OAKLAND, Calif. —Redemptorist Father Thomas Lester, 89, of the Diocese of Oakland, died Aug. 9 in Auburn, California.

His ministry encompassed education, campus and parish ministry, and preaching missions and novenas. “Father Tom was a priest who never stopped learning,” said Father Paul Schmidt, a retired priest of the Oakland Diocese and longtime friend of Father Lester. “In retirement, he kept reading and attending televised lectures.”

He studied history, especially the medieval period surrounding his patron saint, Thomas Beckett, on whose feast day he was born. He was vitally concerned with matters of social justice and was a strong promoter of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.

Born in Portland on Dec. 29, 1930, he was the fifth of seven children of Gordon Lester and Catherine Foeller Lester. He grew up in Holy Redeemer Parish under the ministry of the Redemptorist Fathers and Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.

In September 1948, he enrolled at Holy Redeemer College, a minor seminary of the Redemptorist Fathers. He entered the Redemptorist Novitiate in 1951 and professed his first vows on the feast of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Aug. 2, 1952. After completing his studies at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, he was ordained to the priesthood July 2, 1957.

In a Catholic Voice feature on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of his ordination, Father Lester offered examples of symbols of the ministry that defined his priesthood. Two were Pope John XXIII and Pope Francis. “These popes called us to fidelity to our Christian tradition as faithfully as the other popes of our modern times. But John and Francis have spoken with their way of living as truly as with their words. They call us to the continuing change of heart that moves us to our renewal and reform, to a deeper change of heart in a way that moves us to an eager response.”

He wrote, “In this praise and thanks to the Lord for these 60 years of priestly ministry, I include my thanks to you, his holy people who have so often taught me how to live his Gospel and have supported me through its challenges and joys.”

He was preceded in death by his brothers Redemptorist Father Gordon Lester and Robert; and sisters Catherine Kelly and Mary Helen Peyralans. He is survived by Kevin and Judy Lester, sister Connie O'Neill and caregiver JoAnne Wuelfing.

After an outdoor funeral Mass at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Hayward, California. Father Lester was interred at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Portland. His brother Rev. Gordon Lester, CSsR was laid to rest at Mount Calvary in 1995.