The Most Reverend Kevin W. Vann, bishop of the Diocese of Orange, made a recent and most memorable visit to St. Anne’s Catholic Church in Seal Beach.
The bishop was the principal celebrant and homilist at the Mass of Installation of Father John M. Shimotsu on Jan. 23.
The celebration was attended by many parishioners who came to welcome their new pastor at St. Anne. Special guests included, Captain Jason Sherman, Commanding Officer, Naval Weapons Station, Seal Beach and Pastor Emeritus Don Shoemaker, Grace Community Church, Seal Beach.
Concelebrating with Bishop Vann were Msgr. Stephen Doktorczyk, Vicar General of the Diocese of Orange; Msgr. Mike Heher and Fr. Bob Vidal, both Pastor Emeritus at St. Anne; Fr. Edward Jablonski, Extern Priest at St. Anne; Fr. Enrique Sera, Pastor at St. Mary’s, Fullerton; and Fr. Kevin Sweeney, Pastor at St. Vincent de Paul, Huntington Beach. Fr. Michael Khong was Master of Ceremonies. Dcn. Jerry Wallace, from St. Vincent de Paul parish, was the Deacon for the Mass.
RETURNING TO THE DIOCESE OF ORANGE
Fr. Shimotsu was first assigned to St. Anne’s in Seal Beach in July 2020 as the parochial vicar. Just 18 months later he was called upon by Bishop Vann to lead St. Anne’s, and her parishioners, at the beginning of the parish’s second hundred years in its history in Seal Beach.
Born in Santa Monica and baptized in a Protestant church, Fr. John grew up in Culver City. A 1985 graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, he served as a Naval Officer, and was confirmed a Catholic. He resigned his commission to pursue priestly formation in 1989. After graduating from Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon, he was ordained a priest
in 1994 for the Diocese of Orange and served at St. Polycarp Catholic Church in Stanton before being given permission by Bishop Norman McFarland to serve as a Navy Chaplain from 1997.
Fr. John returned to the Diocese of\ Orange County as a priest in August 2019 after serving 23 years as an active-duty Navy chaplain with the Navy and Marine Corps, eventually achieving the rank of captain in the US Navy.
A PERSONAL APPROACH
Fr. John had never been to St. Anne’s in Seal Beach until he received the assignment as a parochial vicar. Over the past year and a half, Fr. John has been able to get to know many parishioners and learn how the parish works. He often says how impressed and grateful he is for the many volunteers, the Knights of Columbus, the Woman’s Guild and others who have worked to facilitate activities at St. Anne’s, including outdoor Masses due to pandemic precautions.
“I’ve met with some of the older parishioners, and they tell me wonderful stories about raising their young families over the decades here in the parish and in Seal Beach,” said Fr. John. “Looking at the demographic trends, we have to be very concerned these days. We can’t just assume that people are going to be here in future generations. There’s been a decline in religious observance by younger generations. And so, if we’re going to continue well into the next 100 years, we have to make a very conscious effort to strengthen the faith of people across all age groups.”
As one his first efforts, Fr. John relaunched a program called Order of Christian Initiation of Adults following a five-year absence. He believes it is important to the life of the parish to bring in new Catholics, and to teach Catholic adults so they can complete their sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. Fr. John has also expressed deep appreciation for a special outreach program between St. Anne’s Seal Beach and St. Anne’s Santa Ana.
“It’s very heartening to see the support that many of our parishioners have given to St. Anne’s Catholic Elementary School in Santa Ana, with everything from musical instruments and computers to helping them fundraise and provide tuition assistance to families,” he said.
Fr. John is happy to begin the next phase of his time as a Catholic priest to be here in Seal Beach.
As he says, “It’s the only Catholic parish in Orange County that has a Navy base in its parish boundaries.”
“I still remember my first morning in the parish, hearing morning colors being played from the loudspeakers at the base at eight o’clock, and then the bells ringing from the Bell Tower at St. Anne’s Church just before the start of Mass at nine o’clock. That was a great way to start the next phase of my service to my country and to my Church.”