Patrick Joel Davadilla was born on March 16, 1961, in the busy town of Sta. Mesa, Manila, Philippines. He was the oldest child of Primo Davadilla Jr. and his loving wife, Elisa, who later had another son, Ronald, and precious daughter, Avegale.
At the very young age of 7, Patrick Joel had the uncommon fascination for the habits (attire) worn by priests, and for the way they conducted Masses. As was common in many Catholic families in the Philippines, young Joel was sent to an exclusive boys’ school, the Aquainas school, which was run by Dominicans in San Juan, Manila.
Toward the end of high school, Joel worked as an apprentice to a chef at an upscale hotel in Metro Manila. While Joel loved to cook, he felt that there was something missing in his life. He recalled having a crucifix on his wall, with Jesus seemingly speaking to him, asking him to try religious life. He also vividly recalled responding with a resounding “Sure!”
At 17, Patrick Joel entered the Christ the King Mission Seminary, in Quezon City, run by the Society of the Divine Word. In his fourth year at the seminary, Patrick Joel’s superiors sent him to Taiwan to study Chinese culture at a Jesuit school. This stint prepared him for the next phase of life. He became fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese. Soon after completing his theology studies and garnering a master’s degree at the Fu Jen University in New Taipei City, Patrick Joel was ordained on Dec. 17, 1988, in the Philippines.
As an SVD (Societas Verbi Divini) Missionary, his first assignment was in Hong Kong, where Fr. Joel helped revitalize the Society’s work. He worked mostly with Filipino migrant parishioners who left their families in the Philippines for better-paying jobs abroad. Fr. Joel managed two parishes and five Catholic schools. He also served as a Christian Superior of Religious congregations, as well as head of the Philippine Migrants Apostolate of some 350,000 migrant workers.
As a covert missionary in mainland China from 1982 to 1986, Fr. Joel often crossed the border from Hong Kong into deeper inland villages and small cities to spread God’s word and to celebrate the Mass. This was at the height of the communist regime’s crackdown on religion. Fr. Joel’s last months in China were harrowing, to say the least. He eventually was transferred to St. Louis, Mo., to recover.
It was in 1996 when Fr. Joel became an Associate Pastor at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Fresno, Calif. He had asked to be released from the Society of the Divine Word Missionaries and incardinated as a diocesan priest under Bishop John T. Steinbock of Fresno. In a short span of time, he urged the Filipino community to organize the Filipino Catholic League. He introduced the Filipino traditions of “Salubong” (Easter ritual) and “simbang Gabi” (9-day Masses before Christmas) to the greater Fresno community and beyond.
Fr. Joel served at St Patrick’s Church in Merced, St. Joseph’s Church in Firebaugh, St. Malachy Church in Tehachapi, and finally at Our Lady of the Sierra Parish (OLSP) in Oakhurst. The mountain communities surrounding Oakhurst suited Fr. Joel’s needs and personality well. He enjoyed the pure mountain air and liked driving through the narrow roads that connected the three churches of OSLP, St. Dominic Savio in Bass Lake and St. Joseph the worker Catholic Church in North Fork. He also enjoyed the times he was able to conduct Masses at Yosemite National Park.
Fr. Joel was preceded in death by his parents, Primo and Elisa Davadilla, and his brother, Ronald. He is survived by his beloved sister, Avegale D. dela Cruz, and her son, Luiz Inigo D. dela Cruz, who both reside in the Philippines.
Fr. Joel loved abundantly. He will be sorely missed by his dear friend and caregiver, the Rev. Roger LeDuc, as well as the countless friends who have come to love him through all these years.
In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be offered in Fr. Joel’s honor to the Loving Hands Care Home, 6229 W. San Carlos Avenue, Fresno, CA 93723.
A Memorial Mass will be held at St. Malachy Catholic Church, 407 W. E St., Tehachapi, CA 93561 on Oct. 22, 2002, at 11 am.