Little Italy community mourns tireless priest


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SAN DIEGO — Father Louis Solcia, an icon within San Diego’s Italian Catholic community, died March 2.

Father Solcia, a member of the Clerics Regular of St. Paul, also known as the Barnabites, was 91.

Born in Milan, Italy, Father Solcia was ordained to the priesthood on Dec. 8, 1957, in Buffalo, N.Y., where he became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1968.

Father Solcia arrived in the Diocese of San Diego in 1990. From then until his death, he served as associate pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, which is located in the Little Italy area and has been home to generations of Italian Catholics.

Barnabite Father Joseph Tabigue, the parish’s pastor since 2011, said his late associate had a strong devotion to the Eucharist, the Blessed Mother and St. Pio of Pietrelcina.

Father Solcia led a “Eucharistic” life, said Father Tabigue, who painted the picture of a selfless man – “the very image of that body being broken and given away” – who found  purpose in ministering to others.

Father Tabigue recalled the older priest’s regular visits to patients at Rady Children’s Hospital, his service as an unofficial chaplain for homeschooling families who worshiped at his parish, and his ministry to students including at John Paul the Great Catholic University in Escondido.

“He was always available, in spite of his age and years beyond retirement,” said Father Tabigue, who described him as “truly a father.”

For the benefit of his spiritual children – and even if it generated complaint letters to the pastor – Father Solcia didn’t water down the Gospel and its demands. Father Tabigue said he was “never … afraid to tell the truth,” because he was “concerned about the soul of each person.”

Laura Castañeda first encountered Father Solcia in 1995, after moving from Tucson, Ariz., settling in downtown San Diego, and attending Mass at nearby Our Lady of the Rosary Parish.

She felt an immediate connection with “this old Italian priest” who celebrated the noon Mass on Sundays. It was unlike anything she had experienced before.

“He just had a way (of) making you feel like he was speaking directly to you,” she said.

By the following year, Father Solcia had become her spiritual advisor.

She recalled her first session with him, when she accepted his invitation to make her confession, something that she had never done before without the anonymity of a screen.

“When I left, I felt so spiritually cleansed,” she said. “This man never judged me.”

Father Solcia would later officiate Castañeda’s wedding in 2007 and baptize her son, Erick, and her first granddaughter, Dahianna.

Even after moving to Chula Vista, she stayed connected with Father Solcia. She would call and visit him. During his last days, as his health declined, she was among those praying at his bedside.

Castañeda fondly recalled two of the late priest’s favorite sayings: “God bless you real good,” his preferred way of ending phone calls and letters, and “Pray, hope, and don’t worry,” a popular quotation of Padre Pio’s.

“He was not just a priest. He was so special,” she said.

“He knew how to connect with people, regardless of your age, regardless of your gender, regardless of where you were from, regardless of whether or not you were Catholic,” she said. “He just had a very warm way of connecting … with people and just letting you know that, no matter how dark your days might be at the moment, there was always hope for tomorrow.”

The funeral Mass for Father Solcia was celebrated March 9 at Our Lady of the Rosary Church. Interment was at the Barnabite Fathers Cemetery in Lewiston, N.Y.

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