A familiar face returns to St. Theresa Catholic Church | TahoeDailyTribune.com

A familiar face returns to St. Theresa Catholic Church

Nancy Oliver Hayden
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / The Rev. Michael O'Reilly and his Siberian husky, Moxie, relax on the steps of St. Theresa Catholic Church.

If the new priest at St. Theresa Catholic Church looks familiar, he should. The Rev. Michael O’Reilly was associate priest at St. Theresa from 1996 to 1999 and returned to South Lake Tahoe on June 28.

“I was a little unsure when I was first asked to come back,” said Father O’Reilly. “It can be a challenge at South Lake Tahoe because of the visitors and the amount of people who come and go. People try to make it up here, and find it difficult. I really enjoy the visitors. They are a wonderful addition.”

The 40-year-old O’Reilly was born in Sacramento, the youngest of seven children born to Gerald and Philomena O’Reilly, and graduated from Lincoln High School in 1983. He attended California State University, Sacramento, for two years and received his bachelor’s degree in humanities in 1989 from St. Joseph’s College in Mountain View. He earned a master’s degree in divinity and was ordained in 1996 at St. Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park.

Following his three years at Tahoe, he spent 2 1/2 years in Weed, Calif., as pastor of Holy Family Church and was pastor of St. Dominic Church in Orlando, Calif., for the past 4 1/2 years.

“I am happy to be back,” O’Reilly said. “I feel things are good at Tahoe – in the church and the community. I love the new church. It is beautiful and a pleasant addition – a good space to worship in. St. Theresa has a very good staff and I feel enthusiastic about all the dynamics in the parish. There are many young families who are very involved.

“My first priority is to get a feel for who our local church is. My goal within the church is to help unify who we are as parishioners, both Spanish- and English-speaking. I feel I should help give us a better sense of who we are.

“I enjoyed my three years in South Lake Tahoe. I worked predominantly with the Spanish-speaking community. I’m not fluent in Spanish, but I’m pretty good. I learned mostly from my ministry.”

O’Reilly said that he loves the snow, especially the quiet, and he likes to snowshoe. He and his 8-year-old Siberian husky, Moxie, who is always at his side, enjoy walking almost every day in the mountains. He likes to read and watch TV, which he said keeps him in touch with what is going on in the modern world. He loves music and is an accomplished pianist, plays the flute and his tenor voice can often be heard singing in Masses. He also enjoys traveling and spent time in Thailand and Hong Kong last year.

Father O’Reilly is a warm, outgoing man with a great sense of humor, who enjoys having fun. But he makes it very clear that he takes Christ and his faith very seriously. “I hope this comes across in my ministry,” he said.

“I became a priest because I had a strong desire to work with people. I had wanted to enter social work in the context of faith and God, so the priesthood seemed obvious. It felt it would fit quite well.”

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