Father Kalil gave up the Armani suit

Father Kalil

Father Kalil

The following comes from a July 31 story in the Napa Valley Register.

Father Gordon Kalil, who left a lucrative career in the fashion industry to pursue a religious calling, has been assigned to the St. Helena Catholic Church. Jesse Duarte photo

Picture Gordon, a Manhattanite living the quintessential fast-lane lifestyle. With a job in the upper ranks of the fashion industry, he earns a salary that’s helped him amass lavish collections of art and cars.

Now imagine Father Kalil, a devout small-town priest with a soft spot for poor families. In his free time he reads presidential biographies and mulls over his lesson plans for an adult education class about why God allows his people to suffer.

And now guess who’s happier.

Any religious leader will tell you that worldly possessions are no substitute for a meaningful spiritual life. Yet they can rarely say so with the authority of Father Gordon Kalil, whose glamorous life of conspicuous consumption left him feeling empty.

Kalil was assigned July 1 to St. Helena Catholic Church, where he replaces the retired Father John Brenkle.

In his late 30s, he left behind his career as a fashion executive and — after a skeptical team of clergy, a therapist and a psychiatrist concluded that this was not just a midlife crisis worthy of a bad movie — exchanged his Armani suit for a cassock and a starched white collar.

Kalil grew up in Indiana, the oldest of five children in a family of Lebanese descent. When he was 8 years old, he told his parents he was interested in becoming a priest. When they referred him to a pastor, “he told me I didn’t have the intelligence and my family didn’t have enough money.”

Today, Kalil believes that those words, which temporarily discouraged him from pursuing the holy life, were all part of God’s plan.

Pursuing a life of material wealth, and spending 15 years away from the church, “enriches my priesthood,” Kalil said. “When I encounter those doubts that most people have about God and their journey of faith, I understand because I’ve been there and done that.”

Kalil swiftly rose to the executive ranks of the fashion industry. His 37th-floor office suite had a breathtaking view, he said, and he could always retreat to his summer house outside the city. He had a keen sense of style and business savvy, as well as a mastery of the bitingly witty repartee one needs to survive an endless string of New York high-society social gatherings. But something was missing.

“The more I accomplished, the emptier I felt,” he said. “It didn’t feel like this was where I belonged.”

At age 37, Kalil left the industry. Envisioning a low-key retirement, he moved to San Francisco, along with his collections of art and cars. When he’d go to the gym in the lower Fillmore, he’d park his Jaguar in the parking lot of St. Dominic’s Catholic Church.

He avoided entering the church for a full year. When he finally did, “I was overcome by a sense of coming home again,” he said. He started attending Mass again and found himself drawn to the Dominican Order, which agreed to accept him if he could prove his devotion through rigorous theological and philosophical study.

Kalil excelled in his courses and rejoiced in his newfound faith. He got rid of the art and the cars, rented a cramped studio apartment that he said was roughly the size of one of his old closets, and bought a used Ford Escort that sputtered and popped.

“Stripping away that worldliness was a painful process, but it was liberating,” he said. “Every moment of difficulty, pain or stress was compensated thousands of times over by the grace that came to me.”

Kalil was ordained and assigned to a series of parishes and diocesan-level positions, including ministering to prison inmates and AIDS patients, before landing at Napa’s St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in 2001.

Kalil said he hadn’t expected to be reassigned to St. Helena. He’d spent some time in the St. Helena Parish about 15 years ago when Father Brenkle was helping the Santa Rosa Diocese sort out its catastrophic financial and legal problems, but the church has changed a lot since then.

Kalil spoke highly of Brenkle’s “wonderful ministry and service.” Kalil, who considers the lack of immigration reform “a travesty,” said he wants to build on Brenkle’s activism on behalf of the Hispanic community….

To read the entire story, click here.




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  1. Please Fr Kalil, join us in front of the Sacramento abortion mills where you can help us save lives.

    • Cathleen G says:

      Father lives in St Helena, CA – let’s pray that our catholic families grow in love with his guidance and love of Christ to provide us the tools and gifts of The Lord. Perhaps we pray his parish have an NFP couple to coach parishoers, an adoption connection for all the people who live and work in St Helena to not fear if an unplanned pregnancy happens so we build a culture of life. Prayer and works.

      • Kenneth M. Fisher says:

        Let us pray that Fr. Kalil’s efforts on immigration are properly directed and not part of the Demoncrat Party’s plans. Humane Immigration reform does not have to include a path to citizenship for those who broke our laws in the first place, securing our borders, and must include some penalties for doing so.

        God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
        Kenneth M. Fisher

        • Kenneth M. Fisher says:

          The above should have read “must include securing ……..

          God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
          Kenneth M. Fisher

  2. Pray for our Pope, Bishops and all Priests daily.

    • Abeca Christian says:

      Andy I agree…..Yes. They need our prayers.

      I consider this so romantic. His love grew so much that no fame or Armani suits kept him from saying yes to our Lord. A true love deeper, more than any man can ever explain…but it is seen through holy obedience.

  3. Immigration activism. Yea, that’s what the priesthood’s all about.

  4. Abeca Christian says:

    Prayer is the humility of the man who acknowledges his profound wretchedness and the greatness of God. He addresses and adores God as one who expects everything from Him and nothing from himself.
    Faith is the humility of the mind which renounces its own judgement and surrenders to the verdict and authority of the Church.
    Obedience is the humility of the will which subjects itself to the will of another, for God’s sake.
    Chastity is the humility of the flesh, which subjects itself to the spirit.
    Exterior mortification is the humility of the senses.
    Penance is the humility of all the passions, immolated to the Lord.
    Humility is truth on the road of the ascetic struggle.
    Furrow, 259 St. Josemaria Escriva

  5. Abeca Christian says:

    The Lord raises us up….even the walking dead are alive once again through love and prayer. Praise Be Jesus. How little are we truly. how a nothing we are, at the end of the day….there is our Lord with His arms open to embrace us. We are wounded by our sin but when we surrender, we find healing only in Him.

  6. Catherine says:

    Recent Positive Story with video by Rajah Maples.. Please see “Mysterious priest performs miracle at site of Mercedes crash.”

    “O Almighty and Eternal God, look upon the Face of Thy Christ, and for love of Him Who is the eternal High-priest, have pity on Thy priests. Remember, O most compassionate God, that they are but weak and frail human beings. Stir up in them the grace of their vocation which is in them by the imposition of the Bishop’s hands. Keep them close to Thee, lest the enemy prevail against them, so that they may never do anything in the slightest degree unworthy of their sublime vocation.

    O Jesus, I pray Thee for Thy faithful and fervent priests; for Thy unfaithful and tepid priests; for Thy priests laboring at home or abroad in distant mission fields; for Thy tempted priests; for Thy lonely and desolate priests; for Thy young priests; for Thy aged priests; for Thy sick priests; for Thy dying priests; for the souls of Thy priests in Purgatory.

    But above all I commend to Thee the priests dearest to me: the priest who baptized me; the priests at whose Masses I assisted and who gave me Thy Body and Blood in Holy Communion; the priests who taught and instructed or helped me and encouraged me; all the priests to whom I am indebted in any other way, particularly (your priest’s name here). O Jesus, keep them all close to Thy heart, and bless them abundantly in time and in eternity. Amen. Mary, Queen of the clergy, pray for us; obtain for us many and holy priests.” Amen.

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