Following five memorable years of devoted tenure as priest secretary to Archbishop José H. Gomez, Father Brian Casta√±eda will be stepping down next month to “walk with the people” as a parish priest at St. Gregory the Great, Whittier, where he will begin serving as pastor July 1.

As he fondly looks back on his unforgettable experiences as priest secretary to Archbishop Gomez, and excitedly looks ahead to serving his future parishioners, Father Casta√±eda spoke with The Tidings about his years of service to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles — where he was ordained in 1999 at St. John of God, Norwalk — reflected on his time as priest secretary, and discussed his future plans.

Can you share a description of your calling to the priesthood?I have always thought about the priesthood since I was a child, around 9 to 10 years old. However, the notion of my vocation started becoming more evident beginning around my junior year in high school and my time studying at the University of Southern California (USC).

During those years, I became more involved at my home parish, St. Brendan in Los Angeles, as a basketball and volleyball coach to the fifth- and eighth-grade students, and more involved in the parish as a lector and extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.

Then it was one priest who advised me, “Enter the college seminary, and if you realize that this is not for you, finish school and walk away. At least you can say you tried. Then, close that door in your life and move forward.”

After prayerful discernment, I left USC after two years and entered St. John Seminary College in the fall of 1992. … I have not looked back, and now I simply enjoy the gift of the priesthood in my life.

Can you provide an overview of your service to the Los Angeles Archdiocese?I have served the archdiocese [since my ordination], for a total of 16 years, from 1999-2002 at St. Alphonsus, East Los Angeles; 2002-2007 as associate pastor to open the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels; 2007-2010 as pastor of twinned parishes Holy Spirit and St. Mary Magdalen, Los Angeles; and 2010 to the present as priest secretary to Archbishop Gomez.

What are five things you learned, or memorable moments you experienced, during your tenure as the archbishop’s secretary?

1) The Mass of Welcome: When the archbishop was welcomed into the Archdiocese of Los Angeles as coadjutor archbishop.

2) The vastness and size of the archdiocese: Driving from one end of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to the other is an impressive reality of who we are as an archdiocese.

3) The Pallium: Celebrating with Archbishop Gomez receiving the pallium from then Pope Benedict XVI. It teaches us, in a more direct way, how truly connected we are with the Holy Father and Rome.

4) The ACC (Archdiocesan Catholic Center): It is a special ministry to help with the needs of the entire archdiocese. Whether we are looking for catechetical formation, annulments for marriage cases or even discernment in vocations, the ACC is here to help each of us.

5) The diversity and faithfulness of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles: It has been beautiful to see that the Church of Los Angeles is fully alive. Going from parish to parish was a joy, allowing me to experience the love the people have for God and for their Church.

What do you most look forward to as pastor of St. Gregory the Great?I look forward to being a parish priest again — to walking with the people of God in their joys and challenges, in their hopes and sufferings, to know their hearts, their lives and their stories. I look forward to bringing the pastoral presence of the Good Shepherd into the lives of the people, especially through the sacraments.

Do you have a final thought regarding this transition in your priestly journey?It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the archdiocese in the ministry as priest secretary to Archbishop Gomez. This experience has allowed me to grow as a man and as a priest and has prepared me to enter into a new chapter in my life as pastor of St. Gregory the Great.

I humbly ask for prayers for me and the people of God at St. Gregory, as we will pray for all of you. We are always united in prayer.