Father Joseph Illo, pastor of St. Joseph Church in Modesto, Calif., has been happy to talk to reporters in recent weeks about a member of his parish community, Heidi Sierras, one of a handful of people to be baptized by the pope during the April 11 Easter Vigil at St. Peter’s Basilica.
His parishioners are well accustomed to media folks hanging out after Mass, not just for this story, but also when the pastor made headlines of his own in November. The story back then was over a letter he sent to parishioners urging them to “go to confession before receiving Communion” if they had voted for Barack Obama for president.
Soon after the letter gained media attention, his bishop issued a statement to clarify the issue. Stockton Bishop Stephen E. Blaire said the sacrament of reconciliation was not obligatory for Catholics who voted for Obama. He also stipulated that if a Catholic voted for a candidate “with a pro-abortion record with the motivation of supporting that abortion stance, then that is a grave moral matter.”
Now, as reporters are catching on to the story of Heidi’s upcoming papal baptism, Father Illo said his parishioners are glad to have some “noncontroversial” parish news in the media spotlight.
And the priest told Catholic News Service he was more than happy to have the opportunity to talk about something dear to his heart: “promoting conversion.”