“My best memories of the College were being in the tutorials, learning through the great books, and the spiritual life,” recalls Rev. Hildebrand Garceau, O.Praem. (’78). “Our chaplains were very fine spiritual guides. It was through their example and through the prayer life we had at the College that I really developed my vocation.”
Now serving as the College’s head chaplain, Fr. Hildebrand has the opportunity to be the same sort of mentor and influence that the late Rev. Thomas McGovern, S.J., and Msgr. John Gallagher were when he was a student at Thomas Aquinas College.
A native of Connecticut, Fr. Hildebrand came to the College as a student in 1974. After graduating in 1978, he spent one year teaching before joining the religious community of the Canons Regular of the Immaculate Conception. He attended Mt. Angel Seminary in Oregon and was ordained to the priesthood in 1984 by Timothy Cardinal Manning, then the Archbishop of Los Angeles. After two decades with the Canons, however, Fr. Hildebrand discerned a calling to a more monastic vocation, and in 2003 received permission to transfer to the religious order of the Norbertine Fathers at St. Michael’s Abbey in Orange, Calif.
In 2004 Fr. Hildebrand was appointed pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Costa Mesa, a 3,000-family parish where Mass is offered in four languages — English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Latin. Under his leadership, St. John’s placed a special emphasis on the Sacrament of Penance, offering not just the usual one hour for confession on Saturdays, but also two hour-long opportunities every Sunday. The church also operated a Eucharistic chapel for perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Fr. Hildebrand admits he was surprised when his superiors asked him to return to the College as a chaplain in 2011, but he is delighted by the prospect. “I have always considered the College to be a milestone in my human development because it really helped me to form my way of thinking and strengthen my faith,” he says. “I hope to give back to the College at least a little bit of what it has given to me.”
The College name Fr. Hildebrand its head chaplain in 2014. “The love of Christ and his Church has gathered us together here at Thomas Aquinas College,” he remarks. “By study, reflection, and discussion we come to know God; by prayer and contemplation we come to love Him. The chaplains help to facilitate that love by ministering the Sacraments and providing spiritual direction so that the students may thrive humanly and spiritually.”