Bishop Michael Pfeifer, O.M.I. Celebrates Silver Jubilee
Excerpted from a copyrighted story in Today's Catholic by J. Michael Parker
Hundreds of well-wishers enthusiastically applauded Bishop Michael Pfeifer, OMI, as he entered his Cathedral of the Sacred Heart to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving on his 25th anniversary as shepherd of the West Texas diocese.
A native of Alamo, Texas," Bishop Mike,” as relatives and many friends call him, ministered in San Antonio before his 1985 appointment as bishop by Pope John Paul II. He graduated from the Oblate College of the Southwest (now Oblate School of Theology) and was ordained a priest for the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1964. After 16 years as a missionary priest in Mexico, he was named provincial superior of the Oblates’ Southern United States Province, based in San Antonio. He held that post until his appointment as Bishop of San Angelo.
When he became the first Oblate priest ever appointed a bishop in the United States, he was quoted as saying, "I don't know how to be a bishop, but God's ways are not our ways, and I'll go where he leads me." But he impressed Catholics and non-Catholics from the start by his organized, hard-working ways and his gift for reaching out and building bridges with people of all faiths. He has become well known for his warm, welcoming manner, treating each individual person as someone who is important.
“I know his official title is Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of San Angelo,” said the Rev. Nathaniel Hankins of the First United Methodist Church of San Angelo across the street from Sacred Heart Cathedral. “But he’s really the bishop of the whole San Angelo community.”
The minister said that Bishop Pfeifer has reached out to people of every faith and made everyone feel important. He surprised many people early on when he began showing up to speak or attend functions in Protestant churches. Many had never seen a Catholic bishop before. “He makes everyone feel special. I’ve heard that from both Catholics and non-Catholics. If there has been an illness in their family, they’ll say, “Bishop Pfeifer visited my relative in the hospital.”
In his anniversary homily, Bishop Pfeifer attributed whatever has been accomplished during his quarter-century in the diocese to the cooperation of many people of all walks of life across the 29 counties that make up his diocese.“I have learned that God’s ways indeed are not our ways, but God’s ways are still the best ways. I’ve learned that I learn more by listening than by talking or speaking much. I have learned more from people than they have learned from me.”
Joining him for the liturgical celebrating, along with scores of priests and deacons and several hundred guests were several church dignitaries. His predecessor, now-retired Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, who led the San Angelo diocese from 1979-84, attended, along with Austin’s newly ordained Bishop Joe Vasquez, a former priest of the San Angelo diocese, and Bishop Pfeifer’s fellow Oblate, Bishop Bejoy Nicephorus D’Cruze, OMI. Oblate Provincial Father Louis Lougen, OMI, and Vicar Father Bill Morell, OMI, also attended along with a host of Oblate priests from all over Texas.