After the 12:15 p.m. Mass on the afternoon of June 22, a crowd gathered outside St. Nicholas Church and Parish Hall. It was an outpouring of the community honoring St. Nicholas’ pastor, the Rev. Dr. Lawrence (Larry) Percell, for his more than a decade of service.
Parishioners and friends thanked Percell for his commitment, competence and compassion for all who needed him during his days at St. Nicholas, whether parishioner or not. Tuesday was his final day as pastor of the north Los Altos faith community.
Parishioners reluctantly bid goodbye to the priest, counselor and friend Percell had become. The general reaction was reluctance to “losing” “Father Larry” but joy that the church was able to recognize his need to withdraw from administrative duties to fulfill other commitments. The joy for him and all he has given to the community overrode their reluctance in his leaving.
Percell’s last message was “the hope that as the economic situation is improving, the local community will not forget the thousands in Santa Clara County who are still struggling just to survive, and continue to assist them in any possible way.”
He said he is “very grateful” for the opportunity he was given at St. Nicholas to do what he had always dreamed of doing – being a parish priest.
The needs and demographics of St. Nicholas matched his education and professional skills perfectly before his ordination. Percell practiced clinical psychology for San Mateo County Mental Health and had a private practice in Redwood City.
His retirement coincides with – but is not connected to – the appointment of a new pastor at St. William Catholic Church in Los Altos. The Rev. Chris Branfield is also reassigned. The Diocese of San Jose is introducing an entirely new dynamic in north Los Altos with the realignment.
The two local communities for years have shared various ministries: youth groups, Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults preparation, Confirmation preparation and administration, and the K-8 school at St. Nicholas.
Under the new alignment, established by the most Rev. Patrick McGraw, bishop of the Diocese of San Jose, the St. Nicholas and St. William parishes will work more closely together and share their facilities. Under the new arrangement, the Auxiliary Bishop of San Jose the Rev. Bishop Tom Daly and Parochial Vicar the Rev. John Poncini are assigned to administer the parishes.
Percell expects that his parishioners will welcome Daly with their support. He is confident that the parish will be in good hands. Having worked with Daly, Percell found him “a clear communicator, compassionate and a man of strong convictions.” He and Poncini should make a “very good team,” he added.
Percell will continue his priestly vocation by serving on the staff of El Retiro, the Jesuit Retreat Center of Los Altos.