Father Christopher Liguori, the pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Jacksonville, Fla., is the co-chaplain of Legatus’ Jacksonville Chapter. He was ordained a priest in 2003 and has served in a variety of parish assignments, including parochial vicar at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine. His interests include traditional liturgy and sacred music, classical architecture and religious art. He is also passionate about Catholic education. He spoke with Legatus magazine staff writer Brian Fraga.
Was the Catholic faith a big part of your home growing up?
I am the fourth child of five boys. My grandparents were Italian immigrants who, of course, were Catholic. They settled in a small town in upstate New York where there wasn’t a priest. My grandmother, who never learned English, used to go to the Protestant church and would bring my father, since he was the baby of four boys. For reasons I do not know, he ended up attending Berkeley Divinity School at Yale and was ordained an Episcopalian priest. I was raised Anglo-Catholic until my teens.
When did you first discern your call to the priesthood?
It was later in life, in my early 30s. It was very much a process of conversion. I was a political science major with plans to become an international corporate lawyer. But I ended up goofing off in college and knew law school wasn’t for me. After a few years of surfing during the day and waiting on tables at night, I went back to college and got a degree in design technology.
I was about to start my degree in architecture when the call became even stronger, the major influence being my home parish, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, as well as my volunteer work at Catholic Charities. While vacationing with my family in Italy, I took a train to Rome to meet up with my pastor, Fr. Robert Baker [now Bishop Baker of the Birmingham diocese], to attend a papal audience with him. Shaking the hand of Pope John Paul II had a profound effect on me.
What were your duties as parochial vicar at the Cathedral Basilica?
Cathedral Basilica was my home parish. During my six years at seminary, I had a room in the rectory and would spend breaks and summers there, living with the priests and bishop, so it was like coming home. Serving in the nation’s oldest parish carries with it a responsibility to preserve and participate in its historical role where the Catholic faith had its start in 1565.
My assignment also included being master of ceremonies for the bishop, so I was in charge of all the cathedral liturgies that the bishop presided at, as well as travelling to 20 to 25 parishes a year to assist with confirmations and other events. This gave me a great perspective of the diocese.
How and when did you become acquainted with Legatus?
My first assignment was at Our Lady Star of the Sea in Ponte Vedra in 2003. This was the year the Jacksonville Chapter chartered. Bowie Kuhn, who founded the chapter, was a member of this parish. Since we were both associated with Opus Dei, we had many long conversations. The bishop was the chapter’s first chaplain, and he asked me to assist him.
What have your impressions of Legatus been?
Legatus is like family to me. I have been with them for 12 years. I so look forward to the monthly meetings. Legatus Jacksonville members are the most wonderful people, really striving to live holy lives. They are also very supportive and appreciative of me. I recently built a church, school, parish hall and office. They were with me the whole way, encouraging and supporting me.
BRIAN FRAGA is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.