To save a thousand souls

Deacon David Mees ordained to the priesthood June 15

By Christina Gray

Deacon David Mees was ordained to the priesthood at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption on June 15. Catholic San Francisco talked to the new priest prior to his ordination when he was finishing his seminary studies and serving as weekend deacon at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Burlingame. Father Mees said he had found himself daydreaming about his first days as a parish priest.

“I thought about how I would tell my parishioners how happy I am to be here, and that I would like to see every single one of them in heaven,” he said. “God wants that even more.”

The thought of preparing those under his pastoral care for eternal life is very moving to him. “We are only here on earth for what time God allows us to be,” said Mees, who was ordained into the transitional diaconate in late September and began serving at St. Catherine of Siena. Preparing others for the eternal life promised to followers of Jesus Christ can’t be overstated, he said.

He referenced a discernment book seminarians often read called “To Save a Thousand Souls,” by Father Brett Brannen.

“The purpose of a priest is to bring Jesus to the people, and the people to Jesus,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”

As Father David Mees, he will continue to minister to the St. Catherine of Siena parish community in the role of parochial vicar starting July 1. He will concurrently serve as chaplain for Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo.

“Deacon Dave has been an absolute blessing here at St. Catherine,” said Father John Ryan, pastor, in the months before ordination. His homilies are very down-to-earth and inspiring, he said, and his presence and manner with parishioners is friendly and approachable. “He is at home with them and especially good with the teenagers.”

Father Mees, 59, said his call to the priesthood wasn’t an early or immediate one.

“I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a priest,” he said. The Morgan Hill native grew up in a practicing Catholic home. But he said his faith didn’t “really hit him” until after he graduated from college. Taking a job as a math teacher at De La Salle Catholic High School in Concord, California, sparked a new commitment in his faith life and offered a distant glimmer of a call to the priesthood.

“I had either never heard the call before or I wasn’t listening to it,” said Father Mees.

Still, he left his long teaching career to take a job as a land surveyor for an urban public works department. He dated but did not feel an “inner tug” toward marriage.

His pull toward the priesthood grew too strong to ignore. He signed up for a discernment retreat where he heard a speaker say that it is “the responsibility of every man and woman to spend time discerning what God has called them to.”

David Mees entered St. Patrick’s Seminary & University in 2017 when he was 50 years old. Father Mees got “a lot of support” from his sister and brother, both of whom were at the Mass where their brother was ordained. He admits he gets “teary-eyed” thinking about his late mother, Doris, and late father, Joseph, who weren’t there to see him become a priest.

“I had started growing closer to Christ when they were alive,” he said.

Though he is older than most newly ordained priests, Father Mees said age — and the time that goes with that — feels like an asset. He comes to the priesthood with a mature set of professional and administrative skills and the wisdom that only comes with life experience.

“It was not daunting at all,” he said of his ordination day. “I’ve had many years to see what a priest’s life is like. For me, the longer I’ve been here, the more I’m interiorly fulfilled and certain of this calling.”

Christina Gray is the lead writer for Catholic San Francisco magazine.

Photos: Dennis Callahan, Archdiocese of San Francisco