TYLER – Bishop Joseph E. Strickland blessed the site of the future Bishop Gorman Catholic Schools’ Broadnax Family Crusader Center athletic field house May 25.

Bishop Edmond Carmody, second Bishop of Tyler and retired Bishop of Corpus Christi, and Father Anthony McLaughlin, incoming president of Bishop Gorman, also spoke at the ceremony.

The blessing coincided with the 25th anniversary of Bishop Carmody’s installation as Bishop of Tyler in 1992.

“The most important thing we do today is always the most important thing we do – to turn to Christ, our Risen Lord, to live in his light,” Bishop Strickland said. “If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do we do any of this. But the Lord is about this, because it is about the children, the students, who will benefit. So let us prayerfully enter into this blessing, rejoicing that God has brought us to today and knowing that he will accompany us into a bright tomorrow.”

The Broadnax Family Crusader Center is an 18,960-square foot complex that will replace the current field house. The center will include a lobby; a multi-purpose for drill, dance, and cheer teams; an alumni room overlooking the football field that will provide a venue for hosting friends of the school; expanded locker space and shower facilities; a training room and expanded weight room; expanded laundry facilities; and significant upgrades to technology.

The center is projected to cost $4.5 million and is part of a $4.9 million capital campaign.

Bishop Carmody praised donors to the campaign for their generosity and likened them to those who founded Bishop Gorman 60 years ago.

“We have to reflect on and pray for the people who gathered here 60 years ago,” he said. “They decided they wanted a Catholic school here in Northeast Texas.”

That school, he said, has gone on to benefit the students who have passed through its halls, the families who sent them there, and the wider community that has been served by those students.

“As we look at our school, we strive to make it the best possible school that we can provide for our young people in the Diocese of Tyler,” Bishop Carmody said. “Young people come here to learn. We form them and then send them out to serve. That’s what’s important – the service they provide to our community.”

With the Broadnax Family Center, donors today are providing for the welfare of future generations of students.

“We all warm ourselves at fires we never built, and we drink from wells we never dug,” Bishop Carmody said.

Brett Broadnax, whose family was a major donor to the campaign, said Bishop Gorman played an integral part in his life. Broadnax, who graduated from the school in 1983, said his years at Bishop Gorman “taught me a lot of life lessons, specifically integrity, teamwork, hard work, dedication, commitment, competition, all those things that have helped me live my life.

“On behalf of my family, we couldn’t be more thankful and honored to be part of the program and initiative that’s going to have such a profound and long-standing impact on so many TK Gorman students now and for generations to come. Thank you for including us.”

Father McLaughlin called it “a great joy to welcome our Gorman family and friends to such an occasion as this. Each of us understands that facilities matter. To this end, we gather today to bless and dedicate this site upon which the Broadnax Family Crusader Center is soon to be built.”

He announced that construction on the center will begin by mid-June and should be completed by April or May of 2018.

The present field house will be torn down to make way for construction. Lisa Lujan, a member of the project’s executive board, said there would be a “field house funeral” for the cramped and outdated facility.

Bishop Strickland reminded all present that “we are people of the resurrection, and we look forward to a beautiful Broadnax Center resurrection in about a year.”

For more information about the center or to make a donation, see the website here.

Bishop Joseph E. Strickland has released a new pastoral constitution designed to guide the teaching of the Catholic Faith in the Diocese of Tyler for the next 30 years.

The constitution was promulgated to the Diocese in the May edition of the Catholic East Texas magazine and can be downloaded here.

Recognizing that the darkness of evil, especially in the forms of relativism, secularism, and apathy, is an ever-increasing threat to humanity, even in East Texas, the constitution lays out an ambitious plan to counter that trend by “allowing the Light of Christ to shine forth in its radiant brilliance” through the teaching of the Faith.

