| Gracious, dedicated St. Pat's priest reaches a milestone
Father Larry Young with St. Patrick School's "principal for the day," Logan Oh.
On the day a pastor in the Diocese of Oakland turns 75, he has to write a letter offering his resignation. The bishop does not have to accept it.
So it's a milestone reached with some mixed feelings.
St. Patrick Parish in Rodeo/Hercules is marking the 75th birthday of its pastor, Rev. Larry Young, with a grand celebration from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. June 27 in the Parish Hall.
The party was not his idea. But the gracious pastor, whose service in the diocese dates back almost 50 years, also knows how to let the people be heard.
He came to the Diocese of Oakland as Holy Cross Brother Lawrence Young, assigned to what was then known as Moreau High School in Hayward, an all-boys school. As a seminarian on his way to the priesthood, he stopped short of ordination and became a teacher.
He taught Latin — "I could teach Latin better than my high school teacher did," he recalled — religion and English.
He became dean of students, and while pursuing graduate work at what was then California State College in Hayward, the school's principal became ill and retired, so he stepped in as principal, serving as he finished the graduate work.
The school, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, also went co-educational during his time there. Although the diocese owned land on Mission Boulevard for a high school for girls, there wasn't the money to build it.
Moreau's response was to go co-ed on its site, which was built to accommodate 1,400 students. Father Young recalled that Bishop Floyd L. Begin's concern was, "Where do we put the nuns?"
"It all got worked out," Father Young said.
After serving for a time at another Holy Cross high school, Father Young told his community, "I really want to be a priest."
"At the time, if you were a brother you couldn't be a priest," he said. "You'd have to leave the community. They changed their mind at their chapter. They said, 'You have no reason to leave. You can study with us. You can be ordained with us.' I said, 'I really think I want to be a diocesan priest. They said, 'Give it a try.'"
He was ordained in January 1981 in New Orleans, after finishing his education in a diocesan seminary. "I finished my first two years as a Holy Cross priest in Baton Rouge," he said, "and then I said I wanted to go to the diocese."
He was well known in the Diocese of Oakland, where he has served ever since.
His parishioners say they value Father Young's pastoral care. He knows where he learned it.
"I had a very good pastor," he said. "My pastor was Msgr. Bernard Dolan at St. Anthony in Long Beach.
"We had grade school and high school. We had 900 girls in the girls high school, 750 boys in the boys high school. It was co-institutional.
Out of St. Anthony's Parish you have Cardinal (William) Levada, Archbishop (George) Neiderauer, Bishop (Gerald) Wilkerson. Every one of us, when we get together, will say: It was the priest that influenced us in our vocation. They've all been very, very good and successful, and pastoral. He taught us. He was gruff, but you saw he cared about people, he wanted the best for people and he loved the kids."
That passing on of the vocation, one might say, has come full circle. One of Father Young's young parishioners, Rev. Michael Nufable, was ordained to the priesthood last month at the Cathedral of Christ the Light.
"The vocation was evident when he was still in grade school," said Father Young, who preached at Father Nufable's first Mass.
"When he graduated from eighth grade, he received the Father Mel Hary Award, which is given for outstanding service to the school and parish. Michael was the first recipient," Father Young said.
It was also Father Young's first graduating class at St. Patrick School. "I brought that out during the homily," he said. "Those are the things in our lives that make me more proud of him. He was chosen for that award as an eighth-grader, and look where it took him."
Father Young recently sent off the 17th graduating class at St. Patrick School. "I tell them we have tried to teach you how to think and how to make good decisions. People are going to try to take you in different directions. Think for yourself, get good advice, know God loves you. If you screw up, He's still there for you."
One of the things they can do is be involved in the life of the parish. As Father Young was speaking, 50 young people, ranging from those new graduates, to high school students and college students, were in the parish hall, transforming it for Vacation Bible School the next week.
"They experienced good things, and they're willing to carry that on," he said.
While his heart remains with encouraging his parishioners, young and old, it's not in retirement.
"Being a later vocation to the priesthood, I want to keep going as long as I can," he said. "As long as I'm healthy and happy and people aren't complaining, why not?"
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