Fr. Jairo Ramirez, a popular priest among the parishioners of the Hispanic community of St. Anthony’s Church in Manteca collapsed and died Saturday night while attending a Hispanic dinner dance at Modesto’s St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.
Fr. Ramirez, 56, had been assigned to St. Anthony’s for the past three years from his native Columbia. He was described as a joyful, happy man, always laughing and always with people, especially after Mass when his congregation would crowd around him in front of the church.
Before the beginning of the Mass service he would walk out from the sacristy and greet those already in the pews, blessing them and just talking casually with his people. He was known as the primary celebrant for the Hispanic Mases at 5 p.m. Saturday and 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.
He cherished the pictures that had been taken with the late Pope John Paul and Mother Theresa – both since proclaimed to be saints in their own right. Fr. Ramirez passed away on the feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary and was known to carry his rosary with him constantly reciting the decades and its stories of the life of Christ. He also loved to travel mostly on pilgrimages and prided himself on his collection of more than 100 Nativity scenes.
He was ordained to the priesthood by Monsignor Alfonso Uribe Jaramillo Nov. 5, 1988. He studied philosophy and theology at the Seminary “Christ Priest” of La Ceja, Columbia.
Fr. Ramirez first served at Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Diocese of Sacramento in 1993 and then to St. Mary’s in Stockton for eight years, then on to St. Anne’s in Lodi from 2002 until 2010; Sacred Heart, Turlock for two years, and finally St. Anthony’s in Manteca for three years.
People from other parishes he had served were known to follow him to St. Anthony’s and fill his office in the parish house and greet him in front of the church after he finished saying his regular Mass.
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