As I reflect on my fifty years of ministry as a priest, I have a great sense of gratitude, humility and disbelief that I was ordained that long ago. It all seems like a different time, having been in the seminary during Vatican Council II and even at my first Mass, only the readings were as yet in English. Of course, in the late sixties, it was also a time of great social change and turmoil relating to the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement and the tragic assassinations, despite the fact that the decade opened with the optimism of the reign of beloved Pope John XXIII and our young Catholic President John F. Kennedy. Despite my own inexperience and at times naivety, I am amazed at how many different places I have lived and at the variety of ministries in education and in parochial work, as well as various assignments for the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts, I have participated in. During this time, I have spent almost half of my priesthood at St. Joseph Basilica, with the remainder of time mostly at Alemany High School and Holy Spirit Parish in Hemet. Thus, I decided to come back and celebrate with you, as you are such a significant part of the fabric of my life and priesthood. I thank Fr. George for inviting me to do this.
As I reflect, I am not so foolish, even in my dotage, to think that it was my own accomplishments and work that made all this happen. The scripture from the Magnificat keeps coming back to me. “God who is mighty has done great things for me.” I recall also so many others, my family, especially my mother and father, my brother Michael and my sisters Maria and Cathy, my brothers in the Congregation, the parishioners of St Joseph's and countless wonderful friends who have supported, encouraged, and were there for me when I needed help in dark moments. In other words, I am neither a self-made man nor self-made priest and so I owe a great debt of gratitude to our loving, merciful God and to so many people over the years of my life, who have truly done great things for me and have thus made my life so rich. I became the priest I am due to the example and lived faith, and the faithful following of Christ by St. Joseph's parishioners and many others, including those who are not of the household of faith.
While the number of people to thank is too numerous to name, I do wish to thank Bishop Stephen Blaire and my brother con-celebrants of this Mass of Thanksgiving, and my brothers in the Congregation. I also thank Fr. George Alengadan and the committee that organized this celebration and of course David Howitt and the choir. Also a special thanks to the parishioners of St. Joseph who provided food and beverages.
I also appreciate the good wishes of those who could not attend, especially Bishop John Cummins and Fr. Patrick Goodwin.
I remember Fr. Frank Doherty SS.CC., whose life and ministry enriched and blessed us all.
Again, I am very grateful for your love and support over all these years and I humbly ask for your continued prayers.
Fr. Jerry, SS.CC