L.A.’s largest class of priests celebrates golden anniversary

.- Fifteen priests of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles are marking 50 years of service to the Church and to the Catholic faithful. Eleven of these priests were members of the largest class ever to be ordained from St. John’s Seminary, located in Camarillo, Calif. Thirty-one men were ordained from St. John’s in 1955. Of these, only three were for dioceses other than Los Angeles. Cardinal James Francis McIntyre, then-archbishop of Los Angeles, ordained 29 of these men April 27, 1955. Their ages ranged from 25 to 27.

Since then, many of the Los Angeles priests of the Class of ’55 have come and gone. Three of them became priests of the Diocese of Orange when it was created from Los Angeles in 1976. Fifteen have died and many others have retired from active ministry. Four priests from other dioceses, also ordained in 1955, were incardinated and are celebrating their golden jubilee as well.

L.A.’s diocesan newspaper, The Tidings, offered brief biographies of the golden jubilarians. Some of the highlights appear below.

Fr. Michael Daniel Buckley served as a pastor and hospital chaplain. In his retirement, the accomplished artist creates posters for the 21 Mission Saints and many other art pieces.

Msgr. James Colberg was pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption, Santa Maria, from 1974 until he retired in 1999. He was also an educator, serving as a high school teacher and administrator for many years. He also served as a consultor in the archdiocese.

Fr. John Fitzgerald was a pastor for many years and a military chaplain, serving two tours of duty. He earned a Bronze Star for meritorious service in Vietnam. He retired in 2000.

Msgr. Eugene Frilot served as pastor in several parishes and as procurator for St. John's Seminary for 11 years. He retired in 1999.

Msgr. Lawrence Gibson served at several parishes and was assistant secretary for Cardinal McIntyre. He also served as vocations director from 1961-74. He retired in 2003.

Fr. Rody Gorman, a native of Ireland served in many parishes before being named pastor of St. Matthias, Huntington Park, where he served for 23 years. He was also a leading member of the United Neighborhoods Organization.

Msgr. Alfredo Hernandez served many years as a chaplain at juvenile detention facilities, four hospitals, the L.A. Fire Department and several outreach ministries. He had several parish assignments as well before retiring in 1997.

Fr. Colm O'Ryan, a native of Ireland, is the last active pastor of the class of 1955. He serves at Good Shepherd Parish in Beverly Hills, having had several parish appointments prior.

Msgr. John Rawden, an Army Air Force veteran, was named secretary to Cardinal McIntyre in 1962. He was chancellor from 1970 to 1986 and had served as episcopal vicar for South Central L.A. He also volunteered as a Navy chaplain and was a pastor.

Fr. Sylvester Thomas, a former Navy officer, was an educator in L.A.’s Catholic schools. He later became a school psychologist and also served as a chaplain. He retired in 2003.

Fr. Gerald Walker served a number of L.A. parishes as associate priest and pastor before retiring in 1999.

Fr. Richard Carey was ordained in St. Paul, Minnesota and incardinated for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1987, and has served at eight parishes since then. Fr. Leslie Delgado, a native of Panama, was incardinated in 1975. Most of his ministry has been as a teacher at Dominguez Seminary, San Gabriel Mission High School, St. Pius X and St. Anthony.

Fr. Donal O'Connor has served in parish ministry in Los Angeles. The native of County Cork, Ireland, completed his seminary studies in Ireland. He was later incardinated for Los Angeles. Fr. Abel Suquilvide was incardinated in 1992, after ministering 11 years in Los Angeles. The Argentinian native has served mainly in parish ministry.

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