In Los Banos, Dos Palos and Firebaugh, church leaders come and go. It’s the nature of life. Pastors and assistants retire, have new opportunities or in the case of priests are obliged to go, since they take a vow of obedience.

One priest who is about to move on–to greater responsibilities–is Father Oscar Saul Medina, or as many people know him, Father Oscar.

He will be leaving St. Joseph’s Parish in Los Banos as the Parochial Vicar to assume a leadership role as the Administrator of two parishes 90 minutes south of Los Banos, Our Lady of the Assumption in Caruthers and St. Jude’s in Easton.

Like many others in his parish, I am happy for Father Oscar. He deserves what I consider a “promotion,” moving up to take charge of not one church but two.

At the same time, like other parishioners I will miss him. He has a wonderful blend of intelligence, sensitivity, compassion, warmth and humor that makes a priest or minister extraordinary.

I’m sure my readers, from all different denominations in Los Banos, would agree that these are qualities they value in individuals in their church who minister to their congregations.

I especially admire Father Oscar for his ability to function smoothly in two languages, Spanish and English. His native language is Spanish but his ability to communicate in English is remarkable.

He communicates well, not only in his ability to speak with conviction but to listen carefully. He is equally appreciated by his Spanish-speaking and English-speaking parishioners.

Father Oscar also relates well to people of all ages, from young children to senior citizens, including those in their 80s and 90s at New Bethany Residential Care whom he regularly visits. And after Mass outside the church, many people not only shake his hand but spend time thanking him for all the good things he does and for how much he cares about them. He is a priest for all the people.

Father Oscar had significant life experience before he entered the seminary, working in the business world before he felt the call by God to become a priest. As a result, he can relate to people experiencing the joys and sufferings, the accomplishments and challenges they experience as they work to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.

My family has been blessed to know Father Oscar well, enough to call him our friend as well as our priest. He can converse on just about any topic with a depth, as well as a breadth, of knowledge. And he has a delightful sense of humor that brings smiles to our faces.

I’m sure when Father Oscar reads this, he will blush. He’s not interested in accolades but in serving God and serving others.

Maybe Father Oscar might inspire young men to consider becoming a priest, surely not an easy job but one that enables someone to lovingly share faith and hope, which the world today needs more than ever.

Like many of his other parishioners, I wish him  the best in his new assignment and throughout his life. And I hope he understands the long-lasting impact he has made on our lives.

Vaya con Dios, Father Oscar.

Reminders: Arbor Day in Los Banos is just around the corner. This year it will be held at 4 p.m. on Friday, March 1, in Talbott Park  (1620 San Luis St.) near the Los Banos Junior High School. It’s a great way to honor trees and all they do to improve our quality of life.

And that morning from 7 to 10 a.m., the Milliken Museum Society will hold its annual Arbor Day Breakfast at the Miller and Lux Building (830 Sixth St.) in Los Banos. It’s a hearty breakfast and all proceeds go to the Los Banos’ historical museum, run primarily by volunteers.

Less than a month away, on Saturday, March 23, is the Los Banos Rotary Club’s annual Crab Feed, the club’s biggest fundraiser of the year. As it has in past years, it will be held in the Los Banos Fairgrounds Exhibit Building.

Any Rotarian will be glad to sell you tickets for an evening which features not only all the crab you can eat, but many other items in silent and oral auctions. It’s a good way to have fun and support the many good things the local Rotary does, including scholarships for high school students, Feed the Need for elementary school students, and dozens of other good things that strengthen our community.