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Msgr. Roy Rihn dies Aug. 29, oldest and longest-serving archdiocesan priest

August 29, 2016 | posted by Archdiocese of San Antonio

Topics: In the Press, Breaking News

Msgr. Roy Rihn dies Aug. 29, oldest and longest-serving archdiocesan priest

Msgr. Roy Rihn, the oldest and longest-serving priest of the Archdiocese of San Antonio who was a firsthand witness to the unfolding of history of the church here and abroad, died Aug. 29.

Msgr. Rihn was born on Nov. 27, 1918, the son of Robert and Marie Steinle Rihn. He was the great-great grandson of Laurent and Catherine Klein Rihn, emigres from Altorf, Bas-Rihn (Alsace). Laurent Rihn was one of the original group of colonists present for the founding of Castroville on Sept. 12, 1844.

While his parents had never directly suggested to him the idea of becoming a priest, the young Roy Rihn observed their devoutness as Catholics, recalling that the family never failed to drive to town for Mass on Sunday, no matter the weather. He also observed their reverent attitude toward the German-born pastor, Father Jacob Lenzen. “They seemed to have great respect for this man,” said Msgr. Rihn in a 2007 interview with Today’s Catholic newspaper, noting how he admired Father Lenzen’s preaching and his work with the parishioners.

Msgr. Rihn was educated in his home parish school of St. Louis in Castroville from 1925 to 1931 (initially riding to town in a horse-drawn gig driven by his older brother); at St. John’s Seminary in San Antonio from 1931 to 1938, where he completed his high school and college courses; at Gregorian University (North American College) in Rome from 1938 to 1940; the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. from 1940 to 1942; and he later received his Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL) from Catholic University in 1942.

Msgr. Rihn remembered the funeral of Pope Pius XI taking place while he was in Rome and seeing the white smoke go up when Pope Pius XII was elected. “It was one of those things you never forget,” he recalled in his interview with Today’s Catholic a decade ago.

The winds of World War II were stirring in Europe, however, putting an end to his time in Rome. “It was obvious that Italy was going into the war on the side of the Nazis,” said Msgr. Rihn. The American bishops decided to call their students home, early exams were given and the North American College, where the seminarians lived, was closed, resulting in him completed his final two years of studies at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

He was ordained for the Archdiocese of San Antonio on June 4, 1942 in San Fernando Cathedral by Archbishop Robert E. Lucey.

He then served as parochial vicar of St. Cecilia’s Parish in San Antonio from 1942 to 1948, where he worked primarily with young people – Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, the Youth Club and the Sodality. From 1948 to 1950, he served as notary of the archdiocesan Tribunal; as well as archdiocesan moderator of Catholic Action from 1948 to 1953; then as the first fulltime vocation director of the archdiocese from 1953 to 1957. During this time he visited every school in the archdiocese and was constantly on the road, preaching on vocations in a different parish every Sunday.

He was still serving as vocation director when he was assigned as the founding pastor of St. Pius X Church in San Antonio in 1957, serving there a decade until 1967. It was where he celebrated his silver jubilee of ministry.

Msgr. Rihn was then appointed rector of Assumption Seminary, his tenure there lasting slightly over a year. During a time of great upheaval in the archdiocese, Archbishop Lucey, who, Msgr. Rihn described as, “almost like a second father to me, a great man,” dismissed the priest and three fellow administrators at the seminary, who found themselves without an assignment.

Msgr. Rihn then briefly served as associate director of Campus Ministry at the University of Oklahoma in Norman from 1969 to 1970. He returned to the Archdiocese of San Antonio in 1970 at the invitation of Archbishop Francis Furey and was assigned as pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Bloomington from 1970 to 1971; then as pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Victoria from 1971 to 1982.

When the Diocese of Victoria was formed, he received permission to return to San Antonio, where he served as parochial vicar of St. Paul’s Parish from 1982 to 1986; then as director of the Office of Clergy Development for the archdiocese from 1986 to 1990; and lastly as vicar of priests for the archdiocese from 1990 to 1995.

In special ministries, Msgr. Rihn preached more than 60 priests’ retreats from 1961 to 1984 in 20 dioceses across the United States and Canada; including Chicago, San Francisco, Marian, Houston, and Montreal. He also served as chaplain for the Victoria County Jail from 1971 to 1982. From 1983 to 1985, Msgr. Rihn conducted preaching seminars for priests and deacons in the Archdiocese of San Antonio and Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston as well as the dioceses of Austin, Beaumont, El Paso Lubbock, and San Angelo.

Msgr. Rihn retired on July 1, 1995, and began living at Casa de Padres, while volunteering at the Bexar County Jail, celebrating Sunday liturgies for the Sisters of Divine Providence at their convent chapel, and filling in regularly at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church adjacent to Case de Padres.

In later years he moved to the Padua Place residence for retired priests. A golf enthusiast in his younger days, Msgr. Rihn’s hobby in his retirement was his computer.

The priest was also a published author, writing the book The Priestly Amen, by Sheed & Ward of New York in 1965, and Our Stories, published by University Printers of San Antonio in 1999. The Priestly Amen is a collection of lectures at the many retreats he game over the years to diocesan priests across the United States and Canada. Our Stories is a light-hearted collection of stories contributed by priests of the archdiocese which occurred during their years in ministry or had been handed down from or about their predecessors.

“There are some great stories. If you don’t put them in print, they are forgotten,” Msgr. Rihn said of the book.

The priest also authored a weekly column for Today’s Catholic newspaper, official publication of the Archdiocese of San Antonio.

Msgr. Rihn visited Alsace many times, including an especially memorable trip in May 1975 which inaugurated frequent visits of Texans of Alsatian descent to Alsace and of people of Alsace to Texas. Another personally memorable visit to the homeland of his ancestors was that of September 1977, when Msgr. Rihn stayed in the home of the Hebinger family in Eguisheim.

“I pray for Msgr. Rihn and thank God for his life,” said Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS. “He was very united with and close to his family, and maintained his connection to the priests of the archdiocese and the seminary, especially as we celebrated Assumption’s 100th anniversary last year. I witnessed his presence at Padua Place, and how he handled the transition from being gregarious and talkative to becoming confined to a wheelchair almost unable to speak. He was a man who promoted communion and relationships. May God grant him peace.”

Visitation will be held Friday, Sept. 2, from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish at 8500 Cross Mountain Trail in San Antonio. The vigil service will begin at 7 p.m. The Funeral Mass will be held the following day, Saturday, Sept. 3, at 10 a.m. at Sacred Heart Chapel on the campus of Our Lady of the Lake University. Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, will be the presider at the liturgy. Burial will take place at Providence Cemetery at OLLU.

Additional information about Msgr. Rihn will appear in the Sept. 16 edition of Today’s Catholic.