Tepeyac de San Antonio
As I write to you today I am in San Antonio, Texas. I am currently a member of the Continuing Education and Spiritual Formation of Priests (C.E.S.F.) committee for the Diocese of Camden, and Bishop Sullivan asked if I would attend a convention here. The conferences have the theme: Making the Time Count: Forming a Pastor with a Shepherd's Heart.
I am spending the week at the Oblate Renewal Center which is run by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (O.M.I.), a missionary religious congregation. It feels somewhat like being back in the seminary again, with those lumpy single beds, no television, institutional food and set schedules of prayer and conferences. I was a bit nervous as a tornado warning was issued for the area when I arrived. We experienced driving rains, strong winds and even hail!
The convention began on Monday with a concelebrated Mass (shy of about 100 priests) with a newly-elected auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of San Antonio--Bishop-elect Michael Boulette. Today (Tuesday) we board a bus and head for the San Fernando Cathedral, a tour of the Mission Conception, and dinner along the famous River Walk.
Obviously, the Spanish-speaking population is quite large in this part of south Texas. Masses for our conference are bilingual, and today there is even a mariachi band playing the music. Maybe my "Spanglish" will continue to improve! One can only hope!
Times like these remind me that my growth as a person and as a priest is never complete. There is always something to experience, to learn, and to re-evaluate within my priestly ministry. Just the mere opportunity of talking to priests from throughout the country reminds me of the diversity and universality of the Catholic Church. Each part of the country has its own unique challenges when trying to spread the Gospel. No, I am no longer in Somers Point anymore!
There is a rather unusual shrine on the campus where I reside: Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto & Tepeyac de San Antonio. On the lower level, there is a replica of the Grotto of Lourdes with St. Bernadette and Our Lady. Climb the stairs and there is a reproduction of the vision of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego at Tepeyac. Then there is a chapel on the interior with Eucharistic Adoration taking place. Within this chapel is also a relic (the heart) of the founder of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, St. Eugene de Mazenod. He was a French priest/bishop canonized by Pope St. John Paul II in 1995. Quite a spiritual conglomeration to ponder!
I will be praying for you while I make this brief spiritual pilgrimage. I hope that I will be able to relate some interesting/inspirational experiences as my week here continues.
In the meantime, remember the Alamo!
Fr. Ed Namiotka