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Remembering Fr. Paul Goda, S.J.: Faithful servant to our Lord through our prison ministry

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By: Lee Campbell, Associate Director of Restorative Justice – Diocese of San José  
 

Father Paul Goda, beloved priest, law professor and faithful servant, entered into the joy of the Lord on January 29, 2020. Those of us who knew him came to appreciate his generous spirit, his sincere humility, and his openness to hear what people had to say.   

I met Fr. Paul many years ago at the Carmelite Monastery in Santa Clara and we became friends. Soon after, I started meeting with him every other week to study the Creed. His passion for it was so contagious that I always looked forward to my one-on-one time with him. While I looked at him with admiration and saw him as a “guru,” he never considered himself to be one. He was always more interested in what others had to say even if they didn’t agree with him. In fact, I noticed a pattern with him that now became part of my memory of him. Every time he finished expressing his opinion or thoughts about any topic, he would cross his arms, slightly lean back, look you straight in the eyes, and ask: “What do YOU think?” Then he would listen to what you had to say; sometimes he’d agree, sometimes he’d disagree, but he was always attentive and open.  

At his funeral Mass, it was apparent that Fr. Paul was many things to many people. He was loved by his family, his students, his Santa Clara University family, and the many local parishes he ministered in. For us here at the Diocese of San José, he was a valuable volunteer in the detention ministry for many years, saying Mass, listening to confessions and offering counsel to inmates whenever they needed.  We know he loved this ministry and always approached it with an open heart. I remember him once telling me, “You never know who you are going to meet in prison. I met one of the most holy men I know there. When I met him, it was clear that he had no doubt about who his savior was.”   

Fr. Paul always made himself available to spend time with those who needed guidance and helped them work things out. I, like many others, valued his perspectives, enjoyed his laughter, admired his commitment to serve the Lord and will dearly miss his presence.     

God Bless Fr. Paul Goda. Rest in peace!