Longtime Texas pastor asked to return home to Spain, after celebrating 100th birthday

Kate Olivera   By Kate Olivera for CNA

Fr. Luis Urriza, O.S.A., at a celebration of his gaining American citizenship in August 2019. / Courtesy of the Diocese of Beaumont.

Beaumont, Texas, Oct 7, 2021 / 17:19 pm (CNA).

A centenarian priest in Texas has been recalled to his religious community in Spain, to the dismay of his longtime parishioners.

“It kind of hurts our feelings,” said parishioner Jacqueline Hernandez, in an interview with 12NewsNow of Southeast Texas. “It really does because he is a figure in so many people’s lives that he is family to us. He spends more time with us than he has with his own family.”

Father Luis Urriza has served in the United States since 1949, with the majority of his time spent in the Diocese of Beaumont. But he is a member of the Augustinian order, with his province based in Spain. He was essentially on loan to the Diocese of Beaumont.

His superior has asked Fr. Urriza to return to Spain for retirement, because of his advanced age. Fr. Urriza celebrated his 100th birthday Aug. 19.

“I’m sorry I have to leave. Really, I don’t like it, but I have to accept it,” Fr. Urriza said, in comments to 12NewsNow.

Fr. Urriza was born in Navarre in 1921. He made his solemn vows in the Augustian Order in 1941, and was ordained a priest in 1944. He was a teacher for three years in northern Spain, before serving two years as a chaplain for the Spanish Army.

His superior sent him to the United States in 1949. He arrived in the Diocese of Beaumont shortly after, to serve a growing Hispanic Catholic population there. He reportedly built his current parish in Beaumont, Christ the King, from the ground up.

He spent a little more than a decade in other parts of Texas, including two years in the “Movement for a Better World,” before returning to Christ the King in 1977, as pastor. He had been pastor at Christ the King ever since.

Christ the King parish has about 635 registered families.

Benedict XVI awarded Fr. Urriza the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross in 2009, in honor of his service to the Church.

Fr. Urriza is reportedly required to leave his parish in Texas by Oct. 16. Parishioners say they are planning a march to protest the move.

At a 2019 celebration of Fr. Urriza’s 75th year of priesthood, the then-Bishop of Beaumont, Curtis Guillory, thanked him for “his many years of ministry in southeast Texas” and commented that Fr. Urriza “has inspired and motivated many throughout his ministry.”


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