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Pastor marks 25th anniversary of his ordination

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Pastor marks 25th anniversary of his ordination

Father J. Patrick Walker presides over Ash Wednesday service last year at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Manteca.


POSTED August 10, 2013 2:34 a.m.

For Father J. Patrick Walker, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Manteca, 2013 is a silver   year.

On Sept. 24, the Oakdale native will mark the 25th anniversary of his ordination as a priest. A celebration to mark that red-letter day is planned for Oct. 6 starting with a Mass to be offered by Bishop Stephen Blaire of the Diocese of Stockton at 10:30 a.m. A catered lunch will follow at 12:30 p.m. in the cafeteria.

Ordinations are usually held at the Annunciation Cathedral in Stockton. But with five of them ordained at the same time, and to accommodate their family and friends who were expected to attend the red-letter day, the ceremony was moved to the more spacious Spanos Center at the University of the Pacific. Swelling the number of guests were those who came to share the special day with Father William Myers, one of the five ordination candidates. He had more loved ones attending than the four others priests combined.

“We were the biggest class ever in the history of the diocese,” explained Father Walker who has been pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Manteca for the last six years.

He completed his formation studies, not at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park where many diocesan candidates go, but at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, Calif. Then-Bishop Donald Montrose allowed seminarians to choose between the two seminaries, Father Walker said.

“That seemed to be the best choice,” he said, aside from the fact an uncle and aunt and cousins lived in that area.

Trivia item: both the late Bishop Montrose and his successor, Bishop Blaire, are both alumni of St. John’s.

Father Walker was 34 years old when he was ordained. He was considered a late vocation. He did not go to the seminary straight from high school, which was the common practice at the time. For three years after receiving his bachelor’s degree at California State University, Stanislaus in Turlock in 1979 and after receiving his teaching credentials the year after that, he started teaching at public school in Oakdale, his old hometown.

“I was happy to be hired right out of college,” he said.

Then, as now, public school teachers were not being paid a lot. He started with a salary of $13,000 a year. Parochial schools were paying even less than that, he said, as is still the case today.

But it was not monetary reasons that was his inspiration to hear a higher calling in life. The seeds were planted when he was a little boy.

He wanted to become a priest since grade school

“I had thought a lot about becoming a priest when I was in grade school,” the pastor said.

That was due, in large measure, to the example that was set by his parents, Bernard and Frances Walker who were lifelong devout Catholics. His father, who died before he left for his seminary studies in 1983, was a car salesman at a car dealership in Oakdale and also had his dealership in Escalon, in addition to working as a used-car manager at Steve’s Chevrolet. His mother just recently passed away. She died while he was driving back home from Notre Dame in Indiana where he attended a conference for pastors. He was in Nebraska when he received the sad news on July 15. His mother was 84 years old.

Both parents, Father Walker later learned, had aspirations prior to their marriage to enter the religious life. His father considered going to St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park where he lived at the time. His mother was in the novitiate at one time. She also attended Dominican College in the Bay Area.

Father Walker was the oldest of 10 children which included one set of twins. “My mother had 10 children in 11 years,” he recalled. They all live in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties, with other siblings living in Eastern Washington, Arizona, and Peculiar, Missouri.

His mother especially encouraged her son to pursue a religious vocation. His desire to serve the Lord was also nurtured when he was a young altar server at St. Mary’s Church in Oakdale; at second grade, he was the church’s youngest altar server ever.

“I wanted to be close to the Holy Eucharist,” he explained.

Father Walker came to St. Anthony’s in Manteca six years ago. He succeeded Father Richard Morse who was called to serve at a church in Ohio. Before that, he was pastor at St. Michael’s Church in Morada for 10 years, and a parochial vicar at St. Joseph’s Church in Modesto and at Sacred Heart Church in Turlock. He was also at Central Catholic High School in Modesto for two years.

What he likes best about being a priest, said Father Walker, is “number one, celebrating the eucharist,” during the weekend Masses and during the weekly services with the students at St. Anthony’s School.

Coming second to that is the sacrament of reconciliation, or confession.

“I am tremendously privileged to be able to see healing and hope for people after coming through the sacrament of reconciliation. The feeling of being relieved of sin, even sometimes a physical healing after that,” he said.

Having a parish with a school is the third reason he enjoys being a priest.

“It’s a wonderful thing to be with young people. They invigorate me with their enthusiasm for God; it’s really inspiring,” said the former public school teacher-turned-priest.

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