“Our greatest problems are rooted in unbelief caused by ignorance and we must seek new and creative ways to teach and share the wonder of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our Catholic Faith,” said Bishop Strickland. “We cannot allow this unbelief to continue, so I am acting and it is my hope that what is outlined in this constitution, with the help of God, will give us the tools to meet the challenges of the day.”

The new approach to catechesis and evangelization serves as a mandate for all areas of teaching in the Diocese, with special emphasis on the role of priests, deacons, religious, and lay catechists.

Many of the new teaching efforts will focus on the family by accompanying families as a whole and individually according to their season in life. There will also be teaching focused on unique challenges faced by members of the family in the modern world.

“What this points to is a system of teaching that is far from ‘one-size-fits-all’,” Bishop Strickland writes in the constitution. “But is instead custom-tailored to the members of a household as a family.”

Efforts to build and nurture strong Christian marriages will receive special attention.

“The preparation and continuing support we give to couples entering into matrimony is perhaps the most important project we undertake,” Bishop Strickland wrote. In the constitution, he calls for the Diocese to “radically commit itself” to this difficult but necessary job.

The focus on marriage will utilize sponsor couples, an extended period of preparation before marriage, and directed teaching on vocational realities and Natural Family Planning.

Worship and sacred liturgy are another foundation of the new teaching efforts so that “all people of the Diocese will be given the opportunity to know and love Jesus Christ in the Mass.”

Bishop Strickland specifically laments that, because of poor teaching and worship, “many are unable to recognize the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist,” calling this lack of belief the “source and summit” of many of our problems.

“It is of singular importance that every Catholic in the Diocese understands the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist,” wrote Bishop Strickland. “We will focus on this Eucharistic faith and form our people in the deep understanding that reverence for the Blessed Sacrament is respect for the person of Jesus Christ present, here and now, in our midst.”

Specific formation will occur in the areas of ars celebrandi – the way the priest celebrates mass, use of the Latin language, liturgical ministries, and sacred music.

While teaching and catechizing the 120,000 Catholics of the Diocese will be the early focus of the new initiative, the constitution calls for an evangelizing effort aimed at sharing the relationship Catholics have with Jesus Christ with all people in the 33 counties of northeast Texas.

To serve as a hub for the new teaching efforts, Bishop Strickland uses the constitution to establish the St. Philip Institute for Catechesis and Evangelization. St. Philip, an early-Church deacon and evangelist, is known from the story of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 who relies on Philip to instruct him in the proper meaning of Scripture.

The Institute will produce new teaching materials for the diocese and create new methods of delivering those materials. Catechist training and sacramental preparation in the diocese will be coordinated through the Institute. The Catholic East Texas magazine will also be managed by the Institute so that it can continue to serve as a tool of catechesis and evangelization.

The director of the new institute will be announced this summer.

Bishop Strickland concluded, “We will be a teaching diocese and I ask all people to read this constitution in a spirit of love for the Lord and His Church, pray and reflect on the role you can play, and join me in embracing the challenge of our day to go out to the world bearing the Light of Christ.”

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TYLER – As the Diocese of Tyler marks the 30th anniversary of its establishment as the Church in East Texas, Bishop Joseph E. Strickland said it is important both to look back and take stock of the past and to look forward and prepare for the future. Above all, though, he said, the Diocese of Tyler must always keep in mind why it was called into existence in the first place.

Bishop Joseph E. Strickland, fourth Bishop of Tyler, celebrates the Liturgy of the Eucharist in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception during the Feb. 17 Mass of Thanksgiving celebrating the Diocese of Tyler’s 30th anniversary. Concelebrating are, from left, Father Hank Lanik, cathedral rector; Bishop Álvaro Corrada, SJ, third Bishop of Tyler and currently Bishop of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico; Father Anthony McLaughlin, pastor of Mary Queen of Heaven Parish in Malakoff and vicar general of the diocese; and Father John Jairo Gomez, pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Pittsburg and vicar general of the diocese.

