“I am the vine; you are the branches”

Sarita, Texas

By Andrew Sensenig, OMI

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Sarita, TX

The verse from John 15:5 echoed through my heart on June 27th at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Sarita, TX for several reasons.

The first reason was that we finally reopened our retreat house in Sarita on the Kenedy Ranch, where Bishop Michael Mulvey of the Diocese of Corpus Christi and his eleven seminarians recently spent a weekend just to pray and be together.

The main house at Oblate La Parra Center

Second, we were reopening the Kenedy Ranch to a new reality, where we have Oblates living in community while reaching out to the needs of the surrounding area.  The new name is Oblate La Parra Center. “La Parra” means “the vine” and was the original name to the Kenedy Ranch, mostly likely because there were vines found on the ranchland. And yet, it is our way as Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, to honor the generosity of the Kenedy Family for giving us this wonderful land where we can minister to the people in the surrounding area.

Installation Mass. (L-R) Deacon Michael Valenzuela, Bishop Michael Mulvey, Fr. Andrew Sensenig, OMI, Unidentified altar server

Third, to help us in facilitating our new mission here in Sarita, Bishop Michael Mulvey, installed me as pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Sarita, Our Lady of Consolation Church in Vattmann, Sacred Heart Mission in Ricardo, and Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission in Riviera.  Vattmann, Ricardo, and Riviera are towns located just north of Sarita in Kleberg County.

In the chapel of the main house, Oblate Fathers. Roger Bergkamp (L) and Jim Chambers discuss planned renovations

But I am not alone in this venture, we have some incredibly talented Oblates, who are going to live on the grounds of Oblate La Parra Center, and assist me in this new missionary venture. (The ministry team at the community will consist of: Oblate Fathers Roger Bergkamp, Robert Leising, Andrew Sensenig and David Ullrich, and soon, Fr. Jim Taggart. Fr. Jim Chambers is there temporarily). We will be like a vine as we intertwine our missionary charism among these parochial rural communities in South Texas and offer other ministerial assistance as it is needed, but I am getting ahead of myself, because the Oblates at Oblate La Parra Center will take seriously what it means to live community life first and foremost.  More updates on those activities will be forthcoming.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission in Riviera, TX

What was humbling and uplifting about being installed as pastor in front of members from all the parochial communities and the seminarians of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, was listening to how Bishop Michael Mulvey praised the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate for daring to do something new as we rediscover our charism serving the people of God in South Texas. The bishop also added that, “… ministering as a prayerful community is a necessary step to proclaiming the Gospel.”

Sacred Heart Mission in Ricardo, TX

After the Mass, we had a delightful luncheon put on by the parish community of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church for everyone who attended the installation. You could feel the excitement of the people and the seminarians who sense that this new venture by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate will be bringing new life, especially after they endured a lack of ministry caused the horrifying stupor of Covid-19.

The altar servers at the installation seem happy to welcome the Oblates

Before leaving, Bishop Michael mentioned that he is inspired by the Oblates, and our new Oblate La Parra Center and will be visiting us soon, often, because he finds our special place in Sarita to be a delightful place to rest and pray with the Lord.

Our Lady of Consolation Church in Vattman, TX