Gilroy’s St. Mary Roman Catholic Church has several thousand
parishioners, making it one of the largest in the Diocese of San
Gilroy’s St. Mary Roman Catholic Church has several thousand parishioners, making it one of the largest in the Diocese of San Jose. Because the people attending Mass are very diverse ethnically, the priests who serve them have to reflect this diversity.
The Rev. Hugo Rojas, parochial vicar at St. Mary, is a native of Argentina – a country which is predominantly Catholic. His family members faithfully practiced that religion.
When he graduated from a Catholic high school, Rojas entered a university in order to study law with the prospect of becoming an attorney.
However, his older brother, Roberto, was attending seminary and studying to become a priest. Hugo visited his brother often, attended some retreats with him and began to realize that God was also calling him to enter the priesthood.
Father Hugo’s parents were happy and surprised when he followed his brother’s pathway and supported his decision. He says that the most difficult step to take was breaking off a relationship with his girlfriend. After seven years of theological training, he graduated and was ordained a priest in San Rafael, Argentina, in 1997.
The following year, Rojas was sent to serve as a missionary to the island of Taiwan, part of the Republic of China. He learned to speak Chinese for this assignment, finding the culture of the country (where only slightly more than one percent of the population is Catholic) challenging and helpful in developing his ministry.
He was an assistant pastor and then pastor of a church with only a few hundred members, and he enjoyed sharing with them the teachings of Jesus that “bring faith, hope and joy into life’s struggles.” He found the Taiwanese people loving and supportive as he introduced the Christian approach to life.
After 10 years there, he wanted to be closer to his parents and other family members, to be of more assistance as they grew older. Roberto was serving Morgan Hill’s St. Catherine Church when Hugo came to the Diocese of San Jose as a priest in March 2008.
His first assignment was with the Detention Ministry provided by the diocese to prisoners at the San Jose Main Jail and Elmwood Correctional Facility in Milpitas. He says he found the situation “a little shocking,” but learned a lot there.
In July 2008, he came to St. Mary Church (while Roberto was still at St. Catherine). He has enjoyed his time in Gilroy, finding both the parishioners and other clergy to be “amazing people.” He appreciates every day that he is able to “share God’s message of hope and joy” with them.
Father Rojas considers St. Mary’s pastor, Father Dan Derry, “both a friend and mentor, always supportive.” He is surprised at how busy the parish is as he tries to meet the needs of the parishioners. Sometimes there are as many as three funerals a week and more than 100 baptisms a month. In addition, there are many quinceaneras, retreats, ceremonies and weekly sermons he is involved with.
Although his major responsibility lies with the Hispanic congregation, he feels at home in both the Anglo and Latino communities. “Their support allows me to enjoy my priestly vocation,” he said.
Although parish priests serve at the direction of their bishops, Father Hugo hopes to remain at St. Mary for many years, “sharing the message of Jesus, something that gives strength to keep walking along through daily life, showing people that Jesus is close to every situation in life.”
To talk to Father Hugo Rojas, call the parish office at (408) 847-5151.