Priests throughout the Diocese Celebrating Milestone Anniversaries

Priests throughout the Diocese Celebrating Milestone Anniversaries

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This year several priests in the Diocese are celebrating anniversaries of their ordination to the priesthood.

Monsignor Stephen Perata marks 60 years as a priest. Meanwhile Father Enzie Lagattuta celebrates 40 years. And Father Hao Dinh and Father Sergio Ovando mark 25 years as a priest.

Here’s some insight into each of them, written by them.

60 Years
Monsignor Stephen Perata
(Editor’s Note: On Pentecost Sunday, Monsignor Perata celebrated the 60th anniversary of his ordination with a Mass at Saint Victor’s Parish, where he spent many years as Pastor. Below are excerpts from his comments at that Mass).

“After sixty years of priesthood and twelve in preparation, I look around today and see so many of you who have touched my life as family and friends in the places I served. I give thanks to God for all of you … your love, your prayers and support. There are some of you I have known a very long time, especially my sisters for whom I am really grateful to God. There’s something about a relationship between brother and sisters that keeps you grounded in reality. Even in correction or disagreement there is without a doubt loving support.

In every parish in which I have been privileged to serve, God has always blessed me with the people He sent to be of aid and support. That’s all of you from my former parishes here today. When I came to Saint Victor’s you unknowingly came with me. I was not alone when I arrived. Your prayers and examples were and are a part of me.
The richest blessing I have is you. You are always with me.”

40 Years
Father Enzie Lagattuta
How can I express in words what it means to belong to the Lord? To be with Him and know that I am His? To be called, sent, and united by love to the Lord? To know that, despite all my faults and foibles, I have been chosen to proclaim God’s unconditional love and mercy for every person He has created? As with all priests, I stand in awe when I reflect on the gifts I have been given and what God does through me. I have been invited to walk in the shadow of the Shepherd of our souls so that others may experience his love. What a blessing to give witness to the great love of God!

These past 40 years have been opportunities to be of service to the Church and beyond. I am deeply grateful to have served in parish ministry (Saint Joseph of Cupertino, Saint Julie, Ascension, Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Saint Nicholas and Saint William, and Saint Leo). I was blessed by opportunities to pursue graduate studies at The Catholic University of America, to serve those in our Juvenile Probation and Adult Correctional facilities, to teach and serve as Chaplain at Archbishop Mitty High School, to serve those living with HIV and AIDS, and to work with the students, faculty, and staff at Santa Clara University.

These experiences have enriched and blessed my life. Each one stretched my comfort zone and taught me many lessons. Through it all I have learned to trust in the Lord every day, every second of the day. I often remember something that has helped me in the most difficult times. It’s from Saint John Paul II who said, quoting Jesus, “Come follow me. And when you do, do not be afraid.”

25 Years
Father Sergio Ovando
Looking to the past, it is difficult to remember how everything started. What I do know is that every single step leads me to this direction and, in some mysterious way, prepared me to become a priest.

I entered the Seminary at the age of 17, and I became a priest when I was 24 years old. For some people, this may seem too young, but even at that young age, I was sure of my vocation and never doubted it.

My 25 years of priesthood have been blessed with the most diverse experiences, in the most diverse places and with the most diverse people. From my youth in Argentina to the ex-Soviet Union, the experiences of Rome, and of course the beautiful experience of California, I have done many things in the widest spectrum of activities. I have been a missionary, a professor in the Seminary, a student in Rome, to just a simple parish priest. Yet I learned from and I have enjoyed every single one of these experiences. Each moment and each place marked my life in some specific way and made me who I am today.

It is a tradition that each priest for his Ordination and for his life will chose a motto. I chose this one 25 years ago: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20).

In all these years, I have tried to be that image of Christ. Sometimes, I failed and other times, I succeeded; but I always believed in His continued care and presence in my life, and I can testify to His love for me. I hope and pray that in the years to come I will be a priest who has let Jesus live in me.

