In the news this past week was the announcement that retired Bishop Donald W. Montrose of Stockton, California died on the 59th anniversary of his priestly ordination and just six days before his 85th birthday.
I first encountered Bishop Montrose in the mid-1980s. He was an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, while I was a young adult who was just finding his way back into the Church. Bishop Montrose was in charge of the northern region of the Archdiocese, which was where I was living at the time. He organized a massive, region-wide novena to the Holy Spirit that went from Ascension Thursday (back in the good ‘ol days when there was an “Ascension Thursday”) to Pentecost Sunday. I found it very inspiring, and as time went on I appreciated Bishop Montrose’s emphasis on the spiritual life, including the devout recitation of the Holy Rosary.
Years later, I attended St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California, which was Bishop Montrose’s alma mater. Sometime in 1989, I attended a special Mass at the seminary honoring the St. John’s graduates who were celebrating the 40th anniversary of their priestly ordination. The principal celebrant was the “star” of the class, Bishop Montrose, who by that time had become the Bishop of Stockton.
One thing really struck me during Bishop Montrose’s homily. He mentioned that one or two of his classmates had died, but that all the rest were alive and still in active ministry. Given the mass defections during the 1960s and 1970s–not to mention the law of averages–Bishop Montrose was justifiably proud of the fidelity of his class. These were truly his brothers.
As I returned to my dorm room in St. Joseph hall, I stopped and looked at the photos of the graduating class of 1949–two dozen or so young men in their 20s and 30s who had given 40 years of service to Christ and His Church. I thanked God for this gift and, if I’m not mistaken, I shed a tear or two.
I don’t know much else about Bishop Montrose, but these fleeting moments in which our lives touched were meaningful to me, and I once again thank God for his many years of faithful service as a priest and bishop. May he now rest in peace.