Surrounded by priests of the diocese and assisted by deacons, with religious and laity filling the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception to capacity, Bishop Strickland celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving Feb. 17 marking the 30 years that have gone before and ushering in the next stage in the life of the Diocese of Tyler.

Also present was Bishop Álvaro Corrada, SJ, third Bishop of Tyler and Bishop Strickland’s predecessor, now Bishop of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico.

“Happy anniversary!” Bishop Strickland greeted as he began his homily. “It truly is a joy to gather, celebrating 30 years of the life of our Catholic community.”

See photos from the Anniversary Mass>>>

He offered “a very special welcome to Bishop Álvaro Corrada, my predecessor, whom we all know so well. He is very much with us in prayer as we continue to journey as people of faith. There haven’t been many times when this cathedral has had two bishops here at the same time. But I think it’s a sign of the way that the Holy Spirit continues to work among us and call us to live in the light of Christ and teach and live his truth.”

Sacred vessels – A chalice and paten were commissioned from Rome for the celebration of the diocese’s 30th anniversary. Bishop Strickland blessed the sacred vessels at the Feb. 17 Mass of Thanksgiving.

He pointed to a chalice and paten commissioned specially from Rome for the anniversary. The sacred vessels, which he blessed during the Mass, will travel around the diocese during this year to be used in parish Masses.

“I call your attention to this chalice here, a beautiful gift that you have donated to yourselves, a gift for the diocese. This diocesan chalice, commemorating 30 years of the local Church here in (East Texas), will travel around the diocese in the year to come. I hope that all your priests will have the chance to celebrate with this chalice. It truly is a beautiful gift that you give as an expression of faith to each other.”

The anniversary Mass offered those gathered an opportunity to remember and reflect on what Bishop Strickland called “the blessings and all the challenges of the past 30 years.”

The creation of the Diocese of Tyler was announced Dec. 12, 1986, in Rome during the pontificate of St. Pope John Paul II. The diocese was officially erected Feb. 24, 1987. Msgr. Charles E. Herzig, a priest of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, was ordained and installed first Bishop of Tyler that evening in a Mass celebrated in what for one night was known as the “Holy Oil Palace,” a place more known for rodeos and monster truck rallies than liturgical celebrations.

The diocese given Bishop Herzig that night was a stitched-together collection of parishes that had been on the fringes of three other dioceses – Dallas, Beaumont, and Galveston-Houston – and that were small, predominantly rural, and isolated. The new diocese encompassed 32 counties spread over 23,000 square miles and was populated by roughly 30,000 Catholics in 41 parishes and missions. Most counties had only one Catholic church; two had none at all. Even Smith County, home of the see city of Tyler, had only one.

This vast patchwork was served by 39 priests, a handful of deacons, and just a few communities of religious.

Priests of the Diocese of Tyler process into the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception for the Feb. 17 Mass of Thanksgiving celebrating the diocese’s 30th anniversary. From left to right are Father Mark Kusmirek, pastor of St. Mary Church in Longview; Father Gary Rottman, Coordinator of Prison Ministry; Msgr. Ron Diegel, pastor of St. Mary of the Cenacle Parish in New Boston; and Father Christopher Ruggles, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Nacogdoches.

Three decades later, the Diocese of Tyler, while still largely rural and still grappling with issues of isolation, has changed dramatically. Spread now over 33 counties, the diocese boasts more than 120,000 Catholics in 70 parishes and missions served by 88 priests and more than 100 deacons. Men and women religious from 22 communities minister in a variety of ways. Every county is home to at least one church, and many have two or three.

The diocese once considered too under-populated, too rural, and too poor to succeed has since established a thriving Catholic Charities that serves the poor and the immigrant; countless St. Vincent de Paul Societies, food pantries, and soup kitchens; four Catholic hospitals; two Catholic high schools; an efficient Tribunal staffed with Rome-trained judges; a Faith Formation Office that has trained and endorsed some 3,000 catechists; and an Ethics and Integrity Office devoted to protecting children and vulnerable adults that consistently exceeds standards set by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Bishop Álvaro Corrada, SJ, third Bishop of Tyler (2001-2011) and currently Bishop of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, returned to East Texas for the Feb. 17 Mass of Thanksgiving celebrating the 30th anniversary of the creation of the Diocese of Tyler. Under Bishop Corrada, the diocese became known nationally as a vocations powerhouse and was often called “the little diocese that could.”

