More than 200, friends, family members, and former students gathered at San Francisco’s Olympic Club on Wednesday, March 14, to celebrate the golden jubilee of Thomas Aquinas College’s head chaplain and assistant to the dean for religious affairs, Rev. Cornelius Buckley, S.J. “Although we at the College like to think of Fr. Buckley as ‘ours,’ he has a long history in the Bay Area,” said Thomas Aquinas College President Michael F. McLean. “Like you, the students, faculty, and staff of Thomas Aquinas College have come to love, admire, and thoroughly enjoy this wonderful priest.”
The evening, which included numerous toasts and testimonials, also featured the release of a new video tribute, Celebrating the Golden Jubilee: 50 Years in the Priesthood. “Although there is no way to do justice to a half-century of service in just 10 minutes,” Dr. McLean remarked, “we’re hopeful that this video gives the viewer a small insight into the person of Fr. Buckley, and why he means so much to us at the College and to all who know him.”
Prior to his chaplaincy at Thomas Aquinas College, Fr. Buckley served over a period of decades at a number of Catholic institutions in the Bay Area, among them, Santa Clara University, St. Ignatius College Preparatory School, and the University of San Francisco.
Notable among the night’s speakers was Fr. Buckley’s confrere, Rev. Joseph Fessio, S.J., the founder of both Ignatius Press and the St. Ignatius Institute at the University of San Francisco, where he and Fr. Buckley taught together for nearly 20 years.
Also making remarks were Fr. Buckley’s niece Maureen Buckley and her husband, Steve Albertolle. In honor of their beloved “Uncle Mike,” the Palo Alto couple formally announced the creation of the Fr. Buckley Scholarship Fund at Thomas Aquinas College.
“We are humbled by Maureen and Steve, as well as the many other generous friends of Fr. Buckley who have already contributed to his scholarship fund,” said Dr. Paul O’Reilly, the College’s vice president for development. “They are helping to further Fr. Buckley’s legacy by bringing the gift of a truly Catholic education to faithful, hard-working young people who could not otherwise afford it.”
Delivering the invocation for the evening was “The Other Fr. Buckley” — the Very Rev. Gerald A. Buckley, O.P., prior of Holy Rosary Church in Portland, Ore., and a brother of Fr. Buckley. His prayer was followed by reflections and memories from two of Fr. Cornelius Buckley’s former students, Dr. Erick Pecha and Mr. John Safranek, who expressed the gratitude of many for Fr. Buckley’s enduring influence in their lives.
As for the young people currently benefitting from Fr. Buckley’s influence, the 350 students of Thomas Aquinas College, in conjunction with the greater College community, expressed their gratitude by way of a spiritual bouquet: a litany of prayers, sacrifices, holy hours, and Masses offered in their chaplain’s behalf. President McLean presented Fr. Buckley with the bouquet, as well as a portrait of St. Ignatius, at the close of the evening, after which Fr. Buckley himself offered the benediction.
“As you may know, Fr. Buckley published a book some years ago entitled When Jesuits Were Giants,” said Dr. McLean. “That is how we think of Fr. Buckley — as a ‘giant’ who, in his service to Christ these past 50, years has given us all a remarkable example of faithfulness, obedience, and joy.”
“We learn how to find the truth for ourselves, so that for the rest of our lives we will be able to pursue the things that matter most.”
– Danielle Chouinard (’14)
“The Church will flourish through the inspiring example and praiseworthy endeavors of Thomas Aquinas College.”
– The Most Rev. Pietro Sambi (†)
Apostolic Nuncio to the United States