Bishop-elect Sheltz has ‘walked the talk’ in Catholic school education
April 24, 2012
HOUSTON — Sister Brendan O’Donnell’s favorite “George Sheltz story” starts and ends with a twist.
Sister O’Donnell, the Bishop-elect’s sixth, seventh and eighth grade teacher at the former Annunciation School in downtown Houston, recalls one of the few times (in her experience) the future member of the clergy got into trouble in the classroom and “needed correcting.”
Her tactic of choice? Grabbing a lock of his then-curly hair and giving it a twist.
“He didn’t appreciate me correcting him like that and he was quite angry with me,” said Sister O’Donnell, 83. “I told him ‘George, you were bold – another word I used for naughty – and you shouldn’t be angry with me.’”
Her former pupil would get the last laugh when Sister O’Donnell attended a family gathering to celebrate his ordination to the priesthood in 1971. At the party, Bishop Sheltz sneaked behind her and gave a lock of her hair a twist in a playful act of retaliation.
“After he did it, he smiled at me and said, ‘I’ve waited a long time to do that,’” Sister O’Donnell said, with a laugh. Anecdote aside, the Incarnate Word sister remembers the future auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston being a good student at Annunciation School.
“He was a very solid student, he always did his work,” she said. “And he was always a very reverent altar server. He was an altar server for a very long time and he did that with great respect for the liturgy and the Eucharist.”
Bishop Sheltz is an example of a “born and bred” local Catholic school product. After attending Annunciation, he was a student at St. Thomas High School and later studied at the University of St. Thomas and St. Mary Seminary for his priestly formation.
The Catholic schools of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston are “very pleased and proud” to call Bishop-elect Sheltz one of their own, according to Sister Kevina Keating, CCVI.
Annunciation Catholic School in downtown Houston is where Bishop-elect Sheltz was educated as a child.
“It is abundantly clear to me on a daily basis as Superintendent that Bishop Sheltz is a staunch supporter of Catholic schools,” she said.
Sister Keating said he has celebrated special Masses for Archdiocesan Catholic schools, has been a significant part of the Schools Office’s annual meeting with school pastors, spent time with principals “expressing appreciation to them for their ministry, which he values,” and has joined teachers in the annual Opening Mass at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart and Catholic School Seminar.
“He has a great comfort level in these roles due to his own Catholic school days,” Sister Keating said. “I like to say, ‘He has walked the talk.’”
He expressed immense gratitude for getting to take those steps in his own formation.
“I have to acknowledge the Incarnate Word Sisters because they taught me,” Bishop Sheltz said of his Annunciation School instructors and administrators. “My teachers were very good role models.”
As he transitioned to his teens, he said the Basilians at St. Thomas High School inspired him to become a priest.
Bishop-elect Sheltz graduated from St. Thomas High School in 1963.
“At St. Thomas, there were some great, great priests there,” he said. “They were priests you looked up to and could relate to and who could relate to us. They were encouraging.”
An Eagle to the core, Bishop Sheltz stays in touch with many of his St. Thomas High School classmates. In recent years, a group of them meet frequently for the spaghetti lunches held on the first and third Thursdays of every month at Sacred Heart Hall on East Whitney Drive in Houston. Due to his busy schedule – which will likely escalate following his episcopal ordination on May 2 – Bishop-elect Sheltz attends when he has the opportunity. Just like the rest of his fellow St. Thomas High graduates, he enjoys reminiscing about the old times and the priests they looked up to as mentors.
“My high school classmates and I get together and talk about them still, and we’ve been out of high school for 49 years,” he said.
Rick Parsons had attended a seminary in Cape Girardeau, Missouri before meeting Bishop Sheltz during their sophomore year at St. Thomas High School.
The new auxiliary bishop earned his Bachelor’s in Philosophy at the University of St. Thomas in Houston.
“We were in different homerooms, but in a class as small as ours, you become acquainted with your classmates pretty quick,” Parsons said. “I remember George as a quiet, studious, devout person, and coming from my seminary experience, I could easily see him entering the priesthood.”
Parsons doesn’t recall a specific conversation about his classmate’s desire to enter the priesthood, but he certainly “recognized him as a natural.” He echoes that sentiment in regards to his close friend’s new role as auxiliary bishop.
“We are lucky to have him serving us in the Archdiocese,” Parsons said. “He is a wonderful ambassador of Catholicism, a gifted and very down-to-earth homilist and a very devoted man with a fantastic sense of humor. I am very proud to call him my good friend.”
One former classmate the
bishop-elect corresponds with frequently is Deacon Ken Martin, who serves as Clergy Pastoral Outreach Coordinator for the Archdiocese. They met each other during their freshman year at St. Thomas High School as both were “trying to get our bearings,” said Deacon Martin, who cites the bishop’s “great love of God and his service to God’s people as a priest, pastor and chancellor” to be among his notable traits.
St. Mary Seminary on Memorial Drive is where Bishop-elect Sheltz earned his Master’s in Theology.
“He will make a holy, caring and helpful bishop,” said Deacon Martin, who added that Bishop-elect Sheltz is active in supporting his alma mater. “He is very involved with St. Thomas High School alumni activities and has a real love for St. Thomas High School and Catholic education in general.”
That passion continues to make Bishop-elect Sheltz a true ambassador for Catholic education, Sister Keating said.
“Having Bishop Sheltz come from a Catholic school education is a great endorsement,” Sister Keating said. “In a school visit I made recently, one of the students called him the ‘Bishop of Catholic Schools.’”