FLINT – Bishop Joseph E. Strickland celebrated a Mass marking Msgr. John Flynn’s 65 years of priestly ministry June 5 at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Flint.
“It occurs to me that I just celebrated 32 years as a priest, not even half of what he has,” Bishop Strickland said in his homily. “He was ordained in 1952. Some of us weren’t even on the planet then!”
Those 65 years, the bishop said, have been spent in service to God and his people.
The first Mass reading from Tobit, he said, “speaks about going out to find the poor. We are celebrating a man who has sought out the impoverished; not in terms of worldly wealth, but the most important poverty – those who needed Christ, those who needed a caring hand, those who needed a smile. Msgr. John Flynn has been famous in a number of dioceses for that kind of priestly work, a pastor among pastors.”
A native of Ireland, Msgr. Flynn was ordained on June 12, 1952, in his home country for the Archdiocese of San Antonio. He was one of many Irish seminarians recruited by Archbishop Robert Lucey for service in the mission field of Texas.
“This man was an adventurer from the very beginning,” Bishop Strickland said. “I loved the way he put it as we were getting ready for Mass. He said Archbishop Lucey showed up there at the seminary and said he needed men to come to Texas. Msgr. John’s profound response was, ‘Why not?’ 65 years later, he’s still ministering.”
Father Flynn served as parochial vicar and pastor in a number of parishes in the Archdiocese of San Antonio and on the archdiocesan Tribunal.
He came to the Diocese of Tyler in 1998 at the invitation of his longtime friend, Bishop Edmond Carmody, another Irish seminarian brought to Texas by Archbishop Lucey. He served in St. Matthew Church in Longview and St. Patrick Church in Lufkin, as well as on the diocesan Tribunal.
He incardinated into the diocese in 2000 and retired from active ministry in 2002. He is currently in residence at St. Mary Magdalene.
“I loved it when some of you came in and said to me, ‘He comes to our retirement home’ or ‘he comes to our chapel.’ You’re not here celebrating what he used to do, you’re here celebrating what he continues to do,” Bishop Strickland said. “I know that he humbly gives thanks to God every day, as we all do, for that ministry that continues, 65 years and counting. My episcopal mandate today, Msgr. John, is: go for 70!”
He closed his homily with a quote from Mother Teresa of Calcutta: “Without God, we are too poor to help the poor.”
“I think, as is so often with Mother Teresa, she captures a thought that we need to ponder and place in the context of Msgr. John’s 65 years of dedicated ministry as a priest of Jesus Christ,” Bishop Strickland said. “He knows better than I, better than my brothers here, probably better than any of us, that he has to have God close to his life, close to his heart, deep in prayer, in order to go out to the poor, to the impoverished of this world, who need the light of Christ.
“Thank you, Msgr. John, for living that truth so beautifully,” he said. “We pray that you do continue to live it for many years to come, and we ask God’s abundant blessings for you as you continue to journey as his son. God bless you.”
In his remarks, Msgr. Flynn thanked Bishop Strickland for “his beautiful homily” and “my fellow priests and deacons” for their presence.
“It has been a tremendous honor to be a priest and to work with people for so many years,” he said.
During the liturgy, the congregation paid homage to Msgr. Flynn’s Irish heritage by singing “Danny Boy.”