By Anne E. Grycz Director Emerita, Institute for Leadership in Ministry
Earlier this month I was asked to share my memories and experience of working with our four priests who are celebrating milestone anniversaries this year: Monsignors Joe Milani and John Coleman (70 years) and Fathers Robert McKay and Paul Weisbeck (50 years). I am delighted and honored to do so; at the same time I am very much aware that I cannot begin to do justice to the countless contributions they have made over several decades in the Diocese of San Jose. What I offer here are very brief sketches.
Our jubilarians have promoted and continue to support lay ministry in general, and particularly the ministry of women in the Church. My own experience working with these priests during my twenty-four years in the diocesan offices is characterized by service, collaboration, and concern for the People of God. I treasure the history that we share.
Monsignor Milani is one of the Founding Fathers of the Diocese of San Jose, chosen by Bishop Pierre DuMaine to serve as the Diocese’s first Chancellor in 1981. His role of Chancellor at that time was more akin to a combination of today’s Vicar General, Moderator of the Curia, Vicar for Clergy and Vocations Director. In those early years, “Father Joe” was the go-to man at the Chancery. When I met him in 1987 he was pastor of St. Joseph of Cupertino Parish. We had occasions to work together on the Liturgical Commission and other diocesan events. I could always count on his support and wise counsel. I still do! He and Monsignor John Coleman are among the giants of the Church of San Jose.
Monsignor Coleman and I laugh that we are earthquake buddies – in October 1989 both of us were at El Retiro Retreat Center in Los Altos when the Loma Prieta earthquake struck. We grabbed one another’s shoulders and hung on until the ground stopped shaking. He has a prodigious memory with a wealth of information and stories about the early days of the Diocese. Fortunately they have been preserved on video as part of the oral history project. Monsignor Coleman has worked with the Hispanic community for a long time and continues his ministry at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in East Palo Alto.
For years Father Robert McKay, ordained in Pretoria, South Africa, has been a role model for women and men in formation. As a chaplain at O’Connor Hospital he supervised and mentored students in advanced lay leadership, deacon aspirants, and seminarians in the ministry of pastoral care. He and I served together on the Deacon Formation Board and for several years he spoke to my class at Saint Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park. His commitment to ministry coupled with an understated and wry sense of humor is a gift.
Father Paul Weisbeck and I are San Francisco 49er fans – devoted members of the 49er faithful. I met Father Weisbeck in 1987 when he became pastor of St. Elizabeth Parish in Milpitas. This coincided with the 49ers as the Team of the 80’s. I have fun memories of the two of us on the phone “Monday morning quarterbacking”, sharing our takes from the previous day’s game. During his years as pastor (St. Elizabeth, Holy Spirit, and St. William) Father Paul was supportive
of lay leadership and parish staff development. He sent a number of parishioners to the Institute for Leadership in Ministry – many of those graduates continue to serve in the Diocese.
Bishop Patrick J. McGrath, the clergy, lay leaders, and parishioners can testify extensively and eloquently to the loyalty, dedication, and generosity that infuse the ministry of these four jubilarians.
Four faithful priests, a combined 240 years of service in the archdioceses of San Francisco, Pretoria, and our Diocese – how blessed we are in the Church of San Jose!