Saint Joseph's Catholic Church Modesto California
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This page updated: January 25, 2010
Our Clergy

Fr. Joseph P. Illo, Pastor

On sabbatical in Rome from October 2009 - July 2010

Fr. Joseph Illo was born in a little Italian part of the Bronx, City Island, and baptized at Our Lady Star of the Sea there.  He grew up in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and graduated from High School in 1979.  He graduated with a B.A. in English Literature from the Pennsylvania State University in 1983, and then moved to San Francisco to work for a Catholic publishing house, Ignatius Press.  He went on to study philosophy, theology, and history at Blackfriars, Oxford (England) for a year, then to Rome for a B.A. in philosophy from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas (the Angelicum).  While in Rome he lived one year with the Oblates of the Virgin Mary and another year as porter of the Benedictine Motherhouse, Sant’Anselmo on the Aventine Hill. 

From Rome he went to New York to complete four years of seminary training at St. Joseph’s Seminary, New York, earning M.Div. and M.A. degrees in theology.  Bishop Donald Montrose of Stockton, CA ordained him to the priesthood in 1991.  He has worked in parish assignments at Lodi, Manteca, Hughson, as well as two years as full-time vocations director for the diocese.  In June 2000 he was named pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Modesto. 

Fr. Illo enjoys all outdoor sports, especially backpacking, skiing, mountainbiking, rollerblading, kayaking, and snowcamping.  He has traveled in Eastern and Western Europe, Latin and South America, and Asia, and is fluent in Spanish and Italian.  He considers the parish priesthood God’s best gift to him and is very happy to be among the clergy of the Stockton diocese.

Fr. Camilo Garcia, Administrator

Fr. Camilo Garcia

Fr. John Peter Pragasam, Associate Pastor

Fr. John Peter Pragasam

Fr. John Peter Soosai Pragasam's friends call him Fr. JP or Fr. John Peter and he likes those names. He was born in Tamil Nadu, south of India and his education was primarily in the Salesians of Don Bosco schools. He was a commerce graduate when he entered the seminary and later was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Vellore. Since then, he has been an associate pastor, pastor, and director of a few commissions in his Indian diocese, including the Youth Commission. He credits the pastoral and youth ministry years as having shaped and enriched him..

His family has been Catholic for many generations. He has three older brothers, four younger brothers and one beloved sister. His parents are still healthy and strong; his Mom walks the mile to the church every day. There are two priests and one religious brother in the family; three are married and three are single.

The greatest inspiration for his family is Fr. JP's grandfather, Mr. Isaac, a simple catechist who taught catechism and helped in the conversion of 45 villages, of course, together with the MEP fathers. Fr. John Peter credits his grandfather for teaching him to believe,I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me” (Phil 4 : 13).

In Fr. John Peter's life and ministry, he draws abiding inspiration from Mother Mary whose maternal presence leads him to Jesus constantly. Often he feels one with her in saying, ‘God has done great things for me!

From Fr. John Peter: I feel I can’t thank you enough, especially Fr. Illo, our pastor, Fr. Larry, Fr. Camilo, and the parish staff, for your generous support and genuine prayers. I am very happy to be part of St. Joseph's in Modesto. We are a people graced by God. We come together as a community of faith, supporting each other as we live and celebrate the good news of Jesus Christ. God bless all of us!

Fr. Benny Kottarathil, Associate Pastor

Fr. Benny Kottarathil

Fr. Benny Kottarathil, is a Benedictine monk-priest of the Sylvestro-Benedictine Congregation and belongs to the Syro-Malabar Rite, one of the three oriental churches of the East Syrian [Catholic] family. I have two brothers and one sister. My mother died of a heart attack (during her sleep) two months prior to my sacerdotal ordination! May her soul rest in peace!

Fr. Benny felt a strong call to the monastic way of life and joined St. Joseph’s Benedictine Monastery, Makkiyad [Kerala, India – some 108 km away from home] soon after High School. He made his Religious Profession in 1993, Perpetual Profession in 1999 and was ordained a priest on the Solemnity of Epiphany in 2001.

After his ordination to priesthood he served as Director Assistant in his Monastery Retreat Centre for a year, and then was sent to Rome for higher studies in Sacred Liturgy; and a Licentiate in Sacred Liturgy (Licentiam in Sacra Liturgia – LSL) from the prestigious Pontifical Liturgical institute, Rome.  On his return to the Monastery after studies he was once again appointed as the Assistant Director in the same Retreat Centre, before transferring to Bangalore where he worked as a professor of Sacred Liturgy in a number of seminaries in the city. He comes to St. Joseph’s in Modesto taking a break from his teaching profession and living in a monastery.

Fr.Benny enjoys sports and games, especially badminton and chess. He loves music, classic and historic movies, and reading; his favorite authors are Shakespeare and Tolkien. He speaks Malayalam (his native language), English and Italian fluently; and has working knowledge in Ecclesiastical Latin, New Testament Greek, modern German and a little bit of French.

From Fr. Benny: I love St. Joseph’s, as it is a vibrant parish. I appreciate the magnanimity of Fr. Joseph Illo in giving me this opportunity to become part of this flamboyant family. I thank all the PSR kids for their lovely ‘welcome cards’; and thanks to you all for your warm welcome and fraternal concern. May God bless you and keep you!

Fr. Larry Guerrero, Modesto Area Hospital Chaplain

Fr. Larry Guerrero

Deacon Ken Ochinero

Deacon Ken Ochinero

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