Five men who have served the Catholic Church with dedicated heart and joyful spirit were honored Sept. 29 as the 2013 Distinguished Alumni from St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo.Archbishop George Niederauer, Monsignors Gary Bauler, Terrence Richey and Jerome Schmit, and Dr. Paul Ford received their awards at the sixth annual Distinguished Alumni Dinner held at St. John’s. All received theological formation from St. John’s, and have served the church through parish life, diocesan leadership and/or — as with Ford, professor of Systematic Theology and Liturgy at St. John’s — as teacher of future priests.The dinner, to support ongoing formation at St. John’s Seminary, brings to 30 the number of Distinguished Alumni honored since 2008. Appropriately, one of last year’s honorees, Cardinal William Levada, introduced retired San Francisco Archbishop Niederauer, who last year had introduced Cardinal Levada, his St. Anthony High School (Long Beach) classmate.“George is a kind man, a gentle man with a ready wit and tremendous knowledge,” said Cardinal Levada, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Archbishop Niederauer’s predecessor in San Francisco. He cited his friend’s many years of service — 27 years (five as rector) at St. John’s, two as director of the House of Prayer for Priests, 11 as bishop of Salt Lake City and seven as archbishop of San Francisco — as proof of his great gifts and skill in spiritual leadership.Archbishop Niederauer offered thanks to his own professors, students and friends. “I thank God for calling me to be a priest,” he said. “To be a companion with others on the road to priesthood is an enormous privilege, responsibility and grace. And I thank all who have prayed for me and supported me in my ministry.”Msgr. Wilbur Davis, a 2009 honoree and 1964 ordinand from St. John’s who serves in the Orange Diocese, presented his classmate. Msgr. Richey, longtime archdiocesan director of substance abuse ministry within the Vicar for Clergy’s Office.“Terry is truly a pastor,” he said, “not a pastor defined by traditional boundaries, but by the community he serves. He’s lived the recovery process, and given generously of his time to others. Most of us who are parish priests know our parishioners; Terry knows the world, and he is passionate about people who are marginalized by society, just as Christ was.”“I have been most blessed,” declared a smiling Msgr. Richey, who readily proclaims himself a recovering alcoholic, sober for 42 years. “I took the biggest problem of my life, got into recovery, and that was where I found my ministry. It was a topic that once was so difficult to bring up, even in polite company. So I am deeply grateful for this honor, and especially to work in recovery and in intervention.” Father Ronald Schmit, a priest of the Diocese of Oakland and the nephew of Msgr. Jerry Schmit, noted with a smile that his uncle prefers to be addressed as “Father” rather than “Monsignor,” not because of excessive humility, but “because he sees priest and pastor as a more important title. His love of Jesus and his concern for the poor has always inspired me.”Msgr. Schmit, pastor emeritus of Sacred Heart Church in Altadena, gave credit to his large family (he is the third of 10 brothers), because “it is family that nurtured me, and that is a great and important aspect of parish priesthood. The vision of priesthood should be tied to being in family with Jesus.”Now active “in retirement” doing missionary work in Mexico and Haiti, Msgr. Schmit credited the Catholic Worker and Dorothy Day for helping to “keep me focused on the poor and a radical way of dealing with the marginalized, like Jesus did.” And his “happy disposition,” he said, stems from the fact that “God has given me the gift of amazing health, and it is easy to let happiness radiate from me.”Msgr. Robert Gallagher, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo in North Hollywood, called honoree Msgr. Gary Bauler “a joy-filled priest” not unlike Pope Francis. As archdiocesan vocations director and pastor at St. Philip the Apostle (Pasadena) and St. Peter Claver (Simi Valley), “Gary has always remained a man of joy, always willing to serve wherever he is needed, giving love and support to everyone.”Recently retired, Msgr. Bauler recalled “the best word I ever said — ‘Adsum,’” Latin for “I am present” — followed by “Deo gratias” (“Thanks be to God”).“I believe all is gift,” he said, “and God has blessed me in so many ways. For Jesus, there was only one obligation: to help others. Help is a beautiful four-letter word, and to help others as a pastor and priest has always brought me great satisfaction. That’s why I’m happy I became a priest.”Father Ed Horning, serving in the San Diego Diocese after ordination from St. John’s Seminary, paid tribute to Ford, his former professor. “He is a man of love and joy, a man in love with Jesus and his people,” he said. “No one formed me better to become a priest. He desires for all his students to be good men, to pray the Mass well, and we are all very grateful to Paul.”Widely known throughout the U.S. as an expert liturgical presenter and author — and for his animated and exuberant presentation style — Ford remains passionate about his work. He praised today’s seminarians (“I don’t think I could be a seminarian today because I couldn’t work as hard as they do”); several women who helped in his own formation, including his wife Janice; and a number of priests, particularly Msgr. James O’Reilly, longtime St. John’s professor. “I want so badly for St. John’s Seminary to turn out the most magnificent priests that we can,” Ford told his audience. “How glad I am that God let me love you. To let God love us; that’s the whole purpose of our faith. And I dedicate myself to finding ways and teaching ways to let theology meet with all Catholic life.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/1004/distinguished/{/gallery}