Celebrating four decades of service

Seminarians honored in Mass and feast at St. Theresa Church

Bishop Larry Silva (center) celebrates Mass with fellow priests Sunday at St. Theresa Church in Kihei. Also taking part in the consecration are the Rev. Steven Brown (from left), the Rev. Robert “Doc” Charm, the Rev. Larry Hendel, Bishop Randolph Calvo and the Rev. Fred Riccio. All except Silva are graduates of the St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, Calif., Class of 1977. Silva also graduated from St. Patrick’s, but in 1975. The Maui News / BRIAN PERRY photo

KIHEI — Members of St. Patrick’s Seminary Class of 1977 could have gone to Europe, Las Vegas or the San Francisco Bay Area to celebrate their 40 years of priesthood, but they chose to come to Maui where they’ve been hosted by their classmate, the Rev. Msgr. Terrence Watanabe, Maui vicar forane and pastor at St. Theresa Church in Kihei.

And, during Mass on Sunday at St. Theresa, it became clear that Watanabe’s nine classmates weren’t simply attracted to Maui for its sun and surf.

As a seminarian, “Father Terry had a way of throwing great parties,” said Reno, Nev., Bishop Randolph Calvo during his homily. “And he continues to outdo himself.”

Indeed, the St. Theresa parish community filled the church for Mass on Sunday and then rolled out the red carpet for Watanabe’s classmates with music, hula and a luncheon in the church hall.

It was Calvo, though, who brought home the meaning of the priests’ four decades of service.

The Rev. Msgr. Terrence Watanabe, St. Theresa Church pastor and Maui Vicar Forane, (right front) stands with Hawaii Vicar General the Rev. Msgr. Gary Secor as they prepare to take part in a Mass celebrating the 40th anniversary of the St. Patrick‘s Seminary Class of 1977. The Maui News / BRIAN PERRY photo

He quoted Dag Hammarskjold, the late Swedish diplomat, 1961 Nobel Peace Prize-winner and United Nations secretary-general, who said: “For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, yes.”

“A few simple words, but they reflect what’s in our hearts as we look back on 40 years and look ahead,” Calvo said. “These 40 years have been packed with joys, sorrows, experiences, people, challenges, ups and downs; in short — life, blessed with God’s graces.”

Calvo quoted from the Book of Proverbs, which says, “Without a vision, a people perish.”

He referred to the Mass’s second reading about the vision on a mountaintop that can be a “lamp shining in a dark place.”

“We need visions, for they shine a light to guide us, give sense to lives, and point a direction for our journey,” said Calvo, a native of Guam. “Our faith in Jesus gives us vision. And this is what animated our ministry as priests these 40 years as we proclaim God’s word and celebrated the sacraments.”

Flanked by Maui Deacons Ken Bissen (left) and Stephen Maglente, Bishop Larry Silva begins to walk toward the altar to celebrate Mass on Sunday at St. Theresa Church in Kihei. The Maui News / BRIAN PERRY photo

Silva not only celebrated Mass with members of the seminary class. He also celebrated his 68th birthday, with cake and a chorus of “Happy Birthday” from the St. Theresa choir and congregation.

Silva was two years ahead of the Class of ’77 at St. Patrick’s in Menlo Park, Calif.

“They drove me crazy,” he said, adding that it was “fun crazy.”

He recalled working with Watanabe on a 75th anniversary celebration of the seminary in 1973.

Silva said his main concern was “budget,” and Watanabe’s was “whatever we could do.”

Graduates of the St. Patrick’s Seminary Class of 1977 gather around Bishop Larry Silva (fourth in front row) for a group photo Sunday. The group has been hosted by St. Theresa pastor and Maui Vicar Forane the Rev. Msgr. Terrence Watanabe (front row, far right). Other members of the seminary class include the Rev. Denny Knurek (front row, left to right), the Rev. Larry Hendel, Bishop Randolph Calvo, Silva, the Rev. Robert “Doc” Charm and Watanabe. In the rear row are Hawaii Vicar General the Rev. Msgr. Gary Secor (left to right), the Rev. Fred Riccio, the Rev. Tom Reilly, the Rev. Steven Brown and the Rev. James Fredericks. The Maui News / BRIAN PERRY photo

“He won, of course,” he said.

Watanabe said he was “very excited” to have hosted his seminary classmates.

“Some I haven’t seen for 40 years,” he said.

Watanabe was born in Wailuku on April 5, 1951, to Alan Watanabe and Eleanor Rocha. He attended Christ the King Elementary School in Kahului and St. Stephen High School in Kaneohe, Oahu. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Chaminade University in Honolulu and received his Master’s of Divinity in theology from St. Patrick’s Seminary.

Before becoming St. Theresa’s pastor in December 2008, Watanabe was pastor at Holy Family and St. Philomena churches in Honolulu and rector at Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, also in Honolulu. Earlier, he was associate pastor at St. John Vianney Church in Kailua and Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Pearl City, both on Oahu.

Watanabe is the former vicar-general for former Hawaii Bishop Joseph Ferrario and former moderator of the curia.

Now, Watanabe serves on the Maui Advisory Board of Catholic Charities Hawaii, the St. Anthony Schools board of directors and the boards of directors of the Hawaii Medical Service Association, Boys & Girls Clubs of Maui and Mental Health Kokua, among others. He’s president of Faith in Action for Community Equity.

Watanabe said that among the highlights of his service in the priesthood has been serving all lay people involved in church who are “taking seriously the call to ministry.”

“On this journey, I’m not doing this alone, but for the people of God,” he said.

St. Theresa is known for its Hale Kau Kau program, which provides a free, hot, nutritious meal to hungry and homebound people every day of the year.

And that’s one way, Watanabe said, that the church works to “improve the lives of people in the community.”

The parish’s mission is “rooted in Jesus, we love and serve others,” he said. “Hopefully, that’s something that’s taken root in our hearts.”

* Brian Perry can be reached at bperry@mauinews.com.