Letters to the Editor

Remembering Father Valencia

Dear Editor: Recently, The Tablet reported on the passing of Father Carlos Valencia, former pastor of St. John Evangelist in the mid-1990s. I had the good fortune of working for him from 1994 to 1996 and so much comes back to me now that I feel compelled share a few words (he always asked me to keep it short) about that time.

I was 51 and he was 36 when he hired me for a part-time CCD position at St. John the Evangelist after I had been laid off from a marvelous full-time adult education position at another parish due to parish finances. I was not exactly thrilled at first with this transition although I was pleased that he also offered me the RCIA work.

As I look back on it all now, I am amazed that not once did I ever say to myself: “How could this new young pastor be my boss – I mean I am a real veteran in church work and this guy is 15 years younger than I.” It never occurred to me until now that it never occurred to me.

As time went on, I began to see how much the parish, the program and my lending my contribution to rebuilding the program there meant to him. I also remember how he could take me into his confidence at times, and yet always maintained his role as pastor and employer, no easy task for a new young pastor with someone like me.

He met weekly with me sometimes over dinner and at times we had some marvelous conversations about our experiences doing church work. His focus was always on the program, and after a few months in my first year he informed me that he wanted to have a private meeting with the catechists about how I was doing. Again I am amazed that he handled all of it so well (including talking to me about it before and afterwards) that not only was I not annoyed at it, but also welcomed it and learned so much from the overall experience.

He was serious but also had a wonderful sense of humor that made all my encounters with him pleasant even when he was tense or upset with whatever was going on in the parish.

One time he came into the rectory and called out to the receptionist, me and his dog, “Does anybody here want to be a pastor?” It was amusing but even the dog didn’t take him up on it. One hour later he was back to his old hard-working self.

During my second year there, I picked up a full-time public school teaching position, which somehow never interfered with my parish work mainly due to his support. The year after that I got another full-time church position in a completely different type of parish and only now do I realize how much those two years at St. John the Evangelist prepared me for that experience.

David Powell

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