Monsignor Manuel Christiano Simas
first realized he wanted to become a priest while in grammar school. That desire continued to grow during his years at Berkeley High School. "I remember in high school that I expressed my thoughts to a pastor at the time," he recalled. "But it wasn't until my third year in college (UC Berkeley) that those thoughts became very strong."
Msgr. Simas, born in Oakland on August 17, 1933, and affectionately known as "Father Manny" - was four years old when he and his family moved to Berkeley. "I was blessed with a strong faith family," he says of his parents, Manuel and Angeline. "For me, my parents were a very good example of Christian living."
Following his graduation from Cal in 1955 with a degree in political Science, Father Simas entered St. Patrick's Seminary. He was ordained by Bishop Merlin J. Guilfoyle at St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco on June 10, 1961.
August 2011 also marks Monsignor's 21st year as pastor of St. Joseph Parish/Old Mission San Jose in Fremont. Founded in 1797 as the 14th in a chain of 21 California missions stretching from San Diego to Sonoma, St. Joseph/Old Mission San Jose is the oldest parish in the East Bay.
His first assignment was to St. Mary's Parish, Walnut Creek from June 1961 to February 1967, when he was assigned as associate pastor at St. Felicitas Parish in San Leandro. In 1970 he joined the chancery office of the Oakland Diocese as part of the marriage tribunal, remaining in residence at St. Felicitas until 1971 when he moved to Corpus Christi Church in Piedmont. In 1975, Oakland Bishop Floyd Begin named him Diocesan Director for the Society of the Propagation of the Faith, which focuses on the Church's mission on a global scale. On April 24, 1977, in a ceremony held at Corpus Christi Church, Father Simas became vested as a monsignor in the Oakland Diocese. Two years later he was named pastor of St. John Vianney Parish in Walnut Creek, where he remained until becoming pastor in Fremont in 1990. During his 21 years at St. Joseph, Msgr. Simas has seen much change in the parish community, including a growing diversity and the expansion of ministries.
"I've experienced life with people in the parish through good times, through sad times. The community has been there for me as well." The parish community rallied around the priest recently when his only siblings, sisters Elsie and Marlene, passed away within four months of each other. The most important aspect of Msgr. Simas' prayer life is the celebration of the Eucharist. "Everything centers around that," he said, "To gather around the Lord's table. Everything is there. People, past and present." But, I still encourage them to follow their heart."
Reprinted from: The Catholic Voice ~ October 18, 2010 ~ VOL. 48, NO. 18 by Kevin Wing