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Fr. Dante among priest honorees
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Father Dante Dammay, parochial vicar at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Parish in Manteca, was one of nearly 50 priests honored recently in Fremont in conjunction with the worldwide celebration of “Year for Priests” declared by Pope Benedict XVI.

Father James Franck of the Precious Blood Society and a former associate pastor of St. Anthony’s in Manteca was also among those at the appreciation event sponsored by the Filipino Society of the Holy Spirit Parish in Fremont.

The priests represented the Diocese of San Jose, Diocese of San Francisco, Diocese of Oakland, the Diocese of Sacramento, and the Diocese of Stockton. Those recognized included the Most Rev. Salvatore Cordileone, Fourth Bishop of Oakland, and Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, Archbishop of Manila, Philippines.

The Cardinal, along with about four priests from the Philippines, were unable to attend the celebration held at the Marriot Hotel in Fremont.

The purpose of the dinner event was to recognize the many ways that the priests have impacted the lives of their sheep through their various ministries.

Before coming to Manteca, Father Dammay served as associate pastor at Stanislaus Parish and at St. Joseph’s Church, both in Modesto. He was appointed parochial vicar of St. Anthony’s on Aug. 15, 2006.

He is also the current chaplain and spiritual director of the Legion of Mary in the Diocese of Stockton.

The recipient of two STAR awards from the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council, Father Dammay completed his seminary studies in the Philippines. He said his vocation was “greatly influenced by my devout parents and grandparents who always encouraged me to pray as a young boy and to serve as altar server at Mass at a young age.”

He came to the United States on Nov. 18, 1999. Recently, he proudly announced to St. Anthony’s parishioners that he is now a U.S. citizen.

Pope Benedict XVI declared the 12-month  period from June 2009 to June 2010 as the “Year for Priests” to “deepen the commitment of all priests to interior renewal for the sake of a more forceful and incisive witness to the Gospel in today’s world.”

According to world data available, there are 408,024 priests worldwide serving 1.147 billion Catholics. In the United States alone, there are 40,666 priests serving a Catholic population of 65.2 million faithful.

About 51,300 parishes worldwide are without resident pastors, according to the same source. In the United States, there are 3,400 parishes that are without a resident pastor.