Our Texan Brother
Brother Faustino Paez SAC
Recently, on a visit to the USA for the North American Continental Meeting, I visited some of our men working there, calling in for the first time to the city of Lubbock, Texas.
Pallottines were invited to work there in 1950, to assume responsibility for the parish of San Jose [St Joseph] which the Paulists were about to leave. Thus began a long association of the Irish Province with Lubbock. A fruit of that association has been the vocations of both Fr Cornelio (Connie) Ramirez sac, who this year celebrated the golden jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood and Br Faustino Paez sac, both of whom joined us through their involvement in that parish.
Faustino shared with me some of his story, which very quickly evolved into a record of his life of service as a member of the Irish Province and of the various tasks and roles he has exercised this past 47 years.
He has born in Lubbock in August 1945, of Mexican parents. They had emigrated as children in 1916 due to unrest in Mexico, coming first to San Antonio and later to Lubbock. Faustino Paez’s large family, of ten siblings, was staunchly Catholic, although with the custom of observing some Jewish traditions. As a child his first contact with Pallottines was in the church where his family worshipped. As he himself observed it would have been difficult in those years to avoid contact with Pallottines since they went on to staff four of the eight parishes in the city – San Jose, St Patrick’s, St Elizabeth’s and Our Lady of Guadalupe.
As a youth Faustino was very involved in the local church community, was a member of the youth group, participated in the CCD programme and in general church activities. He knew of ‘Connie’ Ramirez who, having joined the community in 1954, was then living in Ireland and himself beginning to consider a vocation, encouraged by Frs Aidan Maguire sac and Aidan Donlon sac. Faustino said that he was attracted by the idea of missionary work since all those he knew, with the exception of ‘Connie’ Ramirez, were missionaries. They had come from Ireland or Argentina, or had previously worked in Tanzania. He remarked that ‘the Pallottines were always down to earth, they made me feel at home and always welcome in the parish’ and he went on to say that he appreciated an openness in all the Pallottine parishes.
On leaving school he worked for a number of years, principally in restaurants, later with an upholstery company before choosing the Pallottine way of life towards the end of 1969. In May 1970 he and his family suffered greatly when his mother (along with 25 others) died in a tornado which struck Lubbock, however he had made his decision and so travelled to Ireland and to Thurles later that summer. Asked how he felt back then about leaving the wide plains of Texas and heading for Ireland he acknowledged that it felt strange but, despite the difficulties, he knew so many Irish Pallottines and that it would work out well.
Faustino was determined to be a brother. He never gave priesthood serious thought because he wanted to devote himself to the Society and be available for service to people who needed his help in any way. And indeed those of us who know him can testify that his life has always been one of ready service to others. He also persisted with the idea of being a missionary. That took him to Ireland in 1970 for formation and later to the then Provincial House in Golder’s Green in London in 1975, where he was personal assistant and secretary to the Provincial. The Provincialate was transferred to Dublin in 1978 and Faustino moved with it, first to Stillorgan Road and then to the current location in Dundrum.
Br Faustino was appointed to his home parish of San Jose in 1980, ministering there with the late Fr Sean Sweeney sac as CCD coordinator and in the parish office. His desire to be ‘missionary’ was realized in 1983 when he was appointed to the Missionary Centre of the Irish Province in Wyandotte, Detroit, where he still lives and works – or rather works and lives – 34 years later. Across those years Br Faustino has become ‘part of the furniture’ in the Mission Centre. He is totally dedicated to the whole range of activities of the Centre, which engages in various fund-raising activities and promotion initiatives to make the Pallottine mission and charism known. Indeed many of our Pallottine priests have been stationed in the house, many directors have come and moved on again, but Faustino remains as Assistant Mission Director. As such he is the living memory of the Centre and of the Pallottine community. He continues to liaise with the wider Irish diaspora in the greater Detroit area which still supports our Province and our mission. He is known by all and loved by all, despite the fact that he has never acquired an Irish accent!
On asking Br Faustino about his role now in the community, he sees it as that of house manager, ensuring that everything is there and in place, at the service of the Local Community of the Irish Pallottines in Detroit – true to his vocation of service. Observing him it is clear that he is still, at 72 years of age, the ‘whirlwind’ he has always been, despite creaking knees and two replacements!
Derry Murphy SAC [IR] – Dublin – IRELAND