It also became, under Bishop Corrada, a vocations powerhouse. Where Bishops Herzig and Carmody had depended mostly on “supply priests,” largely from other nations, to serve the people of God, Bishop Corrada concentrated on nurturing local vocations and recruiting seminarians to ordain specifically for this diocese. He also devoted resources to sending young priests to Rome for further education.

At present, the Diocese of Tyler has 13 seminarians in various stages of preparation for the priesthood.

Bishop Strickland has seen those challenges and blessings up close. Ordained a priest of the Diocese of Dallas in 1985, he was parochial vicar at Immaculate Conception Church in Tyler when the new diocese was created, thus becoming a priest of the Diocese of Tyler. He was one of the priests assisting when Bishop Herzig was ordained, and in the three decades since, has served the Church in East Texas as a parish priest, vocations director, judicial vicar, and administrator, twice, while the diocese awaited a new bishop.

He was named fourth Bishop of Tyler on Sept. 29, 2012, and ordained Nov. 28 at a Mass in Caldwell Auditorium in Tyler before parishioners from his native St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Atlanta and the various other parishes he’d served.

At the anniversary Mass, he called upon all gathered in the cathedral, and throughout the diocese, to remember those early days and the distance the Church in East Texas has come since its founding. Even more strongly, he called upon the faithful to remember the mission that has animated the whole Church from her very beginning.

“The beautiful Collect prayer of today’s Mass for the Holy Church speaks of us, all of us, as being the leaven and the soul of human society,” he said in his homily. “The leaven and the soul. That is who we are called to be.

Bishop Joseph E. Strickland prepares for the procession into the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception for the Feb. 17 Mass celebrating the Diocese of Tyler’s 30th anniversary. The bishop is a native of Atlanta, one of the dioceses northern parishes, and the diocese’s first “homegrown” shepherd.

“We are called to teach Christ, to live Christ. Probably for most of us, whether bishop, priest, deacon, mother, father, religious sister or brother, wherever we find ourselves, we teach best by example. And our Lord and Savior, with his wonderful words and teachings, taught by example as well.”

Unusually for him, Bishop Strickland delivered his homily from the cathedra, the bishop’s chair, a marked change from his familiar habit of roaming around sanctuaries as he preaches. He noted the break with tradition.

“I realize that it’s somewhat unusual in our practice to be seated during the homily,” he said. “The liturgy does call for it, but most of the time I’m out there wandering around a bit. But I sit here as we celebrate 30 years as a local Church to emphasize how the Lord has taught us, working through four different bishops, many priests and deacons, religious, and the wonderful priestly people of God.

“This cathedra, yes, is the bishop’s chair,” he said, “but it is mainly about teaching Christ. And we thank Bishop Corrada who always did that, with his predecessor Bishop (Edmond) Carmody, and of course Bishop (Charles E.) Herzig. Pray for me that I don’t just sit here, that I’ll get to work proclaiming the truth this world needs so desperately.”

Bishop Strickland dedicated the Mass to “my brother priests, because, as Bishop Corrada taught us a few years ago, if it doesn’t happen in the parish, it doesn’t happen in the diocese. Wise words that I carry with me. You’re the ones there day to day, in sickness and in health, in tragedy and in celebration, in darkness and in light, being that leaven and soul to your community, whether Paris to the north or Waskom to the east, Diboll to the south, and all in between. And I can’t leave out Gun Barrel City,” he added to laughter from the congregation. “Wherever you are, fathers, my dear brothers in the priesthood, you’re the ones on the front lines. And so I dedicate this to you, because you are who we need, serving the Church in all these communities, with the support of deacons and religious, and, hopefully, a bishop who is not an obstacle but an encouragement, as my predecessors have been so well.”