For all these years, I am grateful to the I.V.E. Fathers who formed me and with whom I spent many years of my life. I am grateful to my family who always supports me; to my father in faith, Bishop Patrick J. McGrath, and to those priests who with their constant support, prayers and example have helped me to arrive to today, especially my friend from my youth and colleague in basketball, Monsignor Francisco Rios, and from my time here, Monsignor Francis V. Cilia, and to the people of God who with their love and support have made these 25 years so enjoyable.
Thanks to all of them and for them: I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. (Ps 116:13).

25 Years
Father Hao Dinh
“A wedding is a day; a marriage is a lifetime.” That’s an adage in the Catholic Engaged Encounter that can be adapted and applied to the ordained priesthood: “Your ordination is a day; your priesthood is a lifetime.” Ordination does not mean a guarantee of what we want for the rest of our lives, rather it is only the beginning of a lifelong calling with both promises and challenges that can lead us to where we do not anticipate. I already experienced it in my journey to the priesthood: it started in Sài Gòn and led to San José, it took 24 years, much longer than expected (from May 15, 1969 to May 15, 1993).

As I reached the 25-year milestone in priestly life and ministry this year, I have a deep sense of gratitude and awe of what the Lord has done for me. His constant companionship and occasional “nudging” have helped me in my journey, in good days and bad. The Lord definitely has walked with me and sustained me through my family, many other people and several communities of faith. Their prayers and support have affirmed me, their experiences and examples have challenged me to continue learning and growing.

It’s a privilege to be part of people’s lives, to be present with them in their joyous moments and challenging times. It’s a blessing to have the opportunity to speak or pray with them, for them. Some of them, the elderly or the homebound, just need a listening ear. Yet it’s the Spirit of the Lord who is at work, enabling us to say or do what is needed. It’s the same Spirit who touches both the minister as well as the ministered.

Being interrupted sometimes can be a challenge, especially on New Year’s Eve. Last December 31, 2017, I got a sick call about 20 minutes before midnight. As I was walking through the ER area in Kaiser-Santa Clara, some nurses began an early countdown, shouting “five minutes” (to midnight). When I reached the door to that patient’s room, it’s four minutes… but the nurse inside the room was on the phone and kept talking without knowing I was there. When I finally stepped into the room and met the patient, it’s already the new year – 2018! It took me a year to reach that patient, but it’s worth it. Somewhere in the valley, a baby was born a minute after midnight. Here in ER, at that moment a son of God received the grace he needed before crossing the threshold to eternal life.

What is amazing in ministry is people remember for a long time what a priest said or did, when he no longer remembers it: some relevant words in a homily, a touching rite of anointing of their parent, etc. God knows and we know that they also remember for very long what a priest should not have said or done. After 25 years of ministry I am sure I get both. I hope that people see me as a work still in progress.

All things considered, I count it a blessing to be part of the Diocese of San José, to have the privilege of walking together with diverse people in these communities of faith: Saint Justin, Saint Lawrence the Martyr, Saint John the Baptist, Queen of Martyrs/Saint Patrick, Holy Family, Saint Thomas of Canterbury, parishes in Deanery 5, Holy Family (second “tour of duty”), and currently Saint Martin in Sunnyvale. Added to the list are communities that I came to know through my seminary field education: Saint Catherine of Alexandria, Saint Joseph of Cupertino, Saint Justin (pastoral year), San Jose State campus ministry, Saint Christopher; and through summer residence: Saint Maria Goretti, Saint Mary in Gilroy.
Deo gratias! Thank you all!

Editor’s Note: At the time we went to press we had not received reflections from Father Michael Burns, Father Norman Segovia, Father Jose (Joe) Galang, Father Drago Gveric, OFM and Father Eduardo Obero. Please stay tuned for a future issue of The Valley Catholic for their anniversary reflections.