In their own words: Father William Kinane

Meet Father William Kinane:

Father William Kinane, 86, a native of Tipperary Town, Tipperary County in Ireland, is pastor emeritus of St. Dominic Parish in Colfax. He retired in 2008 and resides at the Priests’ Retirement Village in Citrus Heights.

The tenth of 11 children, he was raised on his family’s farm. In 1946 he began secondary school at Mount Mellary College in County Waterford for the next five years. From Mount Mellary, he transferred to St. Patrick’s Seminary in Thurles, County Tipperary, in September 1951. He decided to study to serve in the Diocese of Sacramento as a priest. After six years at St. Patrick’s, he was ordained to the priesthood in the Cathedral of the Assumption in Thurles on June 16, 1957. Two of his brothers are also priests.

He was assistant pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Redding from 1957 to 1962 and of St. Mel Parish in Fair Oaks from 1962 to 1964. In October 1964, he began ministry as chaplain to the California Correctional Center at Susanville, where he served for the next three years. In October 1967, he became chaplain at Folsom State Prison for the next four years. In 1971, he was named pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Anderson, where he ministered for two years, before being named pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Folsom in October 1973.

He served the Folsom parish for the next 22 years, during a period of tremendous growth, including a new church in 1989. In 1995, he became pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Vallejo. At age 70, after eight years in Vallejo, he became pastor of St. Dominic Parish in Colfax, where he served from July 2003 until his retirement from active ministry in March 2008.

Fr. William Kinane in his own words:

Looking back, I could have chosen married life instead of the priesthood. Mount Mellary College was run by the Trappists and we had many talks about a vocation to the priesthood. I had five years to think about it, but I didn’t make up my mind at first. It was in the last months of my secondary schooling at age 18 that decided to go to the seminary.

I received a scholarship to an agricultural college. When the results of our final exam came out, our teacher put it up on the board. He was shocked, as he thought I was going on to the seminary, even though I never told him that. What’s this, he said, I thought you were going to become a priest? Can you give me one good reason why you shouldn’t become a priest? He made me stop and think. I was trying to think of a good reason why I shouldn’t. I could think of a few, but none of them were good enough.

At the time, I didn’t think a lot about the promise of celibacy. As the years went on, the big question in my mind was always would I be able to live up to this commitment. I did think about missing out on married life, because my older brothers and sisters were all married. I could see their lives and kids and their happiness. But celibacy was not a major stumbling block for me to become a priest and it never became a problem for me throughout my ministry.

I was so involved in parish life and ministry that there was never a dull moment, shall we say. No matter where I was, even in prison ministry, I kept busy all the time. In parishes, I was always so involved with commitments and I got close to many families who became my good friends.

I lived through the time in our diocese when many priests decided to leave to be married. Between the end of Vatican II and 1990, our diocese lost many priests. That was a personal choice for each of them, but I never thought of it as the choice for me. I had made the commitment to the promise of celibacy and I never wavered from it.

I came from a close-knit family so I had reinforcement and support for my ministry, which I found powerful. Wherever I served as a pastor, the parishioners also became my family in a sense. I got to know so many parishioners on a close basis.

I do see celibacy as a witness. People admire you for your commitment and dedication to ministry and they realized what you were giving up. They appreciate your sacrifice for them. People would thank you for your priestly ministry constantly and I appreciated that.

As a priest, I was placed in many family situations to help give guidance and spiritual support. Growing up in family, I knew what all this was like. As a pastor, I had to be available to people at all times of day and night. You are at the service of people all the time.

What I found helpful, supportive and important to me was the fellowship of other priests. Our day off was always a day of support and sharing – talking about our problems or discussing things that were happening. We formed a brotherhood and knew each other well. You could share with them any frustrations or issues, or something that happened in the parish that you wanted their opinion about. It was surprising how often they would have the same situation to discuss, so you might work solutions out together.

I’ve found it healthy to have a variety of friends. It’s just natural to bond with certain families and this happened in all my parish assignments. These friendships were always important and they continue in retirement. All of the retired priests have friendships like this and they go out to visit friends regularly and families come here.

I have no regrets about choosing the priesthood. Thank God I’ve been very happy in all my assignments and I never felt frustrated, disappointed or depressed. I’ve been very happy in my life in every place I ministered.

When priests say yes to Christ, they become witnesses of Christ’s power to change people’s lives.

The promise of celibacy adds a special dimension to priestly holiness, filling out the dimensions of holiness within the body of Christ, the church, and opening up a unique and irreplaceable pathway to follow Christ. Living the promise has its challenges, but is also be a source of great joy, life and vitality for the church and God’s people.

Recently, four priests of the diocese of various ages, backgrounds and experiences discussed with Catholic Herald magazine how they discerned, embraced and are living out their promise of celibacy, highlighting how it is integral to being shepherds of the faithful. Here are excerpts from each conversation.