At a potluck dinner with over 200 adoring parishioners, Father Bob Moran celebrated 50 years as an ordained Catholic priest last Friday, but also said goodbye to a crowd that lined up all evening to wish him farewell.
There was no shortage of praise for the man, who was ordained a priest on the same date 50 years ago, June 13, 1964. He is retiring at age 75 and was honored at a Mass on Saturday. He first joined the local Catholic parish in the early 1980s, which includes downtown's St. Joseph church and the St. Joseph school on Miramonte Avenue, where Friday's dinner was held in the auditorium.
"He is the most wonderful priest we have ever known," said Job Lopez, longtime church member and community organizer. "Many priests, they do what they need to do as priests, but he goes beyond the churchly duties and works to help people out in any way he can."
Moran had a larger than life presence all evening as he greeted people in the crowd. The fact that Moran is Irish didn't hurt his ability to earn the adoration of Mountain View's largely Latino and Filipino Catholic community, where he plays the role of the bald and beloved Irish grandfather.
With a bit of humorous hyperbole, longtime community organizer Elena Pacheco called Moran "the numero uno revolucionario" in the community, noting that Moran always helps to organize the annual May Day march for immigration reform in Mountain View. At this year's rally, former Mountain View mayor and state senator Sally Lieber said Moran "has an Irish name but a Latino heart."
Lopez said that the heart of the people's respect for Moran is his dedication to social justice.
"He is always trying help low-income people, those who have housing problems, unemployment problems, immigration problems. He has worked for immigration reform in any way he can," Lopez said, "There are not many priests left like him. That is why we love him so much."
Lopez said Moran's original mentor was Donald McDowell, a priest who worked with Caesar Chavez in his struggle to unionize farm workers in the Central Valley.
Parishioner Liz Joves said it will leave "a huge void" when Moran is gone, especially because he gets things done and has been the glue keeping the parish together.
Moran said he had moved to a retirement community in San Jose. Lopez said Moran wouldn't be able to be around for the community in the same way he had been all these years.
People came from Arizona and even Ireland to celebrate with Moran.
"He's more then a friend, more like father, a grandfather -- a fun guy," said Emmanuel Mejia, who came from Mesa, Arizona with his family to celebrate with Moran, who has visited them in Arizona, he said.
Moran has also traveled to Ireland, where his grandfather fought in the 1916 Easter uprising against British rule of the country, said Sister Mary Delargy, who traveled from Downpatrick in Northern Ireland to attend the weekend's celebrations for Moran. He has real interest is in Irish history, she said.
She recalled her initial impression of him when they first met years ago in Ireland: "He didn't make any distinction between professors and ordinary people who worked in the fields. He has a very common touch for ordinary people. He has a capacity to make people feel welcome. His interest in social justice has always been very strong."
St. Joseph School's principal Stephanie Mirenda-Knight spoke to the crowd Friday, saying Moran had been a part of numerous school ceremonies, graduations and of course took confessions from many students. "You have been the heart and the soul of this place for a very long time," she said.
In a prayer at Friday's dinner, Moran said, "May we always realize that, as a family and community, we can make a difference in each other's lives."