The following comes from a May 13 release issued by Thomas Aquinas College.
After an all-too-brief tenure as Thomas Aquinas College’s Head Chaplain, Rev. Joseph Illo will be departing this summer, with plans to establish a new oratory in the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
At the invitation of His Excellency Salvatore Cordileone, archbishop of San Francisco, Father Illo will become one of two priests at the city’s St. Mary, Star of the Sea, Church. “We will pastor a parish, of course, and support its school, and work on other pastoral initiatives as the Archbishop directs us,” Father Illo explains. “But none of our work will be effective if we don’t first ‘devote ourselves to the teaching of the Apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers’ (Acts 2).” To that end, the Oratory will “provide secular priests with a community in which to live fraternal charity, in order that they might render authentic priestly service.” As Father Illo observes, “Charity begins at home, but most priests don’t have a home.”
The priestly communal life that he intends to foster in San Francisco, Father Illo says, is modeled after the sort that he experienced over the last two years as a chaplain at the College. “Every day here, the three of us priests, with some students and teachers, pray the morning office together. I can’t describe the joy and energy with which these prayers fill me,” he says. “Never do I love my brothers more than when I am praying with them from the heart. This is what we hope for in the Oratory: a common life of prayer, familiar discourse on the Word of God, and the continual exercise of fraternal charity.”
Upon joining the College at the start of the 2012-13 academic year, Father Illo embraced every aspect of campus life. For the last two years he has led hikes in the Los Padres National Forest, accompanied the students on their annual pilgrimage to the Walk for Life West Coast, organized vocations talks on campus, hosted receptions for students, and established a Chaplains’ Newsletter. More important, he has been tireless in promoting the spiritual life of the College, offering Mass at least once a day, spending countless hours in the confessional, and providing spiritual direction to all who request it.
On May 4 the College hosted a barbecue dinner in Father Illo’s honor. On behalf of the College, Dean Brian Kelly presented the chaplain with a gift of St. Thomas’s Commentary on the Pauline Epistles. Father Illo then spoke a few words to those gathered. [See below] Following the dinner, Father Illo lead a procession to the Lourdes Grotto for a May crowning of the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Father Illo’s remarks at the going-away barbecue:
Thank you for coming to say goodbye to someone who was with you only briefly. It’s a good reason to have a barbecue — many thanks to the cooks!
Briefly indeed — I hardly got to know you, but what I did get to know has been with a Tolkienesque affection and reverence. I feel like Bilbo at his eleventy-first birthday speech, but I won’t repeat his cryptically ambivalent modalism on that occasion (something about not knowing half of you half as much as I’d want). It’s been brief — I had intended to be at TAC for three years, but Archbishop Cordileone asked if we could get moving on the San Francisco Oratory this year. “Are you bound by contract with TAC?” he asked me last year. “Just bound by fraternal charity,” I told him, “and there’s lots of that here in Santa Paula.”
In fact, I discovered “love” right away at TAC. I had interviewed with several other Catholic colleges, all of whom offered me chaplaincies, but only TAC offered me a job with these words: “We love you, Father, and we hope you will take this position.” So devastatingly disarming — you might guess that our esteemed dean uttered those words, so characteristic of our beloved Dr. Kelly.
My dad was a college professor, and I’ve always wanted to be a college professor. I was on my way to becoming one when I sensed a call to the priesthood, so I switched from literature to theology. But these two years have been a kind of dreamy sabbatical between parish assignments, at least living with college professors and strolling through breezy quadrangles between classes.
Thomas Aquinas College is all about truth, but even more obviously for brief sojourners like me, the College manifests beauty. The afternoon sun on Santa Paula Ridge, for example; the morning sun that first touches the Topatopa bluffs; young voices ringing out the glory of God in a perfectly proportioned chapel; students sprawled under spreading oak trees with Plato and Aquinas, or playing soccer on broad green swards; spirited Shakespeare plays and Gilbert and Sullivan operettas somehow rehearsed to near-perfection alongside ambitious academic loads.
I hope the San Francisco Oratory will be counted among TAC’s many friends and supporters for years to come. I hope we can send students to you, and you can send an occasional “discerning young man” to us (if he can escape the titanic forces emanating from TAC’s lovely females). Much good work has already been accomplished at the future Oratory parish in San Francisco: a healthy elementary school and the Latin Mass every day. It is close to a few universities, and Archbishop Cordileone has indicated we put particular energy into youth and young adults, as is consistent with the charism of St. Philip Neri. I thank you for affording me a brief stay with you; I ask your prayers for our fledgling Oratory of priests in San Francisco, and assure you of ours.
To read original posting, click here.
Father Illo, if you read this, could you elaborate on how you were called to the priesthood?
Also, if any other priest reads this could you help with how to know if you are called to the priesthood or even if there are “early signs” that you might be called.
Or if any parents or friends of priests know anything to help discernment.
Yes Anonymous, first start by prayer coupled with weekly spiritual direction by a faithful and wise priest. Pray before the Blessed Sacrament for an hour each day and I promise God will reveal His will to you.
God bless this good and faithful priest, and may the Good Lord guide him always.
This is a Holy priest
We were so lucky to have him offer many of our Latin high masses at St. Mary Magdalen Chapel (every Sunday at 10am). Godspeed dear Father.
To donate to this new initiative in San Francisco:
For information on the SMM TLM in Camarillo see:
Hey San Francisco, the Holy Spirit is ushering in a new era. Be not afraid! You will have this faithful priest to help shepherd you. God Bless Father Illo!
Is it Mary, Star of the Sea in Sausalito or Star of the Sea in SF? I’m guessing SF?
We welcome Fr. Illo and the oratory with open hearts and arms to San Francisco, the city of St. Francis. The oratory will be a much needed blessing to the city of brotherly love.
I will miss your sermons on Sunday at St.Thomas Aquinas. God Bless you and the oratory!
It is wonderful to have the Tridentine Latin Mass, at Star of the Sea Church, in San Francisco. It is also wonderful, to establish an oratory there, with Fr. Illo’s direction. However, when I first began to attend the Tridentine Mass at this church, the San Francisco Latin Mass Society stated that they wanted everyone to pay a yearly fee of $200, to join! Many of us could not afford to do this! Well, I am hoping this situation can change!
A $200 annual fee to join a Society sounds interesting. Is that a condition precedent of attending the Tridentine Masses?
A “condition precedent”? As Bill Murray asked in Where the Buffalo Roam, “What are you, a law student or something?!” If it is a ‘condition precedent’ it’s way too cheap considering the spiritual benefits!
Cheap it may be, but it is also I believe a violation of Canon Law!
May God have mercy on an amoral Amerika!
Viva Cristo Rey!
Yours in Their Hearts,
Kenneth M. Fisher
If Father Illo becomes the new pastor at Saint Mary Star of the Sea (San Francisco), what will happen to the current pastor (Father Mazza) who STARTED the Tridentine Mass at Star?
Is he being moved away, to make room the Father Illo?
I’ve attended the Sunday morning Latin Mass at Star of the Sea (SF) regularly over the past year, and I can state the following: (1) Membership in the TLM Society of SF and the payment of its dues are absolutely NOT any sort of prerequisite of attendance of this Mass; I’m not a Society member and have paid no dues; (2) Yes, Fr Mazza, the current pastor, is leaving August 1, and will be reassigned to another parish following a brief sabbatical (this is per his announcement at Mass a few weeks ago).