St. Bonaventure’s Mangini retires after 50 years

By Carina Romano on July 3, 2017

Mangini at pulpit for websiteA young boy of five sat in a pew with his older cousin, looking up with wide eyes at the altar in Queen of All Saints Church in Concord. It was 1945, and the Catholic mass was still celebrated in Latin. Though the small boy did not understand the words the priest was speaking, he was fascinated by the liturgy, and looked forward to mass every Sunday.

It was here, at the age of five, that Father Richard Mangini knew he wanted to become a priest. This summer, he has retired from the priesthood at St. Bonaventure Catholic Church in Concord after 21 years.

Longtime Concord Resident

Born in Concord in 1940, Mangini spent his early years living with his parents and siblings in downtown Concord, visiting his grandmother at the Mangini Ranch on the weekends. “I would say I had a very quintessential old-town kind of growing up,” says Mangini. He portrays his childhood environment as happy and simple. “We weren’t poor, but we weren’t rich. We seemed to have had all that we needed.”

Mangini’s family has lived in Concord for generations. “Our roots are very deep here, and I feel very much at home,” he says. “One of the things I enjoy about being a priest in the community so many years later is still serving many of the same families with whom I grew up.”

Catholicism has always been a part of his life, and he never wavered in the decision he made at 5-years-old to become a priest. “I always had this sense that this is what I was called to be and to do,” says Mangini.

When he was to begin high school, he chose to attend St. Joseph’s College, a high school and college seminary program in Mountain View. His parents wanted him to wait, feeling he was too young to go away to school. “It was like going to boarding school,” Mangini says. “But I prevailed upon it. It was what I really wanted to do.”

He describes life at St. Joseph’s as very strict and regimented, but he enjoyed it. Though many of his classmates ended up leaving seminary school, he never once questioned his calling. By the time his class graduated, only 13 of the original 53 students remained to move on to St. Patrick’s Seminary and University to complete their education.

After graduating from St. Patrick’s at the age of 26, Mangini was ordained a priest at Most Precious Blood Church in Concord on May 17, 1967.

As a newly ordained priest at Church of the Assumption in San Leandro, Mangini was full of new ideas, most of which the pastor, Father Thomas Browne, turned down with a terminal, “Over my dead body.”

“But I never let that prevent me from being a priest,” Mangini emphasizes, “and doing what I felt needed to be done for people’s spiritual welfare.”

Building Community

In 1972, Mangini returned to school, obtaining a master’s degree in journalism from UC Berkeley in order to take over as head editor of the Catholic Voice, the Oakland diocese’s official newspaper. He was editor of the publication until 1980, but it wasn’t until 1996 that he returned to his hometown of Concord as pastor of St. Bonaventure Catholic Church.

Anthony and Christine Romano, parishioners of St. Bonaventure since the mid-1960s, both agree that their first impression of Mangini was a good one. “He was going to add some more life to the parish,” says Christine Romano.

“He was very outgoing and he expressed an interest in the parishioners that he talked with,” Tony Romano agrees.

Mangini’s own impression of St. Bonaventure was just as good. “My reflection in coming (to St. Bonaventure) is coming to a very well-established Catholic parish with a very well-established community spirit,” he says. Mangini goes on to explain that his desire was not so much to change St. Bonaventure, but to continue to develop its community.

One of the ways he has done this is through inviting people into the ministry. “The thing I like most (about being pastor) is the interaction with the people. And I think I have a gift for that kind of interconnection.”

Christa Fairfield, Parish Life director at St. Bonaventure since 2002, has experienced this gift firsthand. She had just left a corporate job when Mangini approached her and offered her a position at St. Bonaventure. “The thing I’ve learned about (Mangini) is that he’s really good at seeing what someone could do, and inviting them to do that,” says Fairfield.

Big Shoes

Mangini retired from his position as pastor on July 1. “I feel very happy and fulfilled in a sense that I have done the best that I could have done for these 20 years, and I need a rest,” says Mangini. “I am very hopeful that the new priest to come will continue to build upon what we have built to the present time.”

Mangini understands that with every new leader comes change.“People have said ‘Oh, they have big shoes to fill.’” Mangini recalls a similar situation when taking over as editor of the Catholic Voice. He had been standing with the former editor when someone said to him, “you have big shoes to fill.”The former editor, answering on his behalf, replied, “I have my own shoes, and I’m taking them with me.”

Mangini encourages the community of St. Bonaventure to take this open perspective with their new pastor, Father Mathew Vellankal, who took over July 1.

Though Mangini is no longer a full-time priest at St. Bonaventure, he still plans to remain a part of the parish, officiating baptisms, funerals and weddings when requested. He will also be available to lead mass throughout the Oakland diocese.

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