Deacons Larry Edwards of St. Therese Parish in Canton, Loren Seeley of St. James Parish in Sulphur Springs, Richard Sykora of St. Jude Parish in Gun Barrel City, and Clarence Blalock of Prince of Peace Parish in Whitehouse participate in the Feb. 17 Mass of Thanksgiving celebrating the Diocese of Tyler’s 30th anniversary. In the three decades since the diocese’s founding, the number of deacons serving in a variety of ministries has more than doubled.

The congregation gave a long and loud round of applause to the priests, and the bishop used that as an opportunity to encourage those studying for the priesthood.

“I hope the seminarians heard that applause, not as a matter of pride, but as a matter of energy, to serve the Lord with joy in their priesthood,” he said. “I know that my brother bishop, Bishop Corrada, all my brother priests, and the deacons who share in sacred orders (would agree) there is no better life, young men. All the obstacles, all the studies, all the papers, are worth it and more. Study hard, work and develop and grow, allow yourselves to be formed, like this beautiful chalice, formed to serve, formed to teach Christ. Look to my brother priests, your mentors, to be that. Talk to these men; get to know them in your journeys.

“My brothers,” he urged the gathered priests, “reach out to the seminarians, support them and encourage other young men to embrace this beautiful call, this leaven that only we can provide to a world that needs that light so desperately.

Women religious serve the Diocese of Tyler in numerous ministries, from parishes and hospitals to the constant prayer of the cloistered Dominican nuns in the Monastery of the Infant Jesus in Lufkin. Sister Margarita Maria Igriczi-Nagy of the Brigitteni Servitores Sanctissimi Salvatoris Institute (OSsS) serves St. Joseph the Worker traditional Latin parish in Tyler.

“The Church gathers around her priests at every altar in the diocese, and beautifully we grow – in liturgy, in teaching Christ, in working with the youth, in forming for the sacraments and preparing for matrimony, in all the ways we are called to teach. The priests are essential, and they need the support of the deacons, their right hands working in our parish communities.”

Bishop Strickland reminded all present of what the work of the Church is, and what those who make up her body are called to do.

“The Scriptures today speak beautifully of what we celebrate every time we gather at the altar,” he said. “‘Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem, your light is come. The glory of the Lord shines upon you’ (Isaiah 60:1). We have the light. We are called to joyfully and powerfully and with great clarity teach that light, share the light of Christ. I thank you for all the ways you do that.

“From the Book of Revelation, with all those mysterious images, ‘It gleamed with the splendor of God’ (Revelation 21:11). The splendor of God!” he exclaimed. “What a treasure we share in our priesthood with his son Jesus Christ, and all of us as a priestly people. That is what we offer to human society, this leaven. It is not just daily food. It is beyond imagining. The splendor of God calls us to rise up from the baseness of humanity and our sin, to rise up to being children of God.

“And finally in the Gospel, ‘Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). Let us remember that, all of us, baptized in the Lord: ‘Without me, you can do nothing.’ Without Christ, how can we be priests? Without Christ, how can we be the priestly people called to share the splendor of God?”

He said the 30th anniversary is “hopefully” a day of “great joy and celebration.” But, he added, “it really is only a moment, a pause of thanksgiving, because the Christ of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, Christ for the ages, is always calling us to tomorrow, to bring this light to the little children, who will be the teenagers, who will then be the next generation of mothers and fathers, of priests and brothers and sisters, working in the vineyard of the Lord.

“We give thanks that, for 30 years, we have done well, we have grown,” Bishop Strickland said. “But, brothers and sisters, we have much more to do. Much more teaching, much more of the splendor of God to share. So let us be on our way. Let us turn the corner with great care, with great love, with great dedication to our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Without Christ, we are empty, we are lifeless, we are sad,” he said. “With Christ, we share in the splendor of God.”

