Father Leonel Noia Dies; Remembered at Funeral at Five Wounds Portuguese Parish

By Roberta Ward
Valley Catholic
August 16, 2005

Father Leonel Noia, 58, priest of the Diocese of San Jose and former pastor of Five Wounds Portuguese National Parish, San Jose, died June 30 after a lengthy illness. He was born Feb. 2, 1947 in Ponta Delgada, Flores in the Azores where he attended elementary and secondary schools. He attended the Seminario Episcopal of the Diocese of Angra where he studied philosophy and two years of theology. In 1971 Father Noia transferred his theology studies to St. Patrick Seminary, Menlo Park and in 1972 he was ordained a transitional deacon and served a pastoral year at St. Victor Parish, San Jose. He was ordained to the priesthood by the late San Francisco Archbishop Joseph T. McGucken and was assigned as an associate pastor at St. Patrick Parish, San Jose, then at St. Joseph, Mountain View, and later at St. Julie, San Jose. He became a priest of the Diocese of San Jose upon inauguration of the diocese in 1981, and in 1982, Bishop Pierre DuMaine appointed him pastor of St. Anthony Parish in the New Almaden area in San Jose. In 1986 Father Noia was appointed pastor of Five Wounds Parish where he served until he took sabbatical in 2002. He retired thereafter and had been in poor health. Father Noia's funeral was celebrated at Five Wounds Church on the evening of July 5, presided by San Francisco Archbishop Emeritus John R. Quinn who also gave the homily. Hundreds of people came to the visitation, Rosary and funeral Mass and packed the Santa Clara Street church. Archbishop Quinn said, "Our hearts go out to Father Noia's mother and family. This parish family comes together tonight as an enduring sign of the five wounds of Christ, as we celebrate this funeral Mass of Father Leonel Noia. He was so greatly loved over many years as evidenced by the immense crowd of people here. "He was also greatly loved by God and we entrust him now to the heart of God. Our sins are the wounds that bound Christ to the Cross. Jesus Christ came as one of us and he was a friend of sinners," the archbishop said. Every Christian, he said, must daily pray for forgiveness. "We have a need for God and a need for personal forgiveness. Tonight we are a community of believers who have gathered together with each other and the risen Lord. "Tonight we may say that Leonel has completed his Baptism. His faith brings eternal life. Leonel made his journey of faith and lived in the faith of his Baptism knowing that Christ died for our sins." Out of "Lionel's need for God came the understanding that there is no hope for anyone except in the mercy of God," Archbishop Quinn said. "So, we gather up the strands of Leonel's life and the things that endeared him to us and we place them in the heart of Christ where love triumphs over sin and death. "Our final prayer for Leonel tonight is that he will be judged by love. May he rest in peace and rise in glory." Prior to the funeral Mass parishioners gave testimony to Father Noia's ministry, especially at Five Wounds. He was praised for his initiatives in maintaining the old church building and presided over many improvements there. Although responsible for the daily business aspects of the parish, Father Noia was especially liked for his pastoral concerns and his care of immigrants, especially those from the Azores who were Five Wounds parishioners. "The spiritual and the cultural are inseparable here," one man said, and he referred also to Father Noia's "keen and subtle intellect and sharp wit. He was known for his preaching which he did with conviction and principle. "He had a strong personality and was candid and scholarly. His service here at Five Wounds was marked by his concern for the people. He was our priest, our brother. Those who identified with Jesus became His followers and so Father Noia had a special concern for people in need in the community for whom he took a special responsibility. "Faith without good deeds is useless and so Father Noia established St. Isabel's Kitchen to serve the poor. Many parishioners participated by providing fruits and vegetables from their gardens and this ministry to the poor grew. "Father Noia was a listener and talker, but especially as a listener he was a good observer and a friend."


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