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The San Diego Padres may or may not see the field in 2020.

As it looks now, probably not.

But the original San Diego Padre is in midseason form, notwithstanding the coronavirus, the coronavirus lockdown and protests that too often have decayed into riots.

His playing field is not bordered by the dimensions of PETCO Park.

Try the map of California, from Weed to San Ysidro, from Paso Robles to Needles.

Saint Junipero Serra is the founding father of California and “The Apostle of the West,” as Pope Francis called him while elevating him to the Catholic Church’s Communion of Saints in 2015.

Father Serra is the first Latino saint in the history of the American Catholic Church.

Today, if you notice the sunshine particularly radiant in Quartz Hill,  it’s no coincidence.

The trustee of Father Serra’s namesake parish  on the westside, Father Leo Dechant, marks the 40th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.

It happens on the first Sunday when the Archdiocese of Los Angeles relaxes coronavirus restrictions on attending Mass at its churches.

His parishioners who adore Father Dechant don’t think that’s a coincidence.

They’re convinced Saint Junipero Serra arranged it, to be part of the celebration.

The pastor of St. Serra Parish wasn’t waiting around for the sabbath.

He was busy hearing confessions and celebrating the 5:30 p.m. vigil Mass.

Ministry anniversaries aren’t like wedding anniversaries or employment anniversaries.

Father Dechant has devoted his life to being a vessel of joy, and comfort, to others in baptisms, weddings and funerals.

His priesthood has not been about him.

It’s always been about the one who sent him.

The same One who sent Father Serra before him.

Leo Dechant doesn’t measure the meaning of his life in terms of his bank account, his little black book or his ability to do whatever he wants, when he wants. 

His vows of poverty, chastity and obedience preempted those things.

No, this Padre’s boxscore keeps track of souls nourished, and souls saved.

And that is why they are making such a big fuss about the pastor of St. Junipero Serra Parish today.

He has touched so many souls, nurtured so many souls and saved so many souls, they all feel an overwhelming need to say to reach out and say thank you today.

People who are deeply, gratefully in love do that, ya know.

So today, for one day, anyway, is about Padre Leo.

The church the onetime congregants at  “St. Basketballs” in the Paraclete High School gymnasium have built looks every bit like one of the missions Father Serra founded between 1769-1784, which formed the original road map of California.

The pastor is doing a pretty good imitation of Father Serra, too.

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