The following comes from a Feb. 13 posting on the blog of Father Joseph Illo.

I’ve been serving as chaplain to Thomas Aquinas College for the last two years and feel greatly privileged to work among such deeply Catholic educators and students. Recently, however, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has invited a priest-friend and me to establish an “Oratory of St. Philip Neri” in his city.

Most diocesan priests who pray their breviaries pray them alone. Those who do the daily holy hour do it alone, and those who pray their daily rosaries do so by themselves. I’ve done this, more or less, over the 24 years of my priesthood, and I’ve always desired greater priestly community. In my last parish (St. Joseph’s in Modesto) we did pray our holy hours together every morning, and I miss that here in the College. In 1996 I spent two weeks with the Missionaries of Charity Fathers in Tijuana, discerning if I should join their order. I concluded that God wanted me to remain “in the world,” pastoring a parish and evangelizing the workaday world. Now comes the opportunity to work in the world and live in community.

The Oratory is an Institute in the Church that allows “secular” (parish) priests to live in community under a rule of life. St. Philip Neri founded “the Oratory” in Rome in 1575 as a religious congregation of priests and brothers who lived in the parish of Santa Maria in Vallicella, now known as Chiesa Nuova, in downtown Rome. It provides a supportive rule of life for priests who desire a greater commitment to prayer in common. The most famous Oratorian Father for English-speakers is Blessed John Henry Newman, who brought the Oratory to England in 1848. Today there are 85 Oratories with 500 Oratorians in 19 countries. We would establish the first congregation of Oratorian Fathers in the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

We would begin with two priests and two brothers in a downtown parish with a large rectory, which Archbishop Cordileone has offered us. One of us priests would serve as pastor; we would build up the parish through beautiful liturgy and the lay apostolate, but focus also on evangelizing young adult professionals. The Archbishop has mentioned possibly establishing a Catholic center in one of the larger office buildings with daily Mass and confessions.

A few months ago we were discussing the enormous potential of the Oratory in San Francisco with Archbishop Cordileone. At one point he paused and smiled: “I’m a diocesan bishop, and so I have to think about money, too. I would need you to secure financial commitments to fund part of your living expenses over three years.” I knew he was going to get around to that sooner or later! But as Mother Teresa used to say, “Don’t worry about money. God has lots of it.” If the Lord Jesus and his holy Mother want an Oratory in San Francisco, they will find the money. But of course we have to ask for it.

Would you, my dear readers, like to help us establish the San Francisco Oratory of St. Philip Neri? One of the founding priests would receive a pastor’s salary, but the Archbishop needs us to obtain $220,000 in pledges to fund living expenses for the other three founders, contingent on our actual expenses. If each of you pledged $150 per year for three years, we would meet our goal. Some can pledge much more, and some less, but together we can present a commitment of full support to Archbishop Cordileone.

We don’t want any money right now, but only pledges of financial support. We would begin either the summer of 2014 or the summer of 2015, and would call upon those pledges only as needed from that time for three years. If you get a chance, look-up the “Oratory of St. Philip Neri” to better understand what kind of community and ministry we are seeking to establish in San Francisco. Ask God if He would like you to support this work with a pledge. If you can partner with Archbishop Cordileone and us, please fill out the pledge form below and keep the San Francisco Oratory of St. Philip Neri in your prayers.

We place this work in the hands of Immaculate Mary, Cause of Our Joy and Mother of the Church.

Yours sincerely in Christ


Fr. Joseph Illo
Head Chaplain, Thomas Aquinas College
Santa Paula, California

To read the original blog posting, click here.