TYLER – Bishop Joseph E. Strickland said Ash Wednesday is a time to reflect on the promise and constant availability of God’s mercy.

Celebrating an Ash Wednesday service at the chapel in Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler Feb. 10 for hospital employees, Bishop Strickland said Ash Wednesday is “a time to be aware, yes, of our sinfulness,” but also to know “that we need not stop at our sinfulness. There is always the hope of God’s mercy, and it is extended to all of us, whatever faith journey we might be on.”

See more photos from Ash Wednesday at Trinity Mother Frances>>>

The bishop noted that many of those filling the small chapel might not be Catholic, but said the ashes were available to all.

Bishop Strickland administers ashes to Holy Family of Nazareth Sister Irene Asztemborska at the Feb. 10 Ash Wednesday service in the chapel at Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler. Sister Irene is on the pastoral care staff at the hospital, which is sponsored by her congregation.

“It’s always a joy to me to know that we can all receive these ashes to be reminded of the Lord’s call for all humanity to live in the light of Jesus Christ,” he said. “I think (Ash Wednesday) is a good ecumenical day. We’re reminded that, yes, we have divisions in the world today, even divisions in faith, but those divisions are not in God. They’re manifestations of our own weak humanity.

“Christ calls us to oneness,” Bishop Strickland said. “On this Ash Wednesday, we invite all of you to receive ashes.”

He encouraged everyone present to “rejoice in the opportunity that this Ash Wednesday represents. In our Catholic tradition, it’s the beginning of Lent, what I like to call the retreat of the Church for the six weeks leading up to Easter.”

He urged those gathered to use the Lenten season “to remember the call to turn away from sin and to live the Good News, the message, of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Prior to the service, Bishop Strickland visited patients in the hospital, along with Fransalian Father Luke Kalarickal, hospital chaplain, and Father Christopher Ruggles, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Frankston.

“It was a great experience, as it always is, to bring hope, to bring the salve that is only possible through Jesus Christ,” the bishop said.

He reminded the gathered hospital employees that they are ministers of that hope and that healing.

“We heard in that beautiful reading from Joel, ‘give your whole heart,’” he said. “And I’m sure that many of you, when you hear ‘heart,’ you think of ventricles and aortic arteries and other technicalities, and you hope that the patients you’re working with do have whole hearts that are healthy.

“But that symbolic passage in Scripture that speaks of the heart of God’s people is very significant,” the bishop said. “I think we’d all agree that we need the mercy in the world today that this Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis signifies for us.”

Looking out at the assembled hospital community comprising doctors, nurses, technicians, volunteers, and administrators, Bishop Strickland said, “You may not always look at your work in that way, and I know you represent all the complex aspects of running a health care system. But I encourage you to be aware that, wherever you are working, you can be that minister of mercy, helping others to know healing, helping others to know hope, in the light of Jesus Christ.”

In 1986, St. John Paul II gave us a mission. A mission to build the Catholic Church in East Texas, to develop the Diocese of Tyler. A mission to give all of God’s flock a shepherd’s care.

Many said it couldn’t be done, but today that mission is alive. And one of the greatest resources we have to continue it is the Bishop’s Annual Appeal.

Your contributions to the Appeal are vital to the growth of our Church.

Each year your gifts fund the many youth, family, and charitable ministries that make sure all of God’s Flock receive a shepherd’s care in East Texas.

Your support to the Appeal forms our priests, chosen by God to shepherd our families. Through your generosity, we are able to vastly grow our number of seminarians, providing future shepherds for all our parishes and missions.

Most of all, your gifts provide for the men who have given us a lifetime of service, our retired priests. You make sure they have the love and care that they need in their old age.

The 2016 Annual Appeal will kick off this weekend, February 6th and 7th. Check your mailbox this coming weekend for an invitation to give.

God’s flock is in your midst. Join Our Mission and help give them a shepherd’s care.