The Catholic Church in Los Angeles lost two long-serving, beloved priests on Monday, September 17. 

Msgr. Royale Vadakin, a longtime pastor, ecumenical leader and trusted advisor to four Los Angeles archbishops, died Monday morning at the age of 80 following a brief battle with pancreatic cancer.

Only a few hours later, Msgr. James J. Loughnane, pastor of St. Denis in Diamond Bar, passed away at the age of 81 at St. Jude Hospital in Fullerton of complications from emergency abdominal surgery.

Incidentally, the two priests happened to be close friends.

The Irish-born Msgr. Loughnane had served as pastor at St. Denis since 1993. He also stepped in as episcopal vicar of the St. Gabriel Pastoral Region of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles from 2012 to 2015 in the absence of an auxiliary bishop, before Archbishop José H. Gomez assigned newly-ordained Auxiliary Bishop David G. O’Connell as regional bishop. 

Celebrating Mass Tuesday morning before the 2018 Los Angeles Catholic Breakfast, Archbishop Gomez remarked how difficult it was to lose “two very fine priests” in one day. 

“I want to take a moment to just remember two of our priests who passed away yesterday, Msgr. Royale Vadakin and Msgr. Jim Loughnane, two faithful and dedicated priests who served the people of the Archdiocese for many years,” said the archbishop at the beginning of his homily. 

Msgr. Royale Vadakin poses with Archbishop José H. Gomez after receiving the 2014 Cardinal's Award.

Msgr. Vadakin was perhaps best known for his dedication as an ecumenical and interreligious leader in Los Angeles. Shortly after his ordination in 1964, the young priest and religious leaders were brought together to help ease community tensions in the wake of the Watts Riots of 1965.

“He was an extremely humble person who was always eager to help in anything,” said Father Leszek Semik, current pastor of St. Anastasia in Westchester, where Vadakin served as pastor from 1990 to 2003 and lived in residence during his tenure as Vicar General for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and after his retirement. “He was a holy priest and wonderful mentor for me who was very much loved by the people.”

Archbishop Emeritus Cardinal Roger Mahony mourned their deaths in a blog post published Monday night, calling both of them “fearless and faithful collaborators.”

“In all my years of service to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, I can say without hesitation that these two priests were giants in their love of Jesus Christ, their commitment to the Church, and their dedication to bring about a deep renewal of the Church in our times,” wrote Cardinal Mahony.