Men's Breakfast, September 10, 2016

The men’s Breakfast Group met Saturday, September 10th with Jesse Garcia, the new priest at Saint Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Church.  Jesse was raised in San Antonio in a large Catholic family, one of ten children.  As a teenager he became involved with the Focolare movement.  This caused anxiety with his parents until the priest declared it orthodox.  Jesse went to college in San Antonio and studied psychology and business.  At the university he worked on improving the widely used Armed Forces Vocational Test.  After college he went to Colombia for a couple of years where he taught business and management  at a university in Medelin.  He then went to Toronto, Canada where he helped manage a non-profit organization.   After this, he went to New York to put his business training to use in a for-profit business.  An entrepreneur was buying properties that the Catholic Church was selling to pay judgments for sex crimes.  Jesse hoped to be able to get the business to do good for the people instead of just maximizing profit.  Eventually he found the conflict between the high-flying business world and his values and commitment to Focolare principles too much so he quit and went to seminary in Houston.  After being trained as a priest he was assigned to Saint Mary’s.  Since he had never served a parish under an experienced priest, the bishop told him to not make any changes for a year without consulting him.  Jesse was officially installed Friday, September 16th.  Jesse is a diocesan priest who reports to the bishop of the local diocese.  This is in contrast to priests that are members of various orders such as the Dominicans or Jesuits. 

There was some discussion about the local church.  Saint Mary’s has about 500 members of which 400 regularly attend services.  There are both Spanish and English Services and the Spanish service is more lively.  There are very few blacks in the congregation.  There are several employees and volunteers working for the church.  Jesse is the only priest, although the Rectory was built to house four.  Wallace Shaw is the Deacon and has authority to perform several services but not mass.  Since Wallace is getting old, a new deacon is being trained and plans to help out in the near future.  This will be especially useful for the jail chaplain program since Wallace cannot participate as he is Freeport city attorney.  Jesse is more interested in cooperating with other churches than previous priests have been. 

Jesse described the Focolare movement of which he is a part.  The movement was started by high school age girls in wartime Italy as a way to follow the gospel.  Focolare means hearth and emphasizes that all humanity is family and should be treated as such.  Members agree to serve one another and the general populace.  The movement spread beyond the girls to the wider community and throughout the world.  The movement is primarily Catholic with most of the practices based on Catholic practices.  However, it is ecumenical and first spread to Lutherans and then other denominations.  It has even reached out to Muslims and atheists who can join in the work.   The movement helps members start businesses with the understanding that one third of the profits go to the poor, one third go to expanding the business and one third go to Focolare projects.  In the Catholic Church, the movement is considered “Opus Maris” or work of Mary. 

The men had an interesting discussion and a good breakfast.  The next meeting will by Saturday, October 8th.