Jesuit Father Michael J. Mandala, emeritus president of Verbum Dei High School, Los Angeles, died Sept. 9, 2018 at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center, Los Gatos, California. He suffered from pancreatic cancer. He was 71 years of age and had been a member of the Jesuits for 54 years, 41 years a priest.
Fr. Mandala was born in Los Angeles on December 7, 1946, the son of Samuel Mandala and Rose Criscione Mandala. He graduated from Cantwell High School, in Montebello, California, and entered the Jesuit Novitiate at Los Gatos in 1964. After the usual course of Jesuit studies Fr. Mandala was ordained a priest at St. Anne’s Church, in Santa Ana, California, on March 26, 1977.
His priestly ministry began as a community organizer at the Orange County branch of what later became the PICO National Network. He later served as Associate Director of the organization. He was twice in charge of the Social and Pastoral Ministries for the California Jesuits. From 1988-1995 he was pastor of the predominantly African-American parish of Christ the King in San Diego, California, and of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Hollywood, California, from 1998-2011.
In 2012 Fr. Mandala, affectionately known as “Padre,” joined Verbum Dei High School as Director of Community Relations and Social Outreach. His goal was simple – to open Verb’s blue gates to Watts and the surrounding communities. And he did just that. His leadership and smile connected Verbum Dei to other non-profits, faith-based organizations and local government offices. In 2014, Padre was appointed President of Verbum Dei High School. Verb’s faculty, staff, and students were the recipients of his pastoral care. He stepped down in April 2018 due to failing health.
Fr. Mandala is survived by his brother, Jim, of San Dimas, CA.