“Thatrnwas a little crazy.”
Msgr.rnMarc V. Trudeau could finally take a deep breath once the last of therntelevision news crews left the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, wherernArchbishop José H. Gomez had just formally announced Pope Francis’ pick tornassist him as the newest of the Los Angeles Archdiocese’s six auxiliaryrnbishops.
Thernson of a Canadian U.S. Air Force veteran, Msgr. Trudeau has survived tougherrntrials than LA’s media glare: years of dental school at the University ofrnSouthern California, long nights cleaning the meat department at a Vons groceryrnstore and a battle with leukemia that dropped his weight to 120 pounds.
Perhapsrnthe harder challenge will be giving up the idea he had of his life as a priest:rnserving in a parish and attending to the faithful every Sunday.
“Irnconsidered myself a parish priest,” Msgr. Trudeau said in an interview withrnAngelus News at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo. “All I wanted to do was be arnpastor, but they kept pulling me out.”
Arnfew days later, Archbishop Gomez borrowed a phrase from Pope Francis torndescribe the new bishop-elect as “a shepherd who knows the smell of his sheep”rnin his remarks at the April 5 introductory press conference.
Sornwhen the bishop-elect stepped to the podium to face the cameras, he did sornwearing a replica of the pope’s pectoral cross given to him by ArchbishoprnGomez. The cross is adorned with an image of Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd,rna clear reminder that this time it was the Holy Father himself who’d given himrnhis latest assignment.
• • •
MarcrnV. Trudeau was born in 1957 in Hollywood but raised a few miles up the 101rnFreeway in Burbank. His father, Paul, was a Canadian-born naturalized U.S.rncitizen who had served in the Air Force during the Korean War before gettingrninto the printing business in Southern California.
Hisrnmother, Belva, was from rural Illinois, and the two had met there while Paulrnwas stationed at a nearby base. They had five children.
Hisrnfamily described Marc as a hard-working, straight-A student during his time atrnSt. Finbar Parish School and John Burroughs High School, both in Burbank. Hernand his fraternal twin brother Michael (the older of the two by five minutes)rnwere both altar boys at St. Finbar.
Butrnwhen it came to telling the two apart, Michael said that he was more athleticrnwhile Marc was known for being a better student and more active in church.
“Irnalways teased him for being a ‘professional student,’ ” Michael recalled. “Hernwas in school for 15 years, so that fits him pretty well.”
What started as a high school job at the Vons on Alameda Ave. continued throughout college, until his graduation from dental school 13 years later, a milestone that Marc jokingly described as his “retirement” from the grocery store.
Thernjob helped him cover his expenses at USC and meant doing everything fromrncleaning the store’s different departments to working the cash register.
“Ifrnyou look back, that was really his only job, until God called him,” Michaelrnsaid.
• • •
Deeplyrninvolved in St. Finbar’s young adult group, Marc began to think seriously aboutrnthe call to the priesthood during his last year of dental school at USC. Hernspoke to a priest, who brought him to St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo to sitrnin on classes.
“I knew the minute I was up here that this was what God was calling me to,” he recalled.
Thernexperience was decisive enough for Marc to skip the state dental board examsrnand enter the seminary the following year.
Hernwas ordained at the age of 34 by then-Archbishop Roger Mahony in St. Vibiana’srnCathedral on June 8, 1991. His first assignment as associate pastor at St.rnJames the Less Church came with an ironic twist: the La Crescenta parish’srnschool was St. Finbar’s athletic rival.
“Theyrnused to always beat us in sports,” he said, “so I had bad memories of St.rnJames.”
Itrnwas also where the young priest served alongside one of his biggest influences,rnMsgr. Tom Doyle, for four years before his next assignment at St. Philip thernApostle Church in Pasadena. In 2001, he was named pastor of St. Pius X Churchrnin Santa Fe Springs.
Thosernwho knew him as a parish priest described “Father Marc” as a funny,rndown-to-earth person who could be counted for support during serious times.
LongtimernSt. Philip Church parishioner Carrie Alston fought back tears recalling how shernleaned on her then-associate pastor for help following the death of her uncle,rnwho had been living alone with her.
“Herndrove me to the veterans’ cemetery and helped with the burial and prayed overrnmy uncle” after his death, Alston told Angelus.
