5 Minutes with Father Pat Garrett

May 14, 2013

THE WOODLANDS — Before entering the seminary, Father Pat Garrett attended a vocational retreat in high school and decided to “wait until after college” to begin discernment.

He did just that — and tacked on an additional 20 years for good measure before considering the priesthood in earnest. 

Following his graduation from Texas A&M University, he would receive his MBA from the University of Houston and go on to a successful corporate career with ExxonMobil.

“In the first few years out of college, like many young adults, I strayed somewhat from my faith,” the San Antonio native said. “But with a strong conviction that not attending Mass on Sunday was a sin, I was drawn back to the Church — at least for Mass on Sunday.”

In contrast to his somewhat reluctant return to the pews, Father Garrett’s faith life took hold during those Sunday Masses. 

He would enter St. Mary’s Seminary in 2003, and went on to serve his Pastoral Year in 2006-2007 at St. Edith Stein Church in Katy. Father Garrett was ordained a deacon in 2008, served his diaconate year at St. Anne Catholic Church in Tomball and was ordained to the priesthood in 2009. 
His first assignment was at St. Edward Catholic Church in Spring before going to Sts. Simon and Jude Catholic Church in The Woodlands as pastor.
During a recent interview with the Texas Catholic Herald, Father Garrett discussed his literal “calling” to the priesthood and how his background in corporate America influenced his pastoral and ministerial life.

Texas Catholic Herald: When and how did you know you wanted to join the priesthood?
Father Garrett: I tell people that I started getting more involved in the Church because “I was called”... Monsignor Adam McClosky called me on the phone in the early 90s. 

I was a registered parishioner at St. Maximilian Kolbe and he had just become pastor. He invited me to join the RCIA team, which I did for the next 10-plus years.

In 2002, I was invited to discern for the new diaconate class that was forming. At the time, I was having to travel quite extensively to Washington D.C. for work, so I did not have time to join the Diaconate inquiry. But that got me discerning a vocation. Through much prayer over the next six to nine months, I felt the call to the priesthood. 

On Feb. 1, 2003 — the day of the Columbia Shuttle disaster — I became deeply [stirred] by what I felt was God calling me to the priesthood. The next morning, after Sunday Mass, a good friend came up to me and, without knowing anything about my discernment, asked me, “Have you ever thought of being a priest?” Right then, I knew that God was calling me to the priesthood.

On my 20th Anniversary at ExxonMobil, I announced to my co-workers that I was leaving Exxon to study to be a Catholic priest. And I have never looked back or regretted that decision!

TCH: You currently serve as the Scout chaplain and as a liaison with the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan. How would you describe those Archdiocesan roles?
Father Garrett: I have enjoyed my work as Scout chaplain. 

In that role, I have been able to work with young men and women in Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, American Heritage Girls, Catholic Daughters and other civic organizations. 

These young men and women are dedicated to their country and to their faith. Due to their enthusiasm and sincerity for their faith, I have especially enjoyed the opportunities to offer Mass and the Sacrament of Reconciliation at their retreats. 

The awards and badges that these young men and women can receive through the Catholic committees on Scouting ensure that they have the opportunity to continue to grow in their faith even through their involvement with these secular institutions.

I believe that I bring a diverse perspective with my work as chairman for the committee that formulated the objectives for the Pastoral Plan. 
I have filled the gamut of roles as a single Catholic — from marginal Catholic, to Mass-only Catholic, to somewhat involved, to very active in various ministries and lay leadership, to now my work as a parochial vicar and a pastor. 

The committee I worked with took the feedback from the parish planning sessions and consolidated that feedback to articulate the objectives for the Pastoral Plan.

TCH: How has your previous experience in corporate America informed your vocation as a priest? Have there been any notable (or surprising) similarities between your life in the business world and your service as a pastor? 
Father Garrett: I am particularly conscious of how we live out our faith in the corporate world. 

For most of my career, I felt I had to hide my faith. Especially, as I was leaving Exxon and telling everyone that I was leaving to become a Catholic priest, I had wonderful faith-filled conversations with people of various faiths. 

Now as a priest, I want to encourage everyone to “bring God to work” with them. To this end, I have partnered with Father Nathaniel Haslam of the Legionaries of Christ to form the Catholic Business Forum of The Woodlands, an opportunity for Catholic business people to gather once a month for lunch and talk about how they live their faith at work. 

I hope my experience in the business world and for many years sitting in the pew as a lay Catholic helps me to relate to the concerns of the parishioners. 

In my homilies, in counseling, in spiritual direction, I try to recall my own experiences and struggles to relate to those I am talking with.

TCH: What do you enjoy for recreation and leisure?
Father Garrett: I’m a sports fan. I still have season tickets for the Texans and Aggie football, although I do not get to go to many games anymore because I am sort of busy on the weekends — especially Sundays.

TCH: What is the most rewarding aspect of being priest?
Father Garrett: Celebration of the Sacraments — especially the Eucharist. I have always had a profound devotion to the Eucharist — that is what kept me Catholic in those “lean years” of faith after college. 

There is something indescribable to be able to say “This is my Body,” “This is my Blood” — and mean it — in the person of Christ holding Christ’s Body and Blood.

TCH: What advice do you have for those discerning the priesthood or religious life?
Father Garrett: Listen to God’s call — through prayer and one another. God guides you through the Holy Spirit. 

We receive peace — a gift of the Holy Spirit, when we follow God’s call for us. 

One of my favorite Bible passages says: “Had you walked in the way of God, you would have dwelt in enduring peace.” (Bar 3:13)
Also, God speaks to us through one another. Many times people asked me, “Have you thought about being a priest?” It was that last time that it sunk in that it was God who was asking me that question.