CANADA-UNITED STATESA bishop remembers an Oblate priest
Fr. James “Jim” ERVING, age 43, died peacefully on March 18, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas, where he had been battling brain cancer for several months. Bishop Daniel Flores, Bishop of Brownsville, in whose diocese Fr. Jim had ministered, wrote a touching tribute to the young priest in his blog. It was the Founder himself who first sent Oblates to minister in South Texas in 1849.
I met Father James Erving, OMI, when the Oblates sent him to serve at Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish, in Port Isabel. He jumped into that assignment with a vigor I imagine St. Eugene molded into his first Oblate companions. He was not there long; he worked like he knew he wouldn’t be. But in fact he could not have known. Pastoral discussions involving his Oblate Superiors and the local bishop would soon result in an abrupt transfer to the other side of the Diocese, to Our Lady of Refuge in Roma, Texas.
I remember he
came to see me before the change took effect. Humble, yes, and brutally honest
with me, the kind of character God carves out of granite. A bishop cannot ask
for more from any priest. It would be a difficult move, he said. Lots of things
yet to be done to build the faith in Port Isabel, he said. I know, I said. God
will provide for Port Isabel, just as He now provides for Roma. Fiercely
obedient, obediently fierce; a Religious Community could not ask for more from
a priest. Fr. Jim said a lot more; but most of that I take to the grave.
We talked about the pro-life apostolate. I thanked him for being willing to take it up. He had plans, but wasn’t sure where to start. But start he did; our pro-life march that year went from St Joseph the Worker, to Sacred Heart Church, passing right through downtown McAllen on a Saturday morning, right in front of the abortion place. The picture is from that day. I like it because it so captures his blunt devotion to Christ and his Church. He is not pointing at me; he points for me to see something beyond. Be assured, I got the point, though I had not yet turned my head. No “let’s stay in the sacristy and witness from here” in this man. Fierce defender of the unborn, the poor, the immigrant. Once in a while, I thought that day, a bishop stumbles into a good decision.
He gave all he had to Roma. I worry about the kids, I told him; they need a strong and courageous pastor. He was that. The missions need building up; people are moving into Starr County. I didn’t need to say a lot; he understood. I did not know him long; but I think I knew him well enough to know he would be a strong shoulder pushing in favor of God’s people here in the Rio Grande Valley.
Once, at a Confirmation in Roma, we ate lasagna after the Mass and after all the pictures. He told me about how Spanish was a struggle, but he was getting better. The people love a priest who gives himself to them, even if he gets the accent wrong on some words, I said. He told me about the immigrant population. We talked a lot about that. He said more, but that too I will keep for a later appointment.
We do not know the mind of God apart from what is shown us in the wounded heart of Christ. But in the contemplation there, we find more than we could have ever thought possible. His illness came quickly, relentlessly, and took him from us fast. His suffering was a fierce battle he waged obediently. God was all along forming a saint; that is what He is always trying to do for us. Fr. Jim, I am sure, knew that. May we be so generous in letting God do what He tries so desperately to do.
I hope in heaven, so did Jim. Should God grant me the grace to let Him do in me what He must do to get me to heaven, Jim will be one I expect to see early on, pointing, to make sure I remember to look up at the Mystic Rose, and beyond her, to that center where is beheld the Word Eternal proceeding in the glorified flesh of God Incarnate. Amen.
The stones speak in this basilica celebrating its golden jubilee!
On 25 March,
1957, Pius XII blessed the corner stone of the Basilica of Our Lady of the
Cape. The great doors speak as they count the thousands of visitors and
pilgrims each year.
The bells speak of a call to gather here and celebrate. The altars say that great is the mystery of faith. The entire architecture speaks of grandeur and beauty to be contemplated! The stained glass windows speak of a Light who comes to visit us. The confessionals speak of pardon generously granted. An immense cross speaks of a Friend who gives his life here for his friends. The great organs speak of a national Marian shrine, a place where so many artists enjoy singing and playing and dancing.
Happy golden jubilee, Basilica of the Cape, on the banks of a great river. (Yoland OUELLET, Director, in INFO OMI 1 April 2014)
As politicians and commentators debate the merits of immigration reform, Missionary Oblates are on the front lines, helping immigrants from around the world feel welcome and improve their lives here.
Father Kevin COLLINS is mentoring dozens of immigrant high school students in Houston, Texas and showing them what they can achieve through education and hard work.
In New Orleans, 88-year-old Fr. John MORIN is working with hundreds of recently arrived Haitian immigrants. Father Morin spent 40 years as a missionary on the impoverished island.
Brother Lucino CRUZ is leading a team of volunteers who are teaching immigration reform advocacy and citizenship classes at three Oblate parishes in southern California.
Oblates at St. Patrick Church in Lowell, Massachusetts, are helping immigrants from Asia adjust to their new life in the United States by supporting classes in English, child care, American citizenship and nutrition. Mass is celebrated in the native language of the Cambodian and Vietnamese communities of Lowell. An Ros, the first Cambodian deacon and only the second in the world, ministers at the parish.
“The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate have a long history of serving immigrant communities throughout the United States,” said Fr. Seamus FINN, Director of the Oblates’ Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Office (JPIC) in Washington, D.C. “We stand in solidarity with all immigrants and advocate for their rights and dignity.” In recent years the Oblates have become even more outspoken in their support of comprehensive immigration reform. Their efforts have focused primarily on education and advocacy.
The Oblates support just and compassionate immigration reform that includes a process offering a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants already in the country. They believe immigration reform principles must enhance family unity and address the root causes of immigration, such as economic hardship, political oppression and religious persecution.
“People of faith have always stood in solidarity with immigrants by supporting actions for comprehensive immigration reform,” said George Kombe Mgolwe, advocacy associate for the JPIC office. “Lawmakers need to be reminded that there is a diverse coalition of people of faith that supports comprehensive immigration reform.”
Father Finn explains that the debate over immigration reform should not be framed as a Democrat vs. Republican or a liberal vs. conservative debate. Instead, it should focus on allowing all human beings to share in God’s creation. “This is why the Catholic Church supports immigration reform,” said Fr. Finn. “It is a pro-family and pro-life issue.” (Oblate World – www.omiusa.org)