Whenrnit came to confession, Alston said that Father Trudeau’s line “was much longerrnthan anyone else’s.” When asked why, she offered her own experience: “He didn’trnjust help you with confessions, he helped you to understand what you’re doingrnand why.”
FatherrnTrudeau’s first experience of being “pulled” out of parish service came in thernform of a phone call from Cardinal Roger Mahony in 2004 asking him to be hisrnpriest secretary.
“Hernkept saying I want to be under the radar, be the parish priest,” recalledrnMichael. “But he can’t keep under the radar. He’s good at something and peoplernseem to gravitate towards him.”
Afterrnonly three years as pastor at St. Pius X Church, Father Trudeau moved downtownrnto the cardinal’s residence at the newly built Cathedral of Our Lady of thernAngels.
Asrnhis closest aide, Father Trudeau drove the then-archbishop around, assisted himrnin liturgies and helped organize his busy calendar.
“His pastoral experience and his great love for people endeared him to everyone who had contact with the archbishop’s office,” the retired cardinal wrote in an April 5 blog post congratulating the bishop-elect.
“Hernwas a great support during those tumultuous years when the clergy scandal wasrnin its settlement phases.”
• • •
While those years may have been troubling for the archdiocese as an institution, they also coincided with the most harrowing experience of Msgr. Trudeau’s life.
Talkingrnabout it, Msgr. Trudeau doesn’t dwell much on his battle with lymphoma. In hisrninterview with Angelus, he emphasized his doctor’s optimism about his prognosisrnand how the sickness changed his outlook on life.
“Yourncome out of that with a different view of life,” he said. “I appreciate thernthings that are important, and I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore.”
Hernremembered the day in 2008 he visited his doctor after feeling a pain in hisrnabdomen. The doctor suspected cancer immediately. Within a week he had startedrnchemotherapy.
Forrnsix months, Msgr. Trudeau was extremely sick. His already wiry figure shedrnaround 50 pounds during the treatment, which also included radiation therapy.rnHe was hospitalized twice with a low white blood-cell count. He couldn’t keeprnup with the cardinal’s intense work schedule like before.
Butrnthe agonizing treatment eventually worked its desired result, validating hisrndoctor’s positive outlook. He was declared cancer free in 2011.
“Irnthink that life and death all have good reasons,” he answered when asked aboutrnthe higher meaning of the ordeal. “I’ve thought that every time I’ve done Massrnon Sunday, every time I’ve done a baptism: It’s a grace to be here. I’verndefinitely done some incredible things.”
Thosernwho’ve known Msgr. Trudeau say his sense of humor was a source of relief forrnhimself and the people around him during difficult times.
“He can turn anything into a joke, even when things look bad,” observed his father, Paul.
Hisrnrecovery also coincided with the beginning of his boss’s retirement in 2010: “Irnhad to get a real job after that,” he joked.
His second stint as a pastor — at St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Church in Lomita in 2010 — didn’t last more than three years this time, either. In 2013, Archbishop José H. Gomez asked him to join the staff at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo — first as vice rector, and then as rector the following year.
Thernappointment to go back to school — as a teacher and formator this time — was arnbit surprising because apart from his dental degree, Msgr. Trudeau didn’t havernmuch of a higher academic background.
“I think that was the tack of the archbishop, because we’re forming parish priests here,” he said during an interview in his office, decked with Trojan paraphernalia and his own paintings.
“We’rernnot forming scholars, although some of our men are scholars and are veryrnbright. Our mission here is to form parish priests. So my background as arndentist is probably more appropriate here!”
• • •
Whenrnthe phone call came from the pope’s apostolic nuncio to the U.S., ArchbishoprnChristophe Pierre, on the day before Palm Sunday, Msgr. Trudeau was leaving arnmeeting to go to his parents’ house. For the nuncio, the delivery of the newsrnof the pope’s appointment didn’t go as smoothly as hoped.
“WhilernI was driving I got a phone call from Archbishop Gomez,” Msgr. Trudeaurnexplained. “I always forget which one of those little buttons you press tornanswer the phone on your steering wheel while you’re driving. So I accidentallyrncut him off, and it went to voicemail.”
