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Trinitarians leave Our Lady of Sorrows after 70 years

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
April 25, 2014 at midnight
Updated April 24, 2014 at 11:25 p.m.

Father Alfonso Serna, left, and the Rev. Daniel Houde enter the sanctuary at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church to begin Mass on April 17. Father Serna and the Rev. Houde will be leaving Victoria as the church transitions into being staffed by the Victoria Diocese.

TRINITARIAN PRIESTS

• Called religious priests

• Serves ecclesial superior, local prior, abbot, or provincial, member of the priest's order or monastery

• Often engaged in a specialized form of ministry

• Make vows of poverty, chastity and obedience

• For more information on Trinitarians, visit Trinitarians.org.

DIOCESAN PRIESTS

• Called secular or diocesan priests

• Serves the bishop of the priest's diocese

• Ordained for a particular diocese

• At ordination, they promise to obey their bishop and, in the Western Church, to remain celibate.

A silence hummed in the Our Lady of Sorrows sanctuary four weeks ago as The Rev. Daniel Houde read the letter aloud.

Some knew the announcement was coming; for others, his words were a surprise.

Houde's voice began to tremble as he read the note of his Trinitarian minister provincial to the congregation.

"At this time, the Trinitarians must discern where we can continue to serve while also being called to take our charism of reaching out to those who find hardship in practicing the Christian faith," the letter, written by the Rev. J. Edward Owens, stated. "That discernment has led us to the decision of turning over pastoral leadership of Our Lady of Sorrows and Santisima Trinidad to the Diocese of Victoria."

Sniffles and tears echoed throughout the church. For 70 years, Trinitarian priests from the Order of the Most Holy Trinity in Baltimore, Md., have served Our Lady of Sorrows in Victoria.

But with diminishing priests in the order, they can no longer spare the few that serve in Texas.

"You know, it's bittersweet. This is my first and last Easter here, and we love Victoria," Houde said on Maundy Thursday. "I'm comfortable with the Victoria Diocese taking over. The Bishop has been a true father, and he loves the Trinitarians."

Only one church in the Crossroads will remain staffed by the Trinitarians, Immaculate Conception in Goliad.

Our Lady of Sorrows and its sister Spanish-speaking church, Santisma Trinidad, will be transferred to the diocesan priests of the Victoria Diocese, and in the next several months, the Most. Rev. Bishop David Fellhauer will make final decisions on the church's leadership.

"We're very sorry to see the Trinitarians leave because they've done well over the years, but we understand if they don't have the new vocations, they have to make decisions about where they can remain," Fellhauer said. "It will not be easy for us, but it seldom is because we don't have extra priests."

What may help the transition of the Trinitarians' exit, expected to take place sometime in June, is the ordaining of two new diocesan priests in May, Deacon Jasper Liggio and Deacon Philip Brune.

"The diocese is very well aware of the needs of OLS and its mission church, and we will staff it as best we can just like we do at every other parish," Fellhauer said. "It is a wonderful parish."

Maria Pulido, 47, has been attending the church since she was 4 years old. She's accustomed to the Trinitarian culture and says the change will be a tough one for the longtime members.

"The red and blue cross was always here . it's very sad. The dynamic of how we function may be different now," she said.

But though the church may be changing, Pulido said she attends church not for Trinitarian priests but for God.

"I am here first and foremost to serve God and I'm here for Jesus. This is our love," she said.

Houde said he will miss the family atmosphere of serving the congregation of Sorrows and hopes the Trinitarians leave behind a legacy of service and love.

"I hope we have given a sense of family and unity and helped foster a culture of pride, Mexican-American pride," Houde said. "It's been a wonderful community."

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