How shall I return to the Lord for all the good He has done to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, (Psalm 116:12-13).

I would like to think that these 30 years have not been in vain, that the experiences and time have made some changes in me for the better. I am not sure of this, but I am certain that I am grateful for the different experiences and people that God has put in my life since the beginning. To all of them—many who are alive and others who are with the Lord—to all of them, I am and will remain eternally grateful. I would like to describe what each has taught me, what I still keep in my heart.  

Father Sergio Noe Ovando

My mother, my family, taught me that love is unconditional. This love has nothing to do with my successes or failures, with following their desires going the opposite way, or receiving the love or recognition of others. My mother loved me for no reason at all, except that I was her son. The same is true of my family: they do not love me because I am a priest or because I am good or bad, not even because I can help them or not. Their love is simply because of who I am. Somehow, they show me the image of God, and God’s unconditional love.

Missionary work taught me that the church is more me or “us,” more than a country, language or customs. It was a grace to understand the basic concept that our God, our faith and our Church are larger and greater than any or all of us. 

Bishop McGrath showed me the face of a real father, being himself the reflection of our Heavenly Father. In a simple and profound way, he taught me how to be a father. 

My time in Rome taught me the importance of education and of continuing to learn every day, love for the truth and especially of love and union with our Holy Father, the Pope. 

Some priests, among whom is Msgr. Cilia, show me the meaning of “Sensus Ecclesiae”—to feel, to think and to want to be with the Church, no matter the leader or the circumstances. Always doing one’s best to work in communion, theologically, spiritually and pastorally with the local and universal Church. From others, like Msgr. Rios, a friend from my youth, I am still learning kindness and the ability to say yes, when I really do not want to.  

I have learned—and am still learning—especially from my parishioners and my friends, kindness, patience and understanding. From people in all the parishes and places I have served, I experience your kindness to bear with my mistakes, the language I speak, and the way I do things. People like you are those who sustain priests to continue to serve, day after day and year after year.  

From you, the People of God, I have learned from your generosity, your willingness to help in many ways, sharing your gifts, your time and your talent. Your generosity compels me to examine my life and learn from you. 

I cannot know how many more years the Good Lord had prepared for me, or how they will be, but I am certain that I will be grateful for every moment and for each and every one of you.                                              

Father Sergio Noe Ovando is Pastor of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Catholic Church in Morgan Hill. An active member of the Interfaith Clergy Alliance, Father Sergio can be reached at [email protected].

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