me, and gives me the grace to continue being faithful to him, and continue preaching His good news to the world. My goal is to bring people to the presence of God, so we can all experience his peace and joy.
The following priests who have served/are living in the Oakland diocese are also observing a major anniversary of ordination this year:
Rev. Efrem Trettel, OFM
Rev. Tom Burns
Rev. Msgr. Fred Bitanga
Rev. James Conlon
Rev. Paul Devine
Rev. Joseph Farias, SDB
Rev. Michael Guinan, OFM
Rev. Augustine Koilparampil
Rev. Carl Seewald, SVD
Rev. Paul Fazio, OFM Conv.
Rev. Michel Marcil, SJ
Rev. Enrique Ballesteros
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