Monsignor Pilato was born and raised in an Italian-American family in San Pedro, California where he attended Mary Star of the Sea Parish. He is a graduate of Los Angeles Unified School District schools including San Pedro High School. He was a teacher and dean for five years at Richard Henry Dana Junior High School, one of his alma maters. He also served as a college instructor in the teacher education program at Cal State, Dominguez Hills. He served as camp chaplain and then camp director at Camp Emerald Bay on Santa Catalina Island during the 1980’s.
His first assignment as a priest was at Christ the King Parish in Hollywood. He then spent the next 21 years in Catholic high school administration. He served for 12 years as principal of Junipero Serra High School in Gardena. Most of the students lived in Gardena, Carson, Compton, and South Los Angeles. During his transformative tenure as principal, the enrollment climbed from 384 to 602. Two teachers became priests and four students entered seminaries including Juan Diego House. The Class of 2002 earned $1.2 million in college scholarships while five years later the Class of 2007 earned $6.6 million. The Class of 2006 became the first class to attain 100% college acceptance.
The strong Catholic identity that he developed at Serra along with substantial enrollment growth and healthy finances led Cardinal Mahony to ask Msgr. Pilato to become superintendent of high schools for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 2008. Archbishop Gomez asked him to serve a second term which ended June 2017. During his nine year tenure as superintendent of high schools, he oversaw 51 high schools – 21 archdiocesan, 5 parish and 25 private high schools – the largest Catholic high school system in the nation. He replaced 17 of the 21 archdiocesan high school principals and implemented new job descriptions and an annual principal’s performance review.
Catholic identity standards for all 51 high schools along with annual written reports and regular visitations became a part of the Catholic high school landscape in Los Angeles. A program of ten hours of annual faculty faith formation was developed immediately. During his tenure, a comprehensive database was developed that provided a real time data snapshot of various statistics related to the high school system.
Administrative and financial procedures were thoroughly reviewed and strengthened for the archdiocesan and parish high schools which led to the reduction of the overall high school debt from $11 million to $8.1 million.
In depth training regarding marketing and development were also required of all key administrators. Due to this intensive training and new required benchmarks, archdiocesan and parish high schools saw an increase in fundraising revenue resulting in $102 million being fundraised between 2011 and 2017.
Msgr. Pilato’s degrees and credentials include:
- Bachelor of Arts, Liberal Arts, St. John’s Seminary College
- Master of Divinity, St. John’s Seminary
- Master of Arts in School Administration, California State University, Dominguez Hills
- California State Credentials in Administration, Social Science, and Introductory English
He holds membership in many organizations including:
- Knights and Dames of Malta, Magistral Chaplain
- Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, Knight Commander
- Dan Murphy Foundation, Board Trustee
- Knights of Columbus, Fourth Degree
- US Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, Vice President and Board Member
- Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, Los Angeles affiliate co-founder
- Vocation Director, Our Lady of the Angels Pastoral Region
- Engaged Encounter Movement
- Board of Visitors, School of Education, Loyola Marymount University
- Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
- National Council of the Social Studies
He is a recipient of many honors including:
- Named Monsignor by Pope Benedict XVI
- Outstanding Alumnus 2008 for Cal State Dominguez Hills
- Inducted in Kappa Delta Pi at Loyola Marymount University
- Mother Luisita Spirit Award of the Carmelite Sisters
- 22nd Mission Award from Serra High School
- Dedication to Excellence Award from Cathedral High School
He is a past member of the:
- Archdiocesan Priest Personnel Board
- Archdiocesan Catholic Life Issues Commission
- Advisory Council of Secondary Principals
- Catholic Athletic Association, Vice President and Executive Committee
- Consultative School Boards: Serra, Sacred Heart, St. Pius X – St. Matthias Academy
- Emerald Bay Alumni Association, founding board member
He began his first pastorate at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Gardena on July 1, 2018, the feast day of St. Junipero Serra, Apostle of California.