Local: Monsignor's Retirement Surprises St. Matthew's

By Robin Galiano
Longview News-Journal
May 20, 2002

Monsignor John Flynn surprised parishioners at St. Matthew's Catholic Church by announcing his retirement from parish ministry during a celebration honoring his 50 years in the priesthood.

Flynn became administrator of the mission church three years ago and has overseen its growth to more than 600 families. He said he is retiring because of his age.

"It's time. I'll be 75 in November," he said. "They've been wonderful years at this parish, but now I'm going to be a golfer."

Flynn said he will likely continue to serve in a nonpastoral role with the Tyler Diocese. The Rev. Xavier Pappu, vicar general of the Tyler Diocese and pastor of St. Theresa of the Infant Jesus Church in Union Grove, will be the new administrator at St. Matthew's, effective today.

Wearing red and gold vestments, Flynn was assisted in Mass by 12 priests and deacons. Church members in a nearly full sanctuary stood and applauded several times during the homily, given by Flynn's longtime friend Monsignor Thomas McLaughlin, vicar general and chancellor of the Diocese of Victoria.

McLaughlin praised Flynn for "50 years of unparalled priestly service," and said he had attended his friend's ordination in June 1952.

"I say it as loudly and clearly as I can. Monsignor John Flynn is one of the most dedicated, hard-working and energetic priests I have ever known," McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said the Irish-born Flynn left his family and homeland to serve as a priest in America.

"Why would someone do that? For one reason only. Because of his great love for Jesus Christ, his great commitment to the church and his desire to serve the people of God as a priest wherever God asked him," McLaughlin said.

Flynn was appointed in March 1999 by then-Bishop Edmond Carmody of the Tyler Diocese to head up St. Matthew's. The church was established as a Catholic presence in northwest Longview, and draws parishioners from Pine Tree, White Oak, Greggton and Spring Hill. It was elevated to parish status within one year.

Before that, Flynn was a diocesan specialist in canon law and headed the marriage tribunal in Tyler that reviews annulment petitions.

Flynn came to East Texas from San Antonio, where he had been pastor of St. Matthew Catholic Church from 1981 to 1997.

Though he is stepping down from parish ministry, Flynn will likely continue to serve with the Tyler Diocese in a non-pastoral role, said the Rev. Gavin Vaverek of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Longview.

"Fifty years is a long time of service. He's doing a lot of people a lot of good," Vaverek said.

St. Matthew's member Dolly Welch said Flynn has been instrumental in the growth of the parish and in her own return to active involvement in a Catholic church.

"He brings the people together. He's soft-spoken, but he's caring. In all the years I've been to churches, I've never had anyone call just because I put a check in the basket. He looks you in the eye and shows you he cares. We've never had a priest in our home before, but we've had him over for dinner," Welch said.


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