Father Cameron Faller teaches a theology class at Riordan.
Archbishop appointing young priests as high school chaplains
January 26th, 2016
By Valerie Schmalz
Father Cameron Faller was ordained in June and started as a theology teacher and chaplain at Archbishop Riordan High School in August. Father Mark Doherty was ordained one and one-half years ago and also was assigned to an archdiocesan Catholic high school, Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, immediately.
Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone said his own experience as a young priest working as a chaplain at a local Catholic high school influenced his placement of the priests.
“Although 30 years later, I still have fond memories of the year when, as a young priest, I taught and ministered part time in a local Catholic high school. I learned then how well young students respond to the presence and pastoral attention of young priests,” Archbishop Cordileone said.
“I have felt truly blessed to be on the campus and to just deal with the guys,” said Father Faller, 27.
The archdiocese approved a special Sunday evening Mass at the school once a month and Father Faller also celebrates the school’s monthly Masses, as well as the 7:10 a.m. Friday Mass in the chapel. He teaches theology, goes on retreats, but also is the chaplain of the football team, goes to games, attends team dinners and spends as much time as possible with the boys at Riordan, he said. “The role of the chaplain needs to be to have this personal encounter with the students, to have that personal presence.”
“The archbishop has given priority to the faith life of his Catholic schools, the four archdiocesan high schools,” said Msgr. Robert Sheeran, director of mission and ministry at Marin Catholic High School, and the only full-time chaplain at an archdiocesan Catholic high school. Msgr. Sheeran began in 2011, following former president Father Tom Daly’s appointment as bishop. He retired as president of Seton Hall University, having spent a lifetime working with young people.
Father Faller also is parochial vicar at Church of the Epiphany and Father Doherty is also parochial vicar for St. Peter and for St. Anthony-Immaculate Conception parishes.
“It is an age when students are beginning to grapple with the really big questions in life, and are open to deepening their life of faith. Young priests can create great excitement for the Lord among our young people, and young people can bring forth all the best pastoral instincts in new priests,” said Archbishop Cordileone.
“I experienced that myself, and that’s the reason I take such delight in appointing young or new priests as chaplains in our archdiocesan high schools. They help our students discover their vocation in life and so respond to God’s call to holiness, and the students in return help our priests to grow more deeply in their priestly identity and spirituality,” the archbishop said.
“Chaplains are significantly invested in their schools as role models of the priesthood in this complex and often fragmented world, and in my experience, receive enormous gratitude for their work from both students and parents,” said Nina Russo, archdiocesan schools superintendent. “Priests who become part of our children’s lives bring beauty, kindness and truth to the high school community, countering the noise and distractions of adolescence.”
“It’s been great having Father Faller here,” said Vittorio Anastasio, principal of Riordan High School. “Father Faller does an excellent job of mentoring the student leaders and in return they go on to take their roles very seriously and have a positive impact.”
To Ken Peralta, football coach at Sacred Heart Cathedral, taking the football team to Mass on game day helps fulfill what he sees as a primary reason for a Catholic school education: “To grow closer to their faith. At the end of the day, that is the reason for Catholic school.”
At the Friday morning Mass in October, SHC chaplain Father Doherty tied the demands of the Catholic faith to the rigors of preparing for football. “If we want to become excellent athletes, if we want to become excellent football players,” Father Doherty said in his homily, “we have to find the will to be excellent down the road.” Father Doherty urged the players to “find the deeper ground, rely on the deeper ground.”
From January 28, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.