Msgr. Thompson, retired St. Margaret Mary pastor, dies at 77

Written by Paula Doyle

The Tidings
October 26, 2012

Funeral arrangements were pending at press time for Monsignor Patrick Thompson, 77, pastor emeritus of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in Lomita, who died Oct. 20 in Glendale where he was living in retirement at Incarnation Church.

A St. John's Seminary 2011 "Distinguished Alumni" honoree, Msgr. Thompson was a native Angeleno whose 52 years of active ministry in the archdiocese included service as an associate priest and pastor, seminary theology professor, Newman Apostolate director, and Commission on Evangelization chairman.

A fourth-generation Californian, he attended St. Paul School and Loyola High School (Los Angeles) and the University of Santa Clara as a chemistry major before entering the seminary. He finished his theological studies at St. John's and was ordained in 1960 by Cardinal James Francis McIntyre.

         Ordination Photo

         His numerous appointments over the years included associate priest at Assumption and St. Philip, Pasadena; St. Jerome, Los Angeles; Our Lady of Peace, North Hills; and Santa Clara, Oxnard. He taught at St. John's Seminary (1964-69) and Mount St. Mary's College; served as Newman Center chaplain at Los Angeles City College (1969-73); and was director of the Archdiocesan Newman Apostolate and the Faith & Order Commission (1973-78).

Returning to parish ministry, he was co-administrator at St. Frances Cabrini, Los Angeles (1978-81); pastor of St. Anthony, San Gabriel (1981-94); and pastor of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Lomita (1994-2010). During his time at St. Anthony, he took a sabbatical at the Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass.

Msgr. Thompson received a Doctorate in Moral Theology from the Gregorian University in Rome. He was named a prelate of his holiness (monsignor) in 1988.

In presenting Msgr. Thompson at the 2011 St. John's Distinguished Alumni dinner, Msgr. Joseph Greeley, pastor at St. Pancratius in Lakewood, noted his amazement of his colleague's energy and enthusiasm. "Pat Thompson at 50 percent would leave most of us in the dust," he said. "You don't come away from a conversation with Pat without knowing more than you did before," he added.

Msgr. Thompson recalled at the time that "a seminary rector once told me, 'Let the church make your life.' Well, I believed it, and that's what has happened. I've also believed in saying yes, to welcoming people, and believing that God is always present."

He stressed the importance of knowing that first, one is human, then a Christian, and then a priest. "If you don't get that right, it's hell for everybody," he said with a chuckle. And he emphasized the importance of giving thanks. "I am extremely thankful for all I've received," he said.

Upon his retirement as pastor of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Msgr. Thompson wrote: "The Lord has certainly let his face shine upon me these 50 years of priesthood. There has never been in all these years a doubt that this is what God has given me to be and to do. I treasure the love and joy that has come to me through the interaction with people in all the really important situations of their lives and my life. If you believe with your whole heart and soul in what you are doing, then everything becomes grace and constant blessing and this is how I see my life with you as your priest and pastor."

Remembering Father Pat
By Jack Thompson

First, I must say, I am particularly fortunate to have lived my whole life knowing Pat; he was my brother! So, for a brief moment I am going to go WAY BACK and start at the beginning, and share a small insight or two about Pat.

When Pat and I were growing up in Los Angeles, I learned at a very early age that he was a "man to be reckoned with." Somewhere, we still have the clipping from the Los Angeles Times with our pictures, showing me rubbing my head, over the caption, "Boy hits brother in the head with a hammer!" It was probably a slow news day that day, and things were certainly simpler in those days in L.A., but I must admit, he had my attention ever since!

Pat was always an inspiration because he was, determined, passionate, and enjoyed about everything he did. Even before the advent of Jack LaLanne, Pat would get in shape for football or track at Loyola High, and would just sit down and reel off six or eight HUNDRED situps, just to see if he could do it without too much strain.

It is also safe to say that Pat had an 'explosive' childhood. Those of you reading this may not know that I'm NOT talking figuratively. It was in those formative years, that someone gave Pat a Gilbert chemistry set for Christmas. Those were the days too, when chemistry sets were "real" chemistry sets, none of this safe and sane business. Well, Pat found the formulas for the "more exciting" mixtures and was always working to perfect them (think "bigger bang"). All this interest ultimately led him to become a chemistry major at Santa Clara University ... but that was later! Pat and a few neighborhood "accomplices," with little brother in tow, used a large vacant lot at our corner next to the boulevard for a great testing ground for these little "experiments." Now there was an old Irish lady, who, it seemed, lived next door to the lot, and who sometimes could be a little disagreeable to young boys exercising their "imaginations." She sometimes protested to our parents a bit strenuously, giving ample cause for us to soap her windows on Halloween, or light-off an old acetate film, "stink bomb" on her porch. Our grandfather was interested in photography, and always had an ample supply of old film for us to "dispose of." This may even have been the beginnings of Pat's avid interest in photography ... but back to the story!

After a few years of maturity crept in, reflecting a good measure of the Santa Clara University influence, Pat made up his mind to enter the priesthood. So one day, when he was home, he went down to see this very nice old Irish lady, who, as young boys DO finally learn, was a very nice person, and one of those neighborhood folks who really DID care about us, and how we grew up. When he told her about his decision, she was wide eyed and speechless for a moment, and then said, in her Irish brogue, "My God Pat! The priesthood? I mean, I would NOT have been surprised if you had told me you were going into the IRA, or the bomb squad, but the priesthood?"

And so he began. Now let's "fast forward" a bit. One of my strongest and most lasting impressions of Pat over these many years is how deeply he cared for people. He told with awe and never ending admiration, the stories of the courage with which the average person he encountered lived his, or her, own life, sometimes in the face of unimaginable, and beyond fictional, adversity and hardship. All below the radar of the L.A. Times and the flail of the media, and in some cases, even out of earshot, or the minds of their own families.

Yet these folks somehow continue to be real, productive, happy, and contributing members of our extended human family. Pat truly loved these people, and was there to extend that helping hand and encouraging word, that many of us are understandably not there to do. His was a true vocation, and reflects the core values which the Catholic Church seeks to foster in every human being.

I remember that there were certain Jesuits at Santa Clara University and Loyola High School who were disappointed when Pat decided to enter the priesthood as a Diocesan priest, ... as opposed to becoming a Jesuit. But Pat wanted to do parish work, and be with the people, rather than being a more formal "teacher." Naturally, upon ordination, you guessed it, he was sent to Rome to get a Doctorate, and upon return, promptly assigned as a teacher at the seminary. But thankfully, he managed to escape to parish work. No doubt, the work, and the love of his life.

Pat was a multi-talented man, with interests that went far and wide, from a fly fisherman, "par excellence," to an accomplished linguist with nine or ten languages at his command. At least three or four of these were still in ready use in current days.

Besides being a scholar and an avid outdoorsman, he was a direct and spiritual person. He showed his beliefs, and his faith, in a manner beneficial to all of us. In these very trying times, where we are looking for role models for the clergy, I nominate Fr. Pat.

In Pat we see these values, tirelessly applied, year after year, without fanfare, and with tremendous worth to the community of "real" people. Pat SO recognized the value of each and every human being, that it's fitting for us to reciprocate by recognizing the value of this very special individual, whose effect in this world transcends all the materialism and chaos that abounds in it. In short, Pat did keep us all pointed in the right direction, and showed us the way.