October 31, 2016
During his transitional diaconate year, Msgr. Roger Smith became fearful of making a commitment. Four of the priests in his formation left the priesthood and got married. Then a priest he knew asked him "What would you do if you only had a year to live?" The answer came quickly; he would go ahead and get ordained because he knew he would not mess it up in a year.
"I wanted to be a priest since I was a boy and every time I veered off the Lord called me back," Msgr. Smith told a full house at the annual Clergy and Religious Appreciation dinner held at the Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds in Robstown on Oct. 27.
"Follow your heart. You have to trust that the Lord will be with you each day. He is going to help you fulfill this commitment day-by-day, month-by-month, year-by-year," Msgr. Smith said.
He said one of his greatest joys in ministry has been the support he has received from the Lord, as well as from the laity. "In every parish I've been I have felt the friendship, love and encouragement of so many parishioners. That family has kept growing and growing and growing," Msgr. Smith said.
When he was ordained, Msgr. Smith thought his priesthood was a gift to God. Now 40 years later he realizes that it was a gift from God to him.
Father David Bayardo, ordained for only two years, confessed that his will "is not as good as God's and never will be." The priesthood, he said, has given him a chance to be a part of something that is much bigger than himself.
"I would like to tell all the priests to keep on being good brothers to one another," Father Bayardo said. "You never know who is watching, so be nice. Somebody will notice. It's only through our witness that others take notice and are inspired to want to be like us."
Sister Jancy George, SABS uses her doctorate degree to teach science at St. John Paul II High School. She is the third in her family to enter religious life and came to the United States a decade ago.
"At one point I realized that my vocation was not just to handle chemicals and test tubes, but rather to spread the good news, specifically, the love and mercy of our lord and savior Jesus Christ," Sister Jancy told the crowd.
She said her greatest blessing has been having 15 of her students pursue religious life, including two who are currently in the seminary.
Sister Gloria Rodriguez, MJMJ echoed that last point, saying her "most joyful experience of my religious life and ministry is to see…my own students embrace priesthood or religious life by responding to God's call."
Sister Gloria said her parents taught her, by example, that being of service to others should be the norm in life.
"The joy in my life is that Jesus continues to be in my life and I continue to pray 'never my love'," Sister Gloria said, referring to the song by The Association whose opening lyric is "You ask if they'll come a time when I get tired of you, never my love. Never my love." That was her favorite song as a young girl, which she sang to Jesus.
Looking at the audience of some 300 attendees, Bishop Michael Mulvey said, "I see church."
"Our vocation—whether it's lay, religious or to holy orders—is that God loves us so much that he is willing to call us." Bishop Mulvey said.
The bishop shared a recent experience he had while accompanying Father Hahn van Pham to Vietnam. One of the newest orders in the Diocese of Corpus Christi is the Missionaries of Christ's Charity from Vietnam who serves "the poorest of the poor" in the spirit and influence of St. Teresa of Calcutta who served as their inspiration. Father Pham's first and second grade teacher was founder of the order.
"Each day we visited the homes of the poorest of the poor, and I realized how poor people are, not only materially but potentially spiritually," Bishop Mulvey said. "I realized something that touched me—probably changed me. The ministry of these sisters is the bridge between them (the poor) and the mercy of God. We are a bridge between God's mercy and the human person…We are the instruments of God's mercy."
At the conclusion of the dinner, the Knights of Columbus—sponsors of the event—presented the bishop with a check for $27,055 for his works of charity in the diocese. Bishop Mulvey, in turn, gave the check to Catholic Charities and the Mother Teresa Shelter.
The local KC council presented to the Cardinal Humberto Medeiros Trust Fund a check for $1,000 in the name of Bishop Mulvey. Interest from this trust goes to $1,000 scholarships. Seventeen scholarships are granted each year, one to a student in each diocese in the state and two to Columbian Squires.
Bishop Mulvey took the opportunity to make an appeal for Catholic education. "Our Catholic Schools are on the way up," Bishop Mulvey said. "We are empowering them to be better."
The bishop announced that the diocese is sponsoring an evening to "celebrate" Catholic education in January 2017. "We will have our first gala to raise funds for tuition assistance," Bishop Mulvey said. "As a diocese I want all of us to get behind our schools."
He challenged the Knights to purchase a table for the celebration and asked them to be ambassadors to Catholic schools.
Photos by Ervey Martinez