Priests return to roots, gather for biennial convocation

May 24, 2016

GALVESTON — More than 190 Catholic priests from around the Archdiocese gathered to reflect on the last two years of ministry and look forward to what’s next at the 2016 Priest Convocation at Moody Gardens in Galveston, May 9 to 12. 

Both Archdiocesan and religious priests were welcome to attend the four-day event, which focused on the theme of “Marriage and Family: United in Love and Mercy.” 

The convocation, held every two years, is a three-fold opportunity for priests in the Archdiocese: educating priests on updates in the Archdiocese, a fraternal gathering of priests in fellowship and to pray as one community together, according to Father Norboert Manduzia, co-chair of the ongoing formation of priests committee.

“Because of the busyness of the priests, we don’t get an opportunity just to gather together to be with each other that much anymore,” said Father Manduzia, also pastor of St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Spring. 

The convocation included a visit to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Mary, daily prayer, exhibits, several keynote addresses, panel discussions and daily Mass and prayer. Rice University’s Dr. Stephen Klineberg joined Bridgeport Bishop Frank J. Gaggiano and Matthew Manion of the Catholic Leadership Institute to deliver the keynotes.

Dr. Klineberg summarized the recent demographic changes, economic outlooks, experiences and beliefs of Harris County, which is just one of ten counties in the Archdiocese. He noted the rapidly shifting ethnic make-up of the Houston-area: there’s no longer an ethnic majority. 
Father Manduzia found this evident in the diversity of the priests who attended.

“It’s really interesting to see the mix of priests that were there,” he said. “It truly reflected the diversity of Harris County and Houston.”
Bishop Gaggiano focused on how Pope Francis, in his recent apostolic exhortation ‘Amoris Laetitia,’ encourages clergy to “work diligently and compassionately” for the many challenging, irregular families of Houston’s — and the world’s — quickly diversifying population.
The convocation was also a return to the origin of the Church in Texas, Father Manduzia said.

“We chose Galveston back in 2000 as an opportunity to go back to the Mother Seat of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston,” he said. “Since then we’ve gone back because it’s going back to our roots to be renewed.”

During one of the Masses, priests had the opportunity to participate in the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Cardinal DiNardo, with Auxiliary Bishop George A. Sheltz, anointed the priests who stepped forward. 

Father Manduzia said he found it very inspiring to see the priests in an act of humility, standing with his hands out open waiting to be anointed.
During the days-long gathering, it was clear to many of the priests that their presence there was a sacrifice for their parishes back home.
We knew that “because we were there (in Galveston), there were many parishes that didn’t have daily Mass,” Father Manduzia said. 

But knowing that those parishes did gather for communion or prayers services made the clergy “very grateful for the support and prayers of the people in the Archdiocese,” he said. 

“We could really sense that support. It was a comfort to know that while we were away, people were praying for us and supporting us.”