When Steven and I attended Saturday evening Mass at St. Pius X in Corpus Christi, TX, we got way more than we’d anticipated.
Real meal deal
Before Mass— actually, between the service at five-thirty and ours at seven— I’d wandered around doing my usual thing: taking photos here and there, mostly captivated by the four angels in the portico leading to the church entrance. So I’d overheard a constant stream of lively conversations among parishioners exiting the earlier Mass and the tall, friendly priest, well-spoken and sincere. Lots of heartfelt wishes were exchanged along with a rather large gift bag that I later saw the priest carry into church. But what captivated my listening ear were the “God bless you” sentiments that the shepherd dispensed in the same upbeat tone to each of his sheep.
Walking around with my third eye (Coolpix) certainly has its perks! I kept thinking. At a time when religious and priests have shortened the message to “God bless”— a pet peeve for sure, since I’ve heard it used as an expletive over the course of my lifetime— I was truly moved not just by the flock, but by the shepherd, too.
I smiled within. He’s the “real meal deal,” as Fr. Ralph Jones at Stella Maris might say.
Angels and sheep
“Ye—es,” I stuttered, momentarily losing my quiet comfort zone. I’d been caught red-handed in the proverbial cookie jar! “Yes they are,” I immediately rebounded, still gazing at the angel with the torch.
The priest had been focused on his flock, reminiscent of “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:14). Yet he’d acknowledged the strange sheep lurking about, feigning invisibility behind the camera lens. Nice touch.
After Mass concluded but before the procession, a vivacious young woman stepped up to the ambo to deliver the speech she’d prepared. She giggled; we laughed. She’d been volunteered to do the honors; but, really, she’d come to the realization that she wanted to do it. Her exuberance was contagious!
As I listened to the young woman’s anecdotes, I felt as if I’d known Fr. Paul all along. From my brief time eavesdropping out in the portico, he’d come alive as a down-to-earth shepherd who smells like his sheep.
Talks (below) by the young woman, Fr. Paul, and Bishop Mulvey, respectively, were transcribed from my audio recording of the Mass.
Good evening. I was given a task to give a simple and short tribute to a very important person in our community. I was confused on where to start. How do I even do this?
I interviewed a couple of people in this room and asked them, “Who is Fr. Paul?”
Some of the answers were “a spiritual leader,” “a mentor,” “a friend,” “a role model.” One even said “a Filipino convert.” And the list goes on and on. But I promised to be quick, so I’ll stop there.
[“You didn’t ask me!” Bishop Mulvey interjected humorously.]
Fr. Paul means a lot to all of us. He is a very important pillar to our community. He plants and waters the seeds. That’s why we’re here celebrating our tenth annual Sinulog celebration with his constant support and guidance.
Who is Fr. Paul to you?
The little kids told me, “Jesus Christ.”
I can understand the response because Fr. Paul always takes time to laugh with the kids with their silly jokes and always smiles even though he’s tired [from] his other responsibilities. He even high-fives the kids after Mass.
Yes, we see Christ in you.
As you will be celebrating your twentieth anniversary of priesthood this Monday, January eighteenth, we pray for you to have good health so that you continue doing what you do best, which is being the fisher of men.
We would like to present to you a small token of our appreciation. This reads “May you continue to be sustained by His grace and may your life in God’s service be always filled with joy.”
Let me end this by asking for Santo Nino’s protection [for] you at all times.
Pit senyor con Fr. Paul caron!
Fr. Paul was presented with a large framed Divine Mercy picture that he very graciously accepted. And, without hurrying, he spoke to us briefly so the procession could begin.
Thank you very much. I will cherish this. Actually, you caught me by surprise.
I really appreciate your thoughtfulness tonight in recognizing me, but I’ve always felt that this celebration and the devotion that we’ve had for the past ten years every first Friday has been about you.
It’s been about your traditions and about your faith and your devotion to the Santo Niño, so it’s been wonderful to see how the devotion has grown starting with maybe a handful of people in a home. Maybe about fifty. Maybe it was seventy-five people in the home that first year. And now there’s almost five-hundred people here tonight, I can see.
So, what a wonderful gift. I think that’s the power of the Santo Niño, the Child Jesus, who brings us all together and who draws us into communion with one another.
And so, what a special blessing it has been to be with you these past ten years. Thank you for who you are and for embracing me into your life of faith and into your community, so God bless you all.
