When Father Joe Moniz first came to St. Philip the Apostle Church in Pasadena in 1998, parishioners did not know what to expect. How would an Indian-born priest connect with their multi-cultural Southern California parish community? Parishioners questioned whether his Indian accent would make homilies difficult to understand or if he could say a Mass in Spanish.
To the delight and surprise of the community, Father Joe’s homilies were heard loud and clear. Father Joe is fluent in 3 languages—English, Spanish, and Portuguese.
“We were surprised he could speak Spanish. He was very helpful with the Spanish community,” said William Landa, who is a deacon at St. Philip the Apostle Church.
Born in Goa, India, Father Joe spoke Portuguese at home. At the age of 10, he entered the papal seminary in Pune, which is a Catholic boarding school preparing young men for the demands of being a priest.
“The papal seminary is for students who will become diocesan priests. It gave me an introduction to English,” said Father Joe.
Father Joe Moniz was ordained to the priesthood on May 10 1964, at the age of 22.
In 1966, Father Joe came to California for graduate school at Loyola Marymount University. Two years later he earned a master’s degree in education. During this time he was in residence at American Martyrs Catholic Church in Manhattan Beach.
Father Joe went on to be an associate pastor at St. Raymond’s Catholic Church in Downey, where he enjoyed serving the youth in various capacities including the Life Teen ministry, which was a passion of his during his priesthood.
His next assignment took Father Joe to St. Rose of Lima in Simi Valley. He worked as an Associate Pastor with particular interests in RCIA, youth ministry and jail ministry. Father Joe also served at St. Catherine’s in Reseda.
In addition, he earned a Doctorate in Ministry from Saint Mary’s in Baltimore. His dissertation was entitled “Women’s Place in the Church as Clergy View It.”
His next assignment was at St. Joseph’s in Hawthorne, a largely Hispanic community. Since he wasn't yet fluent in Spanish, he spent six weeks in Bolivia to polish his Spanish skills before ministering to the 80% Latino community as co-pastor of the parish for 10 years.
“I am passionate about speaking Spanish. It is a big accomplishment in my life,” said Father Joe.
Father Joe took his Spanish skills to St. Philip the Apostle Church where he could continue to minister to the Spanish community. He often said the 12:30 p.m. Spanish Mass for the community. Not only is Father Joe proud of his work with the Spanish community and Life Teen, but he is proud of his advocacy for the school.
“My biggest contribution has been the school, and its buildings. It is in a better place. I feel really proud about that,” said Father Joe.
Parishioners of St. Philip the Apostle Church threw a farewell party for their beloved pastor of 20 years, in June. He was instrumental in helping to rebuild the parish school and shape the vision for its future.
“Father Joe embraced the need and he brought a large group together. He said this is ‘important.’ He engaged a lot of people in the parish and asked how can we do this?” said Ed Roohan, a past school parent and parishioner.
Under Father Joe’s leadership, a master plan was completed, and St. Philip’s engaged in a formal assessment of its facilities in the immediate and long term needs of the parish community. The effort allowed St. Philip the Apostle Church to embark on a Capital Campaign, which successfully sought to raise $15 million dollars.
Funds raised went to build Holy Angel Hall, which doubles as the parish hall and the school’s gymnasium in 2005. A year later, renovations were made to the existing school structure as well as construction of a new state-of-the-art school building, which enabled the entire school to be located in one secure, safe place.
Father Joe’s legacy at St. Philip’s will continue well into the future as he also encouraged Principal Jennifer Ramirez to build a TK program, which opens this fall for four-year-old children.
Father Joe has been loved by the St. Philip’s community, so much so, that a group of donors have bought him a condo close to the parish, so that he can stay close by.
“In my retirement, I would like to give my first presence to St. Philip’s. I would also like to travel a bit, maybe take a sabbatical in Portugal, and minister for priests there, so that they can take a vacation,” said Father Joe.
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