Head Chaplain Father Joseph Illo is leaving Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif., this summer with plans to establish a new oratory in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, according to the College’s website.
Fr. Illo explained that the oratory will “provide secular priests with a community in which to live fraternal charity, in order that they might render authentic priestly service.”
College President Michael McLean said that they consider themselves blessed for Fr. Illo’s two years of service. The College reports:
The priestly communal life that he intends to foster in San Francisco, Fr. 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, Fr. 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 1 the College hosted a barbeque dinner in Fr. Illo’s honor. On behalf of the College, Dean Brian T. Kelly presented the chaplain with a gift of St. Thomas’s Commentary on the Pauline Epistles. Fr. Illo then spoke a few words to those gathered. “Thomas Aquinas College is all about truth, but even more obviously for brief sojourners like me, the College manifests beauty,” he said, recalling, “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.” Following the dinner, Fr. Illo lead a procession to the Lourdes Grotto for a May crowning of the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Thomas Aquinas College is recommended in The Newman Guide for its strong Catholic identity.
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