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​Casa de Padres turns 30

December 03, 2019 | posted by Archdiocese of San Antonio

Topics: Vocations

Casa de Padres turns 30

At Casa de Padre’s groundbreaking on June 11, 1989, then-Archbishop Patrick F. Flores happily manned a bulldozer to turn the first scoop of Texas Hill Country earth that marked the start of construction on the Archdiocese of San Antonio’s retirement center for priests. Just five months later, on Nov. 19, the main building and first four duplexes (each consisting of two native stone cottage-apartments separated by side-by-side individual garages), were dedicated by Archbishop Flores, together with Bishop Bernard Popp and Bishop Edmond Carmody.

Donations had poured in from throughout the archdiocese for this much-needed facility, augmented by what would become an annual Casa de Padres Golf Tournament fundraiser for the next decade. Catholic Life Insurance President Michael Belz, chairman of the retirement center’s board, would remember it as the easiest such undertaking he’d ever experienced. “The diocese opened up and said, ‘We need to do something for these men for all they’ve done for us,’” he later recalled.

Today, Casa de Padres prepares to celebrate its 30th year with a “reception of thanksgiving” on Nov. 3 that will include Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, MSpS, past and present board members, donors and retired priests of the diocese. Nine duplexes (18 apartments), 12 of which are presently occupied, now grace the 11 scenic acres near Leon Springs.

“Casa de Padres is a wonderful facility for our priests to enjoy their independent retired years,” notes Manager Tara Castro. “Our priests enjoy their lives visiting with one another daily and continue to stay busy in the diocese, helping in parishes throughout the year.”

Residents concelebrate a daily 8 a.m. Mass in the Casa’s chapel, followed by a light breakfast and conversation in the dining room. A hearty lunch is prepared for them weekdays. Then the priests are on their own for the rest of the day and can make use of amenities that include a heated indoor pool, sauna, workout equipment, shaded putting green, shuffleboard and pool table.

Msgr. Albert Hubertus has called the Casa “home” the longest, having moved in more than 19 years ago as, he says, “a rather young man of 74 and a half.” He is working on his 94th year, but as busy as ever volunteering around the archdiocese. “The Lord has given me good health,” he notes. His only medications are eye drops and a blood pressure pill.

He easily rattles off names and dates of parishes he served and his weekly volunteering schedule: Thursdays, Mass for the Benedictines; Saturdays, confessions at St. Joseph, Honey Creek, plus once monthly to Harper for 6 p.m. Mass, staying over for Sunday Mass and visiting religious education classes. There is also a once-a-month Sunday Mass for the retired sisters at Our Lady of the Lake. He used to do more, he confides, “so, it’s not really a full-time job.”

He still tends a fruit and vegetable garden in his backyard, but his legs are not as steady as they once were, necessitating use of a walking stick. And he loves taking advantage of the Casa’s exercise pool, which simulates currents, but regrets losing his “pool buddy,” Father James Conway, whose health required moving to assisted living at Padua Place.

“I’ve never lived in a better home than here,” Father Hubertus relates, observing he grew up on a farm without electricity, lived in a dormitory as a seminarian and then in parish rectories that were usually old and small. “Here you have privacy, but you have company,” he says with a smile. “It’s like going back to the seminary without the rules.”

Msgr. Enda McKenna has called the Casa home since November 2017. Hailing from County Monaghan, Northern Ireland, he served the archdiocese for 55 years before retirement. At the Casa, he enjoys walking the peaceful grounds, “sometimes just praying the rosary as I walk around.” The area has experienced a building boom, but the Casa retains the rural feel of seclusion, not only for the priests but for the deer who have made it their home too. Father McKenna is one of a long line of past residents who feed them. “They’re beautiful, beautiful neighbors,” he adds. “It’s their territory. They have been here first.”

He also enjoys spending time in the Casa’s chapel and finds many opportunities to assist parishes, including St. Paul and San Fernando Cathedral, where he helps with their daily seven hours of confessions. “I can still be part of ministry in the archdiocese,” he says, “and I can have my own time in my apartment, so I feel very blessed.”

Father Emmet Carolan, also came from Ireland (Dalkey, County Dublin) and retired last year to Casa de Padres after 54 years of service. “It’s all good,” he says of Casa de Padres. “I like how we begin our day with celebrating Mass together, the group of us, and then continuing it in conversation in the dining area with coffee and breakfast.”

He notes that Manager Tara Castro “is always willing to be helpful” and that with Lisa Novian’s good cooking and Griselda Rodela’s keeping their apartments and clothes clean, life is good. “Sometimes I have a commitment for Mass or something else,” he relates, “but I’ve lots of time for myself to read, reflect.”

Father Anthony Cummins is a new face at the Casa, having arrived the first week in August. The longtime pastor at St. Peter Parish in Boerne, he had retired to a house of his own there five years ago. “What I enjoy the most,” he says of Casa de Padres, “is the company and the chatter around the table at meals. That’s a wonderful benefit after living alone for five years.” He also appreciates the caring attitude of his fellow priests at the Casa.

These days he helps out at his old parish and at St. Matthew and sometimes at Comfort and Honey Creek, and he enjoys playing a little golf. “It’s just a wonderful place,” he says of the Casa, “and I’m grateful that Archbishop Flores was mindful of the need for having a place for priests to retire.”