This past week the St. Patrick's community said its farewells to our President-Rector, Bishop Robert F. Christian, OP, who had passed suddenly in his sleep. His well-attended funeral was at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco. A recording of the funeral is embedded below.
While he was with the seminary for a short six months before his passing, Bishop Christian made a significant impact on all of us individually and on the seminary as a whole. He focused on three major items: executing a comprehensive survey of the morale of the seminarians by meeting with each of them on an individual basis, filling some critical hires including a new Academic Dean, Director of Advancement, and several important faculty positions, and maintaining momentum in the operations, advancement, and communications plans. He hired Dr. Anthony Lilles as our new Academic Dean, who has previously successfully served as Academic Dean at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo and Saint John Vianney Seminary in Denver. Also, our new advancement director starts at the end of July.
He also maintained execution on the Seminary’s 2018-2019 operations plans and finished the 2019-2020 budgeting planning process. Significant improvements to the campus grounds were completed on-time, including a new electronic security system, better irrigation system in our beautiful front grounds, and newly-installed water heaters and laundry equipment. He finalized plans for our project to remodel the dining hall and started discussion on other long-term campus improvements. Bishop Christian also successfully reintroduced after an 18-month hiatus the Patrician Magazine to communicate with the wider St. Patrick’s community. Lastly, he successfully completed the Spring Rector Appeal and kicked off the planning for our 2019 Annual Gala honoring Ignatius Press, scheduled for Saturday September 14th.
His passing is a great loss for our community. He touched our lives in so many ways as a priest, bishop, teacher, administrator, and spiritual guide. From the casual conversations in the refectory at breakfast and lunch to formal ceremonies or business meetings, Bishop Christian always exhibited a good-natured approachable personality. Yet, he had a strong ability to understand complex issues, incorporate feedback from his team, and make quick decisions on how best to move forward.
Bishop Christian held the St. Patrick's community in high esteem. In the Spring 2019 Patrician, he wrote:
"As always, the theme of gratitude runs through these pages. We are grateful that God calls generous men to serve His people in this difficult time for the Church. We are thankful that St. Patrick’s Seminary welcomes seminarians from five states, Guam, and South Korea. Here they are served by professors, spiritual directors, administrators, and staff representing the diversity of the Church in this part of the United States, while assuring a strong commitment to passing on the faith that keeps such diversity united. The faculty includes diocesan and religious priests and lay women and men, all of whom share a common vision for the training of tomorrow’s priests according to the four dimensions of formation: human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral. This remarkable community is certainly a source of pride and thanksgiving."
We will move forward and honor Bishop Christian by ensuring that St. Patrick's Seminary grows "not only in age, but also in wisdom and grace." For that, we know he would be "immensely grateful."