Pastor Dillon’s retirement is an end of an era at Saints Peter and Paul Church

By: Joyia Emard, Gold Country News Service
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Some local churchgoers are trying to find the balance between celebration and mourning. Parishioners of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Rocklin are bidding a reluctant, yet joyful, farewell to Reverend Michael J. Dillon, their pastor of 28 years. Dillon’s retirement on June 30, marked the end of an era for the church community that started at St. Mary’s – the 100-year-old, white clapboard church on Front Street – and grew to a parish of 9,000 members. “I feel sadness, but also joy because he’s still around,” said Esther Campos, of Loomis, who helped found the new church and has known the retiring priest since his arrival to Rocklin in 1981. Another founding parishioner, Lu Lovisa, of Rocklin, said “I’m happy for him. Father Dillon always says ‘Change is good.’” Lovisa said the retiring priest presents “great” sermons that seem “like he’s speaking directly to you.” “The people have a real closeness. It’s a warm feeling, more like a family,” she said. “Father Dillon has an incredible passion for people. He never judges people, he just loves them where they’re at. He has wisdom,” said church secretary Linda Blincow, of Rocklin. “The church scandals gave priests a bad name. He’s none of that. He restores people’s faith in the priesthood,” Blincow added. Dillon, 72, with his Irish accent and quick wit, has shared in the joys and sorrows of his parish. He celebrated Mass daily and two to three times on weekends. During his 48-year career, he performed thousands of weddings, funerals and baptisms. He was the founding pastor of the parish that was formed to serve the Loomis Basin area, and included Rocklin, Loomis, Penryn and parts of what is now Granite Bay. In 1982, the parish purchased 8 ½ acres on Granite Drive for $370,000 and built the church and hall for $1.75 million. While the church was under construction, the growing parish held services at Parker Whitney Elementary School. It was decided that the new church would have a new name and Saints Peter and Paul was suggested by Dillon. Dillon grew up in County Limerick, Ireland and said he originally wanted to serve in the African missions, but instead ended up in Northern California. He said over the years his image of God has changed. He no longer sees God as a God of “requirements and rewards,” but as a “God of love who calls us to love one another.” “Once we believe that God loves us, it changes our whole life. The love of God is transforming,” he said. Dillon said he believes that actions speak louder than words and likes to quote St. Francis of Assisi who said, “Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” Dillon said church members are involved in service to the community through helping the poor and homeless through the St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Gathering Inn, Loaves and Fishes, Lazarus House, Habitat For Humanity and What Would Jesus Do. They also raise scholarship funds for students. During his retirement, Dillon plans to stay in the area and enjoy more of his favorite pastime — golf. He also plans to continue some of his religious activities. The new pastor for Saints Peter and Paul is Reverend Stanley Poltorak, who was born in Poland, and has been serving as pastor at Assumption parish in Truckee for 14 years.