Part of an ongoing historical series on the Diocese of Beaumont
Pastoral care – whether in a parish or in the community – is important to Catholic faithful. Through the years Bishop Curtis Guillory, SVD, in collaboration with the clergy has ministered to and provided pastoral care to the thousands of Catholic faithful in Southeast Texas.
One way of this is through diocesan celebrations. On Aug. 8, 2006, the announcement was made that the Vatican recognized the artistic and historical significance of St. Anthony Cathedral as well as its importance in liturgical and pastoral ministry and named the Cathedral a Minor Basilica. In celebration, Bishop Guillory opened a Centenary Jubilee Year Sept. 10, 2006, which celebrated the naming of St. Anthony as a Minor Basilica, the 40th anniversary of the Diocese of Beaumont and the 100th anniversary of the dedication of St. Anthony with a year of jubilee activities. In October 2007, Bishop Guillory closed the Year of Jubilee with a Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Anthony Cathedral Basilica, installing the Tintinnabulum and the Ombrellio.
An example of a different kind of pastoral care occurred when Hurricane Ike struck the area Sept. 13, 2008. When Ike swept ashore that day, it tore through Southeast Texas leaving only one church untouched. Thirteen of the churches in the diocese sustained major damage. Communities such as Orange, Bridge City, Sabine Pass, LaBelle, Stowell and Oak Island were especially hard hit with major flooding from the storm surge. Bishop Guillory and the priests of the diocese reached out to those hurting in the communities. They provided direct help and support to not only parishioners but the communities at large. In addition, Catholic Charities and the diocesan youth visited communities offering direct help and cleanup. After being hit hard by Hurricane Rita and then destroyed by Hurricane Ike, St. Paul Mission in Sabine Pass celebrated its last Mass Nov. 1, 2009, and was closed.
Pastoral care to the larger community is also a part of ministry. When a crisis happens, the Catholic faithful come together and invite the community to join them to encourage prayer and healing. These times include the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut in December 2012 and the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014. When the Orlando nightclub shooting occurred in June 2016 Bishop Guillory held a special Mass to remember the victims and to call for peace.
A growing concern for the pastoral care for youth and young adults was a large part of the motivation for the Together for God’s Good Work Capital Campaign. The $25 million campaign kicked off in late summer 2008 with $7 million of it earmarked for youth programs and $1 million to be used for Campus Ministry at Lamar University in Beaumont. Youth programs included scholarships for Catholic schools, funds for parish youth ministry and parish religious education. It shored up funds for the Infirm Priests’ Fund to help the diocesan priests who become ill. The campaign secured funds for the future of Catholic Charities as well as Holy Family Retreat Center.
In 2010, funded by the capital campaign, the first major remodeling project began at the Catholic Student Center at Lamar which included an addition of a separate chapel. St. Thomas More Chapel was dedicated in August 2011 and Campus Ministry’s renovated Student Center building was reopened. The new Catholic Pastoral Center was also dedicated in 2011. The construction of the building was one of the elements funded by the capital campaign. The building brought together ministries that had been scattered in several buildings in different locations in Beaumont to one site for a more cohesive workplace.
In addition to pastoral care, evangelization has been a focus of many ministries in the diocese, especially with the pope’s call to New Evangelization. In 2013 the Office of Lifelong Catechesis/Education was renamed Evangelization and Catechesis – a better fit for the ministry. It has hosted two Evangelization Conferences to educate the Catholic faithful in Southeast Texas. And adding to programs already underway like Living the Eucharist and Confirmation for Adults, it provided formation for Evangelization Parish Teams. About the same time Bishop Guillory established the Diocesan Evangelization Commission.
A unique outreach to young adults – both married and single – was established in 2013 as Bishop Guillory began a series of young adult dinners at his home. First established to increase participation by this demographic in the life of the Church, the dinners have now become a type of focus group giving Bishop Guillory the opportunity to hear the concerns of young adults.
A retreat experience that has brought many into the faith started in 2001 but really expanded in the past 10 years. ACTS retreats first came to St. Anne Parish in Beaumont and then quickly spread throughout the diocese. Teen ACTS and Campus Ministry ACTS as well as ACTS in the prisons were established. Prison ACTS, which later became known as the Kolbe Prison retreats, were established in 2012. Results of the prison retreats include an increased number of baptisms and of confirmations in the correctional facilities that have held a retreat.
Evangelization efforts have also been much of the focus of the Stewardship and Communications Office. In 2006, the diocese started a concerted evangelization effort known as “Return to Me.” The effort began with television and newspapers ads encouraging “occasional” Catholics (those who do not attend Mass regularly) to become active participants in the life of the Church and inviting the unchurched to learn more about the Catholic faith. The diocese increased its evangelization efforts in 2009 when the first Encounter Catholic experience was held at Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas in Port Arthur. Later Encounter Catholic spread into other parts of the diocese – into East Texas at the Dogwood Festival, into Orange County at the Vidor BBQ Festival and Hardin County with the Village Creek Festival. The diocese also uses social media to evangelize – with Bishop Guillory and the East Texas Catholic on Twitter and the diocese on Facebook and on Instagram. In 2015, the Stewardship and Communications Ministry was restructured to provide for more evangelization through visual materials.
To plan for a more solid future, the diocese, through the Stewardship and Communications Office kicked off a planned giving campaign in 2015 as Bishop Guillory established a Planned Giving Commission and the ministry created its Across Generations program to encourage planned giving for parishes, schools and ministries.
Today, in September 2016, we are 44 parishes and seven missions, one high school, four grade schools, a retreat center, a Catholic foundation, a vibrant social ministry through Catholic Charities of Southeast Texas, numerous lay organizations, 18 diocesan ministries, 65 priests and 38 deacons. We are 71,000 Catholics strong.