LATHROP – Parishioners at Our Lady of Guadalupe reacted with shock, disappointment, and understanding to the news that their former pastor is leaving his active ministry in the priesthood and that he is the father of a “child (that) will soon be born.”
He made the announcement during mass Sunday at St. Mary’s Church in Stockton where he became pastor after leaving Lathrop’s Our Lady of Guadalupe in 2008. McFalls penned a faith column for the Manteca Bulletin for a number of years
“Oh, my goodness. My goodness. Well, that goes to show that they are human beings. They have faults like anybody else. But I praise him for his decision. I give him a lot of credit for coming forward and telling, ‘I did wrong; I did something wrong. Here I am; throw darts at me,” said longtime Guadalupe parishioner and church volunteer Arnita Montiel.
“There will be a lot of people looking down their nose at him, but I love him. He’s a fine, fine person and I’ll never forget what he has done for us. All you can do is pray for him and pray for the woman and for the baby that it will be born healthy. So that’s what my prayers will be for him, that he makes peace with the Lord and that the baby will be born healthy.”
“I haven’t expected to hear that about him. I didn’t have a clue what was going on,” was the reaction from Andrea Ballesteros, another longtime church volunteer. “It’s so sad. I’m shocked.” She also confessed to being “upset” and “disappointed” to hear about McFalls’ resignation and the reason behind his decision.
On Sunday, while she and other parishioners were practicing folk dances for the upcoming harvest festival at Our Lady of Guadalupe, Ballesteros said people were already talking about it but that she did not really pay attention to what was being discussed in hushed voices.
McFalls was bidding goodbye to his parishioners during his last day at Our Lady of Guadalupe when Cory Mateo and husband Christopher first attended services at the church on Cambridge Drive off Louise Avenue. While they did not get to know him very well, Cory Mateo said they “heard a lot of good things about him, that he’s really good with the kids. They said he was very friendly and he was really, really nice.”
As to the news about McFalls’ departure from his active priestly ministry, she generously commented, “You know what, though, God bless him if he decided that. Why not? You really have a choice in life. As long as he was blessed by the bishop.”
Montiel and her late husband, Jim, who passed away two years ago, worked closely with McFalls for many years, on the annual harvest festival and the parish council. But two incidents involving their former pastor stood out vividly to her. When her husband died, their “little granddaughter” was inconsolable, she said.
“Father Dean took her little hand and explained to her that his spirit had passed. He comforted her. I think he knew that she needed to try to understand where (grandfather) was. We knew, but for a little girl, papa’s passing away just broke her heart,” recalled Montiel.
Even though he was no longer serving at Our Lady of Guadalupe, Montiel said McFalls volunteered to lead the rosary and preside over the funeral services both in the church and at the cemetery for her late husband, added Montiel.
Then there was the time her purse was stolen in Stockton. McFalls was already a pastor at St. Mary’s at the time.
“He went with me to the Stockton Police Department and he walked me through there,” Montiel said. Later, McFalls “took me back to the church (St. Mary’s)” and let her sit in the rectory’s kitchen area to rest.
But there were some parishioners who “didn’t like him sometimes because his (homily) was too long,” another parishioner said.
During the short telephone interview with the former pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe Tuesday evening, he said that he will “always be a priest,” and added, “I, myself, personally have voluntarily relinquished” active priestly ministry. He added that he has allowed the release of the full text of his statement to that effect online and directed this reporter to those web sites. A full text of his statement that he read during Sunday mass to his parishioners at St. Mary’s, as well as the statement from Bishop Blaire both appear on News 10 (www.news10.net).