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Ordination as a Family Affair
Archbishop Nikola Eterovic Ordained his Second Cousin Nikola Derpich Legionary Priest

Archbishop Eterovic lays his hands on Nikola Derpich
Archbishop Eterovic lays his hands on Nikola Derpich

Rome, December 8 -- Nikola Derpich, a native from Watsonville, CA, was ordained a priest of the Legionaries of Christ on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The ceremony took place at the chapel of the Legion’s Center for Higher Studies in Rome. 

Presiding was Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, Secretary of the Synod of Bishops and Fr. Nikola’s second cousin.  Fifty five priests, most of them legionaries of Christ, concelebrated with Archbishop Eterovic and the newly ordained priest.  Fr. Derpich’s family and about 400 legionaries of Christ who study in Rome accompanied Fr. Derpich.

In his homily, the Archbishop stressed how God always takes the first step when calling somebody to follow Him and how Mary is a great example of generous response to God’s call.  Archbishop Eterovic referred to the fact that Fr. Nikola heard the call, years ago, on the very feast of the Nativity of Mary.  He directed some words in English for those relatives who came from the States, and he also spoke for a while in Croatian, since the roots of the family come from there.

On December 23, another 55 legionaries of Christ will be ordained by Cardinal Franc Rodé at St. Mary Major’s Basilica in Rome.  They come from ten different countries:  United States, Canada, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Chile and Venezuela.

Nikola Derpich, 39, was born in Watsonville, California, where he lived
A moment of the ordination
A moment of the ordination
all his life before becoming a Legionary. As a child he went Mass at St. Patrick’s Church (in the diocese of Monterey), and later attended Our Lady Help of Christians parish, then under diocesan direction, but now directed by the Salesians of Don Bosco.  He gives credit to family, the Knights of Columbus and a nagging vocational call for bringing him to the priesthood.
He went to elementary school at Moreland Notre Dame School, directed by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, and later attended Watsonville Union High School, where he graduated in the top ten percent of his class, was a member of the California Scholarship Federation, wrote for the Pippin (a literary gazette for creative writing students), and was involved in the Chess and Computer Clubs on campus.

His first college studies were at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he graduated with a double B.A. in Computer and Information Sciences, and Literature with an Emphasis on Creative Writing. He later worked as a technical support engineer and technical writer for Borland International and Novell.

In 1994, feeling God was calling him to give back some of what he received, he joined a choir, and became an active member of the Knights of Columbus, helping to found a local council in the summer of 1996.

“It was
Fr. Nikola Derpich, LC blesses a family who assisted at his ordination
Fr. Nikola Derpich, LC blesses a family who assisted at his ordination
the Knights who got me praying the rosary again and singing Gregorian Chant in the Choir.  I started taking my faith more seriously,” Fr. Nikola said.
Throughout his life, God was preparing to “pop the question,” Fr. Nikola said. “I had engaging work, good pay, everything I wanted, and yet I asked myself, ‘is this going to be the rest of my life’?”

A lifelong invitation to become a priest suddenly snapped into clarity. After a few months of prayer and discernment, he decided to put his affairs into order and enter the Legionary candidacy program in the summer of 1997.

“One of the candidates teased me about bringing so much luggage. Most of them were still deciding whether to enter the novitiate or not,” Fr. Nikola said. “I had already decided. I’d decided before I even came. Those bags held everything I owned, which wasn’t much. The rest went to St. Vincent de Paul and my family.”

After entering and completing two years of novitiate, Fr. Nikola went to Rome and received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy.

“I didn’t appreciate philosophy until I went out on internship [a two to three year period where
Archbishop Eterovic and the new priest
Archbishop Eterovic and the new priest
a Legionary brother takes a break in his studies to work fulltime in a Legionary apostolate] and was traveling around the southeast working with youth. Then I realized everything I was receiving was to give to others. In airports, in boys camps, in gas stations, wherever I wore the collar, which was practically everywhere.”

With philosophy studies and internship under his belt, Fr. Nikola returned to Rome and received his Bachelor’s in theology.

His parents are Peter Derpich, deceased restaurateur, and Emila Nikola, who works for the public school district.



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