Our Lady of Sorrows says goodbye to priest (video)

JR Ortega By JR Ortega

May 25, 2013 at 12:25 a.m.
Updated May 26, 2013 at 12:26 a.m.

The Rev. Stan DeBoe is blessed by the attendees from Nazareth Academy at the first Friday Mass at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Victoria.

The Rev. Stan DeBoe is blessed by the attendees from Nazareth Academy at the first Friday Mass at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Victoria.   Kathleen Duncan for The Victoria Advocate

Just call him Father Stan - almost everyone does.

The Rev. Stan DeBoe's face is one many in the Catholic community have grown to know well; the soft, infectious smile on the man with a stocky disposition and buzzed cut hair.

But Memorial Day will be the priest's official goodbye from Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church. He spent six years learning Spanish and methods to work in his first parish.

In April, the provincial in the Trinitarian Order reassigned DeBoe to be vocation director in his hometown of Baltimore.

The Rev. Alfonso Serna, a former church deacon, will replace DeBoe.

At 56, DeBoe will be in charge of recruiting men to join the order, screening them and walking with them on their faith journey.

The change comes at a great time because DeBoe feels God needs him somewhere else, and Victoria needs a bilingual priest.

"I've been invited into people's lives from birth to death and everything in between," DeBoe said, wearing that signature smile. "I've loved the work I've done here."

DeBoe has pushed for those in his congregation to become more active politically and to have a say in their community.

The congregation of almost 1,000 has fluctuated in attendance, but it's how well he got to know his members that will be most missed, said Mary Rose Garcia, whose family who has been part of the church for about 50 years.

Garcia, a retiree, has a special bond with the church. The look, the smell and everything about it reminds her of her father.

Garcia grew up in Silver City and watched the community build with its own money Santisima La Trinidad.

Garcia's mother opens the doors at the Silver City church, while she opens the doors at the Our Lady of Sorrows Church.

She can still remember walking into the church at 208 W. River St. and seeing her father in the darkness of the church, walking around the church and whispering prayers at each statue in the church.

Garcia tears up just talking about DeBoe leaving because DeBoe went out of his way for Garcia's father, Trino, who died in 2011. Garcia's father was an usher for about 50 years and would also open up the church in the morning.

"(DeBoe) gave all his Masses at Sorrows, and then he went to Houston to be with the family," she said crying. "I knew he was going to be our moral support. It was not just for my father; it was for everybody."

DeBoe admits he never expected to work at a parish.

Prior to Our Lady of Sorrows, DeBoe had a much different role in the church. Being a priest for 30 years, prior to coming to Victoria, he worked with international social justice issues and responded to the sexual abuse crisis in the religious order.

After such a trying time, he needed a break, he said.

The call came to be the pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows, and DeBoe said yes, not knowing what to expect. And now he's in the exact same boat with his newest position.

"Whatever God's calling me to, he'll give me the ability to do it," he said. "I don't think I would have been prepared to do it had I not had a ministry like this."

The hardest part, DeBoe said, is going from working at 120 mph to sitting in an office working via phone and email with others wanting to follow his path in life.

"I'm not sure what to expect," DeBoe said.

Though he's not sure what to expect, he feels the warmth and welcoming community he found in Victoria will be waiting for him back home in Baltimore.

The church community's growth as a congregation has been the biggest success, DeBoe said.

He said he knows Serna, who was a deacon in Victoria until he was ordained a priest and went to do mission work in Cairo, will be the perfect fit.

DeBoe has had people ask him how is it possible to be happy and sad at the same time because of the change in church leadership situation.

"I think that's a great feeling to have," he said. "He's going to bring an energy and creativity that I think will really move people forward in their own journey."

DeBoe expressed his plans to visit. He can't stay away from the warm weather and good Mexican food too long, he jokes.

DeBoe said he expects to see the church grow stronger in the community and continue its mission of acceptance of all God's children - because that's how he taught them.

"No one is excluded from the love of Christ. We need to welcome everyone," he said. "We are all sinners in need of God's love."



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