From high fashion to the Lord’s vineyard
Legatus’ Napa Valley Chapter’s chaplain has had an amazing journey . . .
Fr. Gordon Kalil
Ordained in mid-life in 1994, Fr. Gordon Kalil’s journey to the priesthood took an unlikely trajectory. After serving nearly five years in the Air Force, working in microbiology and assisting in autopsies on servicemen returning from Vietnam, he had a meteoric rise in the fashion industry. Through hard work and good fortune, in less than 10 years he rose from earning $2 an hour folding pants in a clothing warehouse to traveling the world as a fashion executive. However, the call to the priesthood never left him.
Tell me about your call to the priesthood.
When I was 7 or 8, I knew I wanted to be a priest. Our pastor was the grounder of our opinions, so I took it to heart when he patted me on the cheek and said I wasn’t intelligent enough and wouldn’t have the money for the schooling. I ended up having a successful business life instead, which in hindsight was a tremendous preparation for a pastor and counselor. I was part of the “Me Generation,” and I lived it to its fullest. Life was a disposable commodity, measured in terms of how much money you could spend.
When did you choose God over Mammon?
Shortly after retiring from business at age 35 and moving to San Francisco to “find myself,” I had a powerful conversion experience. I used to park in the St. Dominic’s Church parking lot when I went to the gym. One day I just walked into the church and, in a sense, never left. After not attending Mass for 15 years, that experience of walking into church and just falling down on my knees led me to begin attending daily Mass and volunteering full-time.
How were you introduced to Legatus?
Through Tim Busch. He’s a wonderful apostle for Legatus and has contributed to the founding of many chapters. He said he’d like to start a Napa chapter. I agreed to help, gave him some names of prospective members and we built a recruitment team. We got about 10 members right away in our first year, and we were formally chartered last year.
I support and understand the role of Legatus — its emphasis upon living one’s faith at work and home, strengthened and edified by Legates coming together. Some of the presentations our members find most meaningful are about living life for Christ. How do I bring Christianity into my decision making? Every person needs a Christian mission in daily life, and Legatus teaches how we can live the faith in the trenches.
What impact has Legatus had on you?
I continue to be spiritually fed and renewed in Christ through the witness of our members. At the chartering Mass, it was humbling for me to name all the charities, services, ministries and missions that our members have founded, developed and supported. They are doing what I’d been doing in the business world, but as fervent Catholics. Their example of living the faith strengthens me in my priesthood.
Any parting thoughts?
People often ask me, “Where is there hope in the world when there is so much tragedy and suffering?” The hope is here — the hope that Christ has placed in us to do good in his name. We’re his hands and feet in the world. Legatus is that witness, and the core of it all is the fruit of prayer. If you go to the Lord and ask him how to use you, and he says what to do and you do it, then hope becomes real. Once you say Yes to the Lord, a whole new life begins that you never could have imaged. That surrender, that fiat, makes life indescribably wonderful.