by Fr. Joe Nassal, C.PP.S.
The Kansas City Province’s first foray into Spanish-speaking ministry in North America was in 1968 when Father Gregor Dues served as director of Migrant Ministry for the Diocese of Pueblo in Colorado. In September 1970, the Kansas City Province expanded to Texas when Father Samuel Homsey was appointed to what was called the Spanish-American Apostolate in Fort Stockton, Texas and Father Augustine Hanchak to the Spanish-American Apostolate in McCamey, Texas.
Father Lawrence Cyr was elected Provincial Director in April 1975. The Provincial Council included Fathers Joseph Charron, Vince Hoying, Robert Stukenborg, and James Sloan. At the 1975 Assembly, the membership discussed and passed a resolution to reject a raise in the monthly allowance and “resolved that $10 per month per contributing member be pooled as our community witness of poverty to be used in the cause of poverty and starvation, local, national and international.” This resolution became known as the Poverty Fund and was the forerunner to the Human Development Fund.
At the 1975 Provincial Assembly, a consensus formed that the members should get together more than one every four years. While many of the members attended one of the three or four annual retreats sponsored by the Province, the Assemblies were held every four years primarily for election. Any other necessary business was taken care of through the mail.
In January 1977, Father Cyr announced a Provincial Gathering to be held at Precious Blood Seminary during Easter Week, April 12-14, 1977. This was the beginning of the annual Provincial Assembly, gathering more than once every four years. As the annual Assembly became the norm, the desire to have community-sponsored retreats waned. Since many of the members either attended the annual retreat sponsored by the diocese where they were serving or preferred a silent, directed retreat, the attendance at community sponsored retreats decreased through the years, until the only retreat organized and sponsored by the Province occurred every four years in conjunction with the installation of the provincial and council.
It was during Father Cyr’s term as provincial that the number of priests serving in the San Angelo diocese increased. In September 1971, Father John Hoorman became pastor in Rotan, Texas. Fathers George Fey and Richard Kolega became pastor and associate pastor respectively at St. Mary Parish in San Angelo, Texas in 1974.
Father Cyr negotiated with the bishop of San Angelo and the provincial of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) to group the members serving in Texas closer to one another. By 1980, seven members of the Province were serving in the San Angelo Diocese within 70 miles of one another, including Father Cyr who, after finishing his term as provincial, joined the c.pp.s. Missionaries in Texas first as a substitute and then as pastor in Coleman, Texas for more than 25 years. The province later accepted parishes in Sweetwater, Abilene and Odessa. At its peak, the province had eleven priests serving in the diocese.
When the San Angelo Diocese celebrated its 50th anniversary in October 2011, Father Joseph Uecker was the only Precious Blood priest still serving there. He continues to live in Odessa, Texas, substituting and providing sacramental ministry throughout the city and diocese, preaching for Unbound, and serving as chair of the Kansas City Province’s Human Development Fund.
Next Month: Precious Blood Seminary