1,565 years of faithful dedication: Nearly 40 priests, religious to celebrate Jubilee anniversaries

September 26, 2023

Celebrating their 50-year Jubilees of their ordination this year are Father Jim Kuczynski, M.S., pastor of Mary Queen Catholic Church in Friendswood, Father Robert Ippolito, M.S., who is also a La Salette priest and priest in residence at Mary Queen, and Father Skip Negley, M.S., retiring director of the Archdiocesan Office of Ministry to Priests. (Photo courtesy of Mary Queen Catholic Church)

HOUSTON — With heavy responsibilities at times weighing on priests as pastors and vicars, they have turned to Father Phil “Skip” Negley, M.S., as spiritual director and retreat organizer for many of them.

At the time, then-Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza selected Father Negley to be the first director for the Office of Ministry to Priests when it was founded in 1998. Now, the 77-year-old priest is officially retired from the office as of Sept. 1, but has been reassigned by his order, the Missionaries of La Salette, to a parish in the Diocese of Orlando starting Nov. 1.

“The plan of retirement is sometimes as elusive or mysterious as the inspiration and invitation from the Holy Spirit,” he said. “Ministry to Priests is one of the most rewarding, supportive and fraternal ministries in our local Church of Galveston-Houston. Being a priest for priests is a profound privilege.”

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, speaking on Aug. 12 at Father Negley’s 50th anniversary of his ordination, told the crowd of priests, bishops and parishioners, “In the beginning, Father Skip was the foundation, the origin of the Ministry for Priests.”

“If a vicar calls priests, they are nervous. If the cardinal calls a priest, they are scared to death. But when he (Father Negley) calls you, you’re relieved,” he joked as the congregation chuckled.

The Mass was held at Mary Queen Church in Friendswood, where Father Negley served as pastor from 2004 through 2012 before being elected as the provincial superior of his order, from 2012 to 2015.

He served the three-year term as head of the North American Province, including working trips to Angola, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, India and throughout Europe to help open new seminaries and support the nearly 1,000 priests in the order worldwide, Father Negley said.

He then returned to Houston to begin his second term as director for the Office of Ministry to Priests from 2016 through 2023, providing one-on-one spiritual direction, sacramental reconciliation, support groups, and activities that strengthen the priestly life and the mentoring of the new/early ordained.

Now, Father Tom Rafferty is succeeding Father Negley in the pastoral care role for more than 400 clergy throughout 10 counties.

Two other priests of Father Negley’s same order are also celebrating their 50th Jubilees. Father Jim Kuczynski, M.S., is retiring as pastor of Mary Queen Catholic Church in Friendswood, and Father Robert Ippolito, M.S., is helping pro bono at St. Frances Cabrini Center for Immigrant Legal Assistance as a certified immigration specialist.

A retired Air Force colonel and chaplain, 77-year-old Father Ippolito, whose grandfather immigrated from Sicily, said, “My advocacy ministry is certainly expressive of our La Salette ministry of reconciliation. I hope I can make a difference in the lives of immigrants with whatever time God gives me on this earth.”

Father Kuczynski said of the milestone, “We certainly do things in different ways at different points in our time, but it’s still about how to live the Gospel in the world we know.”

The Jubilee Mass for priests, religious brothers and sisters celebrating their anniversaries of 60, 50 and 25 years of service is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 8, at 3 p.m. at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart at 1111 St. Joseph Pkwy. in downtown Houston.

Others to be celebrated include Father Richard Wahl, C.S.B., JCL, with 50 years as part of the Congregation of St. Basil, also known as the Basilian Fathers. He serves as adjutant judicial vicar of the Metropolitan Tribunal for the Archdiocese.

His Basilian order is celebrating 200 years of its founding in 1822 when 10 diocesan priests defied anticlerical laws passed during the French Revolution to bring balanced Christian education to a small village in southern France by operating a seminary that grew worldwide from there.

The local Vietnamese Dominican Sisters of Mary Immaculate Province have several members celebrating their 60, 50 and 25 years. Sister Maria Goretti Thuy Nguyen, OP, who works as associate director in the Archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, is a 25-year Jubilarian this year.

Sister Francesca Kearns, CCVI, vicar for Religious, said of the annual Jubilee celebration, “Jubilees are ‘Magnificat’ moments when we joyfully declare with Mary, God has done great things for us in calling us to extend His love in our communities, parishes and Church.” 

Want to go?

Jubilee Mass
Sunday, Oct. 8 at 3 p.m.
Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart
1111 St. Joseph Pkwy., Houston

Jubilarians 2023

Diamond – 60 Years
Monsignor Jack M. Dinkins
Father Donald S. Nesti, C.S.Sp.
Father Joseph Tuynh Van Pham, O.P.
Sister Theresa Thu Mai, O.P.
Sister Patricia Casey, OP
Sister Anna Marie Flusche, OP
Sister Ann Huffstetter, OP
Sister Lavergne Schwender, OP

Golden – 50 Years
Father Richard A. Wahl, C.S.B.
Father Robert F. Ippolito, M.S.
Father Edward C. Kucera Jr.
Father James H. Kuczynski, M.S.
Father Terence P. Brinkman
Father Joseph Phiet The Nguyen
Father William Andrew Wood
Father Jamie M. Abercrombie, C.S.B.
Father Phil “Skip” Negley, M.S.
Sister Theresa Hoa Trinh, O.P.
Sister Mary Francis, CCVI

Silver – 25 Years
Father Dominic Quang T. Nguyen, O.P.
Father Ralph 0. Roberts
Father Thuy Quang Nguyen
Father Sean P. Horrigan
Sister Theresa Marie Chau Nguyen, O.P.
Sister Maria Goretti Thuy Nguyen, O.P.