Staff Spotlight: Fr. Robert Pipta

Where are you from originally?

I was born and raised in Anaheim in southern California.

What is your area of expertise?

I teach courses to seminarians involving liturgical practicum. These courses are meant to form and evaluate in each seminarian his capacity to function publicly in the liturgical roles of deacon and priest.

What attracted you to this subject?

I attended public schools in southern California and completed a Bachelor of Arts program in Music at the University of California, Irvine in 1990. I began training and performing in both vocal and instrumental music during my elementary school years. Not long after my priestly ordination in 1994, my bishop, aware of my musical background, appointed me to liturgical and music commissions. I remain on the Intereparchial Liturgical Commission to this day, and over these past 25 years have learned a great deal from the expertise of the other members of these various commissions. Metropolitan William, who appoints each member of our faculty, noted the importance of seminarians being trained in liturgy by those who are connected to the work and expertise of the Liturgical Commission, so I continue to serve as both Commission member and as Practicum instructor.

How did you come to work for the Byzantine Catholic Seminary?

My primary role in the Seminary is serving as its Rector. I was appointed to this position in 2014. I served as the Vocations Director of the Eparchy of Van Nuys (now the Eparchy of Phoenix which encompasses the western U.S.) from 1994 until shortly before the beginning of my ministry here at B.C.S. I also served on the Seminary’s Advisory Council from 1998-2012. This background helped me embrace the position of Seminary Rector. I gradually eased into the instructor position for the liturgical practicum courses, and continue to teach three courses per semester in the Pastoral Practice department.

How many years have you worked for the Byzantine Catholic Seminary?

Looking back through the records in our learning management system, it looks like my first semester of teaching was in fall of 2015, so I’ve been teaching for over five years now.

What is the most challenging part of this work for you?

My interest, as a priest, in the liturgical typikon, my love for the liturgy, and my devotion to the perfecting of liturgical singing all have been nurtured in me since my youngest years. The greatest challenge for me as a teacher is my remaining reasonable in the expectations of our seminarians’ facility with the liturgical services. Another challenge is the need to convey a great amount of material in a limited amount of time.

State one thing you wish you had known in your undergraduate days. Why?

I was greatly blessed during my post-graduate seminary years to have mentors and peers who helped me with emotional maturation and interpersonal strength. I would have benefited from having a better understanding of these dimensions of myself during the years of my undergraduate studies.

What experiences have shaped you spiritually?

I attribute spiritual development in my younger years to God working through my dad, my friends, and my parish family. All together, these people were a powerful influence in my life as I developed as a Christian disciple through self-mastery and involvement in my parish, alongside peers who inspired me to be faithful to religious practice. From my seminary years to the present, my spiritual life has been shaped primarily in the fora of spiritual direction, priestly fraternity, friendships with those in consecrated life, and confession.

What do you do to de-stress?

I enjoy listening to, playing, and singing various types of music, as well as studying up on the history and physics of manned space travel. I was a
mathematics major for a short while.

Cat or dog person?

I’m definitely a cat person, but have not had any pets since I left home to attend seminary here at B.C.S. I try to visit my folks in California at least once a year, and that includes some quality time with their cat. She is known for having been quite attentive to the liturgical services live streamed from my home parish in Anaheim.

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