Whenrnhe arrived at his parents’ home in Santa Clarita, he also noticed two missedrncalls from a Washington, D.C., area code.
“Irnthought: I just got two phone calls from the same number, and I’m pretty surernthat’s Washington, and I got these calls in short succession before thernarchbishop’s call. So I was thinking: ‘Uh, what’s going on?’ ”
Whilernstill parked in the driveway, he listened to two voicemails: one fromrnArchbishop Gomez, the other from a man identifying himself as the nuncio. Herncalled Archbishop Gomez, who told him to call the nuncio immediately.
“Irncan’t think of anything good that would come from the nuncio,” he told the archbishop.rn“Well, you need to call him first!” Archbishop Gomez shot back.
Whenrnhe gathered up the courage to call the 202 area code number back, ArchbishoprnPierre informed him of the pope’s decision.
“You’rernkind of in shock, and I’m thinking, ‘I don’t even know what just happened,’ ”rnthe bishop-elect explained.
“Itrncertainly made Holy Week a different experience,” he shared later.
Butrnthose closest to “Father Marc” weren’t as astonished.
Twinrnbrother Mike described his initial reaction to the news as “not totally shockedrnand surprised. But you still have to sit down and take a deep breath and thinkrnabout what he’s about to go through,” he added.
“Wernalways figured something like this would happen,” Paul told Angelus. “He alwaysrnwent at things full-bore, so it doesn’t surprise me.”
“I think they made a real good choice, because he never gives up,” he added.
For Archbishop Gomez, the appointment means the promotion of a trusted collaborator after San Pedro regional auxiliary Bishop Oscar Solis was appointed to lead the Diocese of Salt Lake City in 2017.
“WhenrnI heard it was Msgr. Marc, I was very happy, because I know him very well andrnI’ve seen him working in the parishes and at the seminary,” Archbishop Gomezrntold Angelus. “It was an Easter gift for me.”
• • •
“Asrna priest, our bishop-elect has always had a heart for his people,” ArchbishoprnGomez said as he introduced his newest auxiliary bishop for the first time. “Hernis close to them in their joys and sorrows and in the challenges they face inrntheir everyday lives.”
Until being named a bishop, then-Msgr. Trudeau had tried to offset the demands of his “day job” at the seminary by returning to St. James Church and neighboring Holy Redeemer Church in Montrose to help with Masses on the weekends.
Fourrndays after the Vatican’s announcement, he was set to accompany parishionersrnfrom those two parishes, as well as from St. Luke Church in Temple City, on arnpilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Asrna bishop, he hopes to walk in the pastoral footsteps of Pope Francis, who inrn2013 famously urged priests to “be shepherds, with the ‘smell of the sheep’:rnmake it real, as shepherds among your flock, fishers of men.”
“Thatrnimage that Pope Francis has drawn on so much, taking on the smell of the sheep:rnI think that really speaks to our generation,” he said. “It certainly speaks tornme as a priest.”
Specifically,rnthe image embodies his hope of “seeking the lost sheep” through evangelization,rnwhich he says must be at the center of the Church’s mission.
“Wernneed to meet people where they are,” he stressed. “You can’t sit back and askrnor expect people to come to you. That might’ve worked 100 years ago — itrndoesn’t work today.”
Inrna world beset by so many problems, Msgr. Trudeau believes the Church has arnbetter alternative to offer when it meets those people where they are,rnespecially youths and others disillusioned with the Church.
“Theyrnhave a sense of wanting a life that is more meaningful,” he said, referring tornyoung people.
“Whatrnis more meaningful than a life in Christ? So, as we can give them that gift,rnthe gift of the Church, their lives are going to be better, and they’re goingrnto make the world better — this world that can be anti-Gospel and antivirtue,”rnhe added.
“Secularismrndoesn’t promise us anything,” he replied when asked about the challenges posedrnto the Church today. “It kind of drags everybody down into saying we’re equalrnto animals, whereas the promise of Jesus and the Incarnation tells us that Godrnso loves us that he lifts us up out of that.”
Onrnits surface, that might seem like an unusual message coming from someone boin Hollywood, the heart of secular media culture. But it’s a message LosrnAngeles’ newest bishop seems eager to proclaim.