Reflection on My Ordination Day and Priesthood
My first memory of my ordination day, Dec. 3, 1983, is of the intense rainstorm that began in the early morning hours.
The intensity of the storm caused a temporary electrical blackout of downtown San José beginning around 10 a.m. and lasted until 10 minutes before the ordination Mass was to begin. St. Patrick Cathedral was in darkness. The stained-glass windows allowed the only light into the church other than many vigil candles that were lit to help the choir read their music. Despite the weather, more than 1,100 people were in attendance to witness Father Tony Mancuso and me being ordained together as the second and third priests of the newly formed Diocese of San José.
The following day, the First Sunday in Advent, the storm had passed, with clear skies everywhere, and I celebrated my first Mass of Thanksgiving. The Mass was held at All Souls Church in South San Francisco, my home parish and parish of my childhood.
Monday morning was a workday. I experienced the fullness of the Advent season at Saint Thomas of Canterbury Parish in San José. That parish served as my 13-month diaconal assignment and was where I would spend my first Christmas as a priest. I was blessed to be assigned to that parish community and received generous support from the pastor, Father Ray Kenny (deceased in May 2018), our staff, and the many parishioners who made that parish come alive.
As I have served this diocese for more than 37 years, I have been blessed with a wealth of rich experiences with thousands of people involving a multitude of pastoral issues and occasions. Having the license and authority to preach the inspired word of God, to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, to shepherd faith communities and to accompany people on their faith journey at critical and memorable moments in their lives is beyond any other kind of satisfaction that I have ever experienced. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities that both Our Lord and our local church, through our bishops, have made possible.
I also have had the fortune of serving lengthy periods in the majority of my pastoral assignments, which I believe have provided stability. I have served the diocese as parochial vicar at St. Thomas of Canterbury Parish, St. Joseph of Cupertino Parish and St. Nicholas Parish; diocesan director of vocations; chaplain at Saint Francis High School; and pastor of St. Nicholas Parish.
Every assignment has been tremendously gratifying, and all have been a surprise to me. Still, with Our Lord’s presence, all things are possible!
Father Gary Thomas is the pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Saratoga and the diocesan exorcist.