Five men who have modeled their lives after the example of Jesus in serving their church and community were honored Sept. 30 as Distinguished Alumni of St. John’s Seminary for 2012. Cardinal William Levada, Monsignors Timothy Dyer, Donal Mulcahy and Jeremiah McCarthy, and Marvin J. Southard. All received theological formation at St. John’s Seminary Theologate and/or College prior to their priesthood or — as with Southard, director of Los Angeles County’s Department of Mental Health — a career in public service.The fifth annual event, to support ongoing formation at St. John’s Seminary, brings to 25 the number of Distinguished Alumni honored since 2008. Among the attendees were Archbishop José Gomez, Cardinal Roger Mahony and retired San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer, who presented Cardinal Levada — a fellow alumnus of St. Anthony High School, Long Beach — during the awards portion of the dinner.As the prefect (and now prefect emeritus) of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican, Cardinal Levada “has shown a deep and intense love for the church, and a wonderful ecclesial spirituality,” said Archbishop Niederauer. “He delights in meeting people, he has a marvelous recall of names — and it is my privilege to call him friend.”Cardinal Levada, ordained to the priesthood in 1961, fondly recalled his days at St. John’s where “I learned the importance of prayer, of learning to pray the Hours, to celebrate the Mass. This is where we came to better understand our faith, and to learn how to bring others to the faith — to be sent forth to make disciples for the Lord.”Msgr. McCarthy, a priest of the Tucson Diocese, is executive director of the Seminary Department for the National Catholic Educational Association and a former rector of St. John’s Seminary. Father Jack Stoeger, former spiritual director at the seminary and now director of the Cardinal Manning House of Prayer for Priests, noted that the priest is, ideally, “a bridge to a stronger relationship with our Lord, an agent of God’s grace — qualities embodied by Jerry McCarthy.”Msgr. McCarthy, as did other honorees, credited his vocation to a strong family environment. “”Every vocation comes from great love, because we have been blessed by great examples of love as we journey in our priesthood,” he said. Former State Sen. Roy Ashburn, who worked with Southard when the latter was mental health director for Kern County, recalled that Southard was a parish RCIA director “who invited me into our church. In his parish life as well as in his work, he’s touched the lives of thousands, proving that you can serve in government and be a good person. God works through him every day.”Southard, who graduated from St. John’s Seminary College in 1971, said he had been profoundly influenced by his seminary experience, by the support and love of his family, and by those he has worked with who suffer from mental illness. “The love they have shown has changed me,” he said sincerely. “I have learned so much from them, and for that I am forever grateful.”Msgr. Mulcahy, pastor emeritus of Our Lady of the Assumption Church, Ventura, was introduced by Msgr. Liam Kidney, pastor of Corpus Christi Church in Pacific Palisades, who was a young seminarian when he first met him in 1964 at a parish in Santa Ana. “It was such an eye-opening experience for me,” said Msgr. Kidney. “I looked at Don, and the priests he served with, and I thought, ‘These guys are so happy, so joyful, they get along so well — someday, I want to be part of that.’ And throughout the years I’ve known him, Don has always taught me and others what it means to be genuinely pastoral in your priesthood.”Msgr. Mulcahy recalled that when he came to St. John’s from Ireland for health reasons, he immediately thought, “The Garden of Eden must be somewhere around here,” he smiled. “And throughout my priesthood, I have always appreciated the kindness of the bishops, the priests and the people I’ve served with. St. John’s has wonderful memories I will always treasure the rest of my life.”Msgr. Jim Forsen, director of the archdiocesan Office of Vocations, said he went to the parishioners of Msgr. Dyer, pastor of St. Patrick and St. Stephen of Hungary parishes in Los Angeles, and formerly at Nativity and St. Columbkille in South L.A., for thoughts on their leader. Among the comments: “I wish there were more priests like Father Tim”; “He has the true spirit of God”; “He taught me that a priest is a server”; “He means the world to me.”Msgr. Dyer said his experiences working in the inner city had brought him into contact with “so many heroic people, who have shown me so much.” And, he added, “I’ve learned how important it is to make friends with the poor, because the kingdom of God will belong to them” — he smiled — “and I hope they will remember me when it’s my turn to go before the Lord.”He addressed his final words to the seminarians who served the dinner and provided hospitality on this evening; “Seminarians, love your people, and you will be rewarded with treasures far beyond your imagination, no matter where you serve.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/1012/distinguished/{/gallery}