Father V. Warwick James, pastor of St. Simon Parish, is set to retire today after 14 years of service at the Los Altos Catholic church.

“I am the most blessed pastor in the world,” James said. “It has given me great joy to serve this community.”

Under his leadership, the pastoral plan was built from the ground up, including nine councils of volunteers that lead all aspects of the parish.

To fully appreciate Warwick’s legacy is to understand his history. He was born in Barberton, South Africa, the younger of two boys. He attended Catholic grade school run by the Cabra Dominican Sisters of Ireland, where, he said, “the seed was planted” to become a priest.

After he completed public high school, James served a mandatory nine months in the National Service, which he said he greatly enjoyed. Working for the local newspaper by day and attending night school in Durban, South Africa, James earned his bachelor’s degree. He was inspired to start St. John Vianney Seminary at age 21 after he attended seven nights of a parish mission. Each night he said he felt the priest was “only speaking to me.” The pastor learned of this and asked James to consider the seminary. James gave it a try. At the time, he had a fiancee but no date to wed; he attended the seminary for two years before breaking off his engagement. To completely give yourself to the church is to “renew your commitment each day,” James said, and on April 11, 1980, he was ordained by Archbishop Denis E. Hurley.

Bound for California

After serving as a parish priest for a year, Warwick was asked to return to the National Service to complete another nine months of mandatory service, in which he earned the rank of colonel. After his stint was up, his first assignment as pastor was at St. Catherine’s in South Africa, where he became fluent in Zulu.

Warwick continued his education by heading west to California, where he attended Santa Clara University to earn a master’s in spirituality in 1988. While at Santa Clara, he was assigned to St. Mary’s Parish in Los Gatos.

His next assignment was at St. Lawrence in Santa Clara, where he was made pastor and stayed for the next 14 years. He worked hard to rebuild the high school, construct a middle school and expand the elementary school. His love for the administration of Catholic education was evident.

“I had an amazing principal,” Warwick said of this time at St. Lawrence.

His next assignment led him for a year to St. Anthony Church in Almaden Valley. He then settled into what was to be his final assignment at St. Simon Parish.

St. Simon had four principals under Warwick’s tenure.

“Father Warwick’s commitments are steadfast, he honors his word and he has preserved the identity and integrity of our parish,” said Ryan Roth, current principal of St. Simon Parish School.

Warwick will be honored at a party celebrating his retirement and his 40th anniversary in the priesthood once it is safe to gather as a community.

“We congratulate him on his 40th anniversary in the priesthood, and send him off to an active retirement with our love, gratitude and blessings,” said Joan Mibach, business manager at St. Simon.