Advise and Dissent
Father Richard Mangini, left, with Father Aidan McAleenan, right, on a trip to the Philippines to visit a homeless shelter outside Manila.
Father Mangini from the perspective
of a seminarian and a friend
As a seminarian with the Diocese of Oakland studying at St. Patrick's seminary in Meno Park, I felt strongly that I did not need a pastoral year. I figured I had spent six years in the Irish Redemptorist formation system and then went on to work for 15 years with the Sisters of Mercy in San Francisco. What could a pastoral year teach me?
Father Jerry Kennedy, of happy memory, told me there were no exceptions and in fact that many a seminarian ends up being good friends if not lifelong friends as a result of such an encounter … I wondered?
I was appointed to St. Bonaventure in the Concord/Clayton area. Initially I was not that happy as I would have preferred an inner city parish. God had a plan and in His time!
What struck me most upon my arrival in far flung ends of the diocese was how welcoming Father Richard was and how the parish embraced me.
My first time giving a talk or reflection was a nerve racking experience to say the least. Given the technology at St. Bonaventure I decided I would do a Power Point to introduce myself to the parish. Father Richard was presiding and at some point during my talk (homily time) I looked up at the garage door where the screen was and noticed that the timing on the Power Point was off. "Oh," I exclaimed, "the PP is running faster than I am talking," and the retort from the presiders' chair was "well you should just talk faster" and I responded "well if you weren't so cheap I could have one of those pointer devices and all would be well!"
The congregation roared with excitement. Father Richard had met his match (at least in this moment).
Later that week he handed me a prayer book and said, go do a vigil at Quimets (funeral chapel). I didn't even have time to say, "but I have never done that before" …. next thing I had presided at a vigil service.
Father Richard kept throwing me into things. Much in the same way my dad had taught my cousin Kevin to swim, thrown into the deep end of the pool.
Once I went with Father Richard to an ecumenical meeting of folk from around Contra Costa County. A Mormon bishop introduced himself to me and thanked me for the wonderful prayer service I had presided at the week before. I looked at him in utter dismay. Where did I preside that you witnessed this?
"Oh you celebrated with us at the opening of CYO — I have four of my kids go there." I was in shock. To a northern Irish Catholic the idea of a Mormon, and a bishop to boot, sending his kids to a Catholic event of any sort was out of my experience.
I got to share and exercise my gifts, talent and ministry. When Father Richard's mother passed, we were able, with the wonderful help of Rev. Padraig Greene, to begin a parish grief ministry that continues to this day.
Midway through my time I received a difficult report from the Seminarian Support Team. I was devastated. I did not sleep and met Father Richard before the 6 a.m. Mass. I burst into tears and he asked what on earth was wrong. I showed him the review. He said "if anyone can understand how you're feeling it is I. I was held back a year from ordination and we are going to get through this together." I had over reacted to some constructive criticism.
I loved the pastor that I saw, I loved the way he did ministry, I loved the way he loved the people and I loved becoming his friend.
On my last day in the parish I got to say goodbye at all the Masses that weekend. The week before my mother had passed away suddenly in Ireland and the parish had rallied behind me with prayer, love and financial support. I had been deeply moved.
I have an enduring memory of Father Richard standing at the back of the church and I looked into the eyes of the congregation. I said "Father Richard told me when I arrived that I would fall in love with the people. I remember thinking what an odd idea. In this moment I can honestly say I have fallen head over heels in love with all of you! (Even at this moment as I write this I am overcome with emotion and tears in the remembering.) In this love I am confirmed in my vocation in every way that one can be confirmed and I leave Father Richard and the parish of St. Bonaventure knowing that I needed a pastoral year and a California mother, June Stewart, and the love of Peggy Sullivan and so many, many more parishioners. God needed me to do Bonfire and he needed me to live, love and laugh in the Concord/Clayton air and to gain a lifelong beautiful friendship which I treasure to this day."
Father Richard is twice the priest I ever could wish to be. He has helped me celebrate the dream that God has for me and those I serve and those I will serve. His legacy continues. Our loving friendship endures. Amen.
(Father Aidan McAleenan is pastor at St. Columba Parish, Oakland.)
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