Where roots and stewardship run deep
On a recent visit with Msgr. John Hughes, pastor emeritus of St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Camarillo, he looked out his study window and noticed newly named pastor Father Preston Passos watering plants on the priests’ residence patio.
“Father Passos takes good care of the parish — the people, the land and structures — and is, more importantly, attentive to the needs of others,” smiled Msgr. Hughes, celebrating 65 years of priesthood in 2014. Like Msgr. Hughes, Father Passos, celebrating six years of priesthood in 2014, is invested in Camarillo.
“The people have been very loving, patient and generous,” continues Msgr. Hughes. “Whenever something is needed, they always step up to the plate.” Thinking back 40 years, when he was both pastor and procurator for nearby St. John Seminary, he said, “I was willing to hand the baton to the people and they did what was needed and I felt fulfilled. God’s work was being done. They did it with so little expense and they did it with love.”
And so it continues. The people “invest with their lives” in the parish, involved in outreach programs that benefit many in the area — O.A.S.I.S., Family to Family, and Many Meals of Camarillo. There is a reverence for this parish, the rich farmland of the area and its crops, and the role of parishioners as God’s caretakers for the future.
Parishioner Bud Daley, a grower, developer and nephew of Albert C. Martin, the architect for St. Mary Magdalen Chapel (and St. John’s Seminary), and his wife Heather strongly believe in being “stewards of the land” and “having a “vision for the future, good planning for development. It is true for all of us,” says Bud.
Heather Daley loves the spirit of the parish. “Everyone is welcome here. The parish is receptive to all who come to worship.”
Michael Ronan, St. Mary Magdalen School principal, understands well the need for vision as he plans for the future with a new transitional kindergarten. “The community believes in Catholic education and its transformative power,” he says. “And our teachers see it as their vocation. They want to be here and they understand that education is more than academics.”
Father Passos understands the value of caring for the land for families, thanks to his own Hawaiian roots. His mother, a full-blooded Hawaiian, taught him reverence. “In this parish,” notes, “we have farms, the raising of fruits, vegetables, farm animals — and, perhaps most important, the kids are raised in it, too.”
They belong to 4H and they raise their own livestock for the Ventura County Fair. And Father Passos is delighted when a child comes up and says, “Father, come see my sheep at the fair.”
The descendants of the Juan Camarillo family still live in both St. Mary Magdalen and Padre Serra Parishes. “They and all our parishioners are generous and genuine in sharing of their time, talent and treasure,” says Father Passos. “You get that small town, family feeling here.”
At a recent penance service at neighboring Padre Serra Parish, he was introduced as “Father Passos, pastor of the Mother Church.” But most important to Father Passos are the people. “We have farm owners, farm workers, and others who come to worship here. The way that I can give back to them is to be genuine with them.”
Taking care of their spiritual life is foremost in importance to him, but he is well aware of the history and value of the institutions in his care. “This is our home and it has to be a place of comfort for our people,” says Father Passos. “The investment in their home, their place of worship, their spiritual life, the place they come to on weekends — it is all roots. They depend on the roots in the ground and the roots of their families.”