And, before we go in procession and we then move over to the festivities, I want to say a special word of thanks to Bishop Mulvey for being with us tonight. He’s a very busy man. But he takes time out of his schedule and he wants to be a part of this celebration, I know. He has a very special place in his heart for all of you; so thank you, Bishop Mulvey, for being here with us.
Of course, we also need to thank Fr. Kisito for coming to celebrate with us. I think that he’s been with us most of the years that we’ve been celebrating, and he comes to assist with the novenas. So thank you very much,
Does everybody know what they’re doing?
But wait! Hold on! Not so fast!
Bishop Mulvey managed to pull another of the last-minute antics we’ve come to relish: On his way to the ambo he somewhat excused the interruption by saying, “You know, the bishop always gets the last word!” Hilarious— as in, whom has he not mentored?!!
I’ve known Fr. Paul longer than any of you. I was the director of spiritual formation at St. Mary’s Seminary when Fr. Paul was head full of hair and playing the guitar. But what I want to say— are you sure it’s not twenty-five years? It’s twenty-five. It better be twenty-five ‘cause I’m forty. And I thought it has to be more than twenty. But twenty-five years? That’s wonderful!
I wasn’t prepared for this. This is kind of off the cuff, but Fr. Paul is what-you-see-is-what-you-get. And I say that most sincerely because, what we saw twenty-five years ago— or twenty-six, twenty-seven years ago at the seminary— is what we see today: A man who is just very sincere, very generous, very joyful, very transparent. And it’s an honor.
I never knew twenty-five years ago that I would be his bishop. But it is an honor to be your bishop. I’m very grateful for all that he does here in the parish and in the diocese. So, Fr. Paul, many congratulations to you and many, many— many, many, many, many— more years. You’d better outlast me, anyway. So, God bless you on this celebration. And God bless each one of you for all the good that you do for your families, for the diocese, and for your church. God bless you!
Pope Francis would be so proud, I thought. This priest has heeded the call of service for twenty-five years and he looks, acts, and sounds like a spring chicken. I’d say that’s a match made in heaven!
So, long story short, we celebrated not just the feast of Santo Niño de Cebú, but also the ordination anniversary of Fr. Paul Hesse, beloved shepherd. And, just like that, I quickly understood why Uncle Johnny’s family, along with Allie and Stephen Carter, have been part of the St. Pius X church community from the very start.
Eternal God, please bless our priests who represent you on this earth. Make them more greatly aware of the grace that you pour out through them when they minister the sacraments, and help them to fall more deeply in love with you after each and every Mass that they celebrate.
Please strengthen our priests, who shepherd your flock, when they are in doubt of their faith that they may be examples of your truth and guide us always on the path to you.
We ask these things of you, our eternal priest. Amen.
January 25, 2016
A man of prayer is capable of everything. He can say with St. Paul, “I can do all things in him who strengthened me” (St. Vincent de Paul).
January 27, 2016
“You will accomplish more by kind words and a courteous manner than by anger or sharp rebuke, which should never be used except in necessity” (St. Angela Merici).
Pdf file… Child Jesus chaplet prayers…
Links of interest… Altar server surrogate… “Amazing:” What happened when one parish invited anyone to stop by & meet a priest… Do beautiful churches produce beautiful priests… Dom Hubert Van Zeller, OSB (1905-1984): about / books (more – titles) / correspondence with Merton / Gospel priesthood / How to find God / spiritual master – writer’s cramp… Everything can turn into prayer… Forgotten benefits of Christ within… Open yourself to goodness… Mysticism: It’s not just for saints… Pope Francis’ Fatal 15… Prayers: card / holy hour / missionaries / novena / one hundred / priests / priests & religious… Priest: dignity & vocation / quadriplegic / soldier & simple poet… Santo Niño website … St. John Vianney: about / catechism on the priesthood / ten maxims & quotes… Three hints on getting more from the homily… Unlikely calling… Veteran’s Day & the Body of Christ… What’s your mission… When God says no to your yes… You can bring Christ to the world…
WP posts… Beloved joyful priest… Call of service… Capuchin Christmas… Father’s guided tour… Father now retired… God’s loving mercy… God’s master plan… Home again… Memory lane… Mercy and justice… Prayer power… Prayerful ways… Promise of hope… Quiet prayer time… Santo Niño… Solano, Solanus, Solani… St. Michael chaplet… Sweet Jesus… Today’s Beatitudes