Catholic Life in Tyler, Texas Under Bishop Strickland (Guest: Deacon Keith Fournier)

November 17, 2023 00:42:35
Catholic Life in Tyler, Texas Under Bishop Strickland (Guest: Deacon Keith Fournier)
Crisis Point
Catholic Life in Tyler, Texas Under Bishop Strickland (Guest: Deacon Keith Fournier)

Nov 17 2023 | 00:42:35

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Hosted By

Eric Sammons

Show Notes

All eyes in the Catholic world have recently been on Tyler, Texas. Today we'll talk to a deacon of that diocese about what it was like to live as a Catholic in the Diocese of Tyler under Bishop Strickland.
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Episode Transcript

[00:00:09] Speaker A: So all eyes in the Catholic world have recently been on the Diocese of Tyler, Texas. Today we're going to talk to a deacon of that diocese about what it was like to live, what it's like to live as a Catholic in the Diocese of Tyler under Bishop Joseph Strickland. Hello, I'm Eric Samuel, your host and editor in chief of Crisis magazine. Before we get started, I want to make sure we start in a prayer today. So actually, our guest, Keith Fonier. Would you like to lead us in the prayer, please? [00:00:36] Speaker B: Thank you, Eric. Thank you for inviting me. And let's invite the Holy Spirit into our discussion. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. Heavenly Father, we thank you so much for the great gift of living faith that's opened our eyes now to see life differently because of who Jesus is and who we are becoming in him. Lord, we thank you for sending him your beloved, only begotten Son as our Savior so that we can be sons in the sun. And we can see now with new eyes all that you are doing, even in the midst of this current and present darkness. Help us, Lord, to be light. Whether dispelling the darkness. Help us to be hope in the midst of so many people struggling and depressed and fearful. Help us to be disciples who stand with your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, and are faithful to him and faithful to his teaching and take our place following in his footsteps. Be with us now and guide us. We ask in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. [00:01:43] Speaker A: Amen. Thank you very much. Deacon Keith Fornier is the chairman of the board, founder and president of the Common Good foundation and the Common Good Alliance. And I'll link to that in the show notes so people can check out the work you're doing there. And he is a deacon of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas. Now, I know that you've not been there your whole life. You've moved there relatively recently. So what I'd like to do first is why don't you just tell me about your background before moving to Tyler, Texas? [00:02:13] Speaker B: Sure. First of all, common good foundation has been sort of dormant ever since I got here. Probably resuscitated, but I've had it since 1997. And its mission is the conversion of culture through four pillars, life, family, freedom and solidarity. So it certainly still has a vibrant mission. Eric, I've been a missionary my whole real adult life over 50 years serving the Lord, I'm a revert to the church. I was raised in a Catholic home in the inner city of Boston. Massachusetts. But my family fell away from the faith, and so consequently, I did, too. And I was a wandering teenage hippie searching for truth and without getting sidetracked on all of these little things, because we all have our journeys. It was on a beach in California after having hitchhiked across the country, and I was reading the New Testament, that a letter was forwarded to me by my closest friend, a Jewish friend who had gone to Israel to find his roots and met Yeshua as Messiah. And as I read those words, I realized I was far away from Jesus. And that began my journey home. And it was a journey. I ended up in a Protestant Bible college because I hadn't gone to Mass in years. But I couldn't shut my brain down. And by God's grace, I discovered the Fathers of the Church. And that was it. I was hooked back to daily Mass, back to wanting to give my whole life to God as a Catholic in the heart of the church that Jesus founded. So I spent almost two years in a monastery. That was not the vocation, but those were great. Two years. I was never in the military, so it was sort of my boot camp. And then I followed a friend who I had met by reading a magazine. And I wrote him about Francis of Assisi, and his name was Father Michael Scanlon. At the time, he was the rector president of a small seminary in Loretto, Pennsylvania. And we began to dialogue by letter. There was no Internet back then, and it was a wonderful friendship of pen pal sort of letters. And when I left the monastery, Father Mike had taken over the presidency of a small college in Steubenville, Ohio, then called the College of Steubenville. And I called him on the phone. I had one year of philosophy under my belt, and I basically said, Father Mike, is there any more room on that campus? And he said, there's always room for you, Keith, take the next plane. So I did. And that began a season of my life. I met my wonderful wife. We were married. And I was a part of the early Steubenville Miracle, helped to start one of the first faith households, graduated with a philosophy and theology degree. And then I went on to law school because Father Mike was a lawyer and he encouraged that. And I also wanted to represent all children whose lives were taken through the evil of procured abortion. So I went to nearby University of Pittsburgh, graduated in 1980, started my first law firm. But while I was making a living and my wife was having our children, and we have five grown children and eight grandchildren, praise God. I also began to write amicus briefs on pro life cases, like, for example, the Cruzanne case from way back then. And I had a desire to use my law license for the pro life cause. But it was in the early 80s that Father Mike asked me if I'd help him more on the campus. And I became a presidential advisor and counsel, and then I became a dean of students and a dean of evangelization. And it was an entire chapter, really wonderful chapter, watching this holy priest with a vision for rededicating that campus to Jesus Christ as the way, the truth and the life and helping him. It was in the late 80s, however, after an interesting turn of events, because Father Mike and my then Bishop were wrongfully arrested in front of an abortion clinic with almost 40 of our own kids and then several evangelical kids from a nearby Protestant college. And I represented them, and we called it the Youngstown 44. And I watched what happened over the course of that week, and thank God they were set free. But during the week, they were put in an armory because there were not enough cells. And they would together march around the outside of the armory with the guard's permission, singing Christian songs and praying together. And I thought, this is wonderful. This is a work of God. We all heard the cry of the poor. Long story short, I also, by the way, had the task. One of the tasks that Father Mike gave me was to reach out to our evangelical friends. So I was privileged to meet Chuck Colson, bring him to the campus of fond memory, Dr. James Dobson. And I began to sense in the late 80s, my law license was for more. That led to the next chapter. And by the way, thank God for my wife of 47 years that she was with me through all of this. We've always seen ourselves as missionary. I accepted an invitation to go to Virginia beach and to help found and serve as the first executive director of what's become the American center for Law and justice, the ACLJ and I hired and worked alongside of Jay Secular, the chief counsel. And that was another chapter of my life, doing pro life and religious freedom legal work. Probably the thing I enjoyed the most, next to passionately serving the Lord as a Catholic. Started a small Newman club on campus. My then Bishop actually invited me to consider the diaconate. That's another long story, but I promise I'll skip right through it. And I did, and my life changed forever. And by the way, by then I was just consuming anything John Paul wrote. Pope St. John Paul II has been my life champion. So I was ordained to the diaconate. I've been a deacon for 27 years, my life was turned upside down. The next chapter led to Northern Virginia, where I did my first graduate degree at the then John Paul II Institute before it unfortunately was co opted and then moved back, began common good, started doing a lot on Catholic online and mostly ministry. Was assigned to parishes and the like. And we thought that's what we were going to do for a good amount of time. And in a sense it was. And things grew, helped to be a part of what is now Catholiconline school. It's amazing work. I encourage your viewers to go there. Over 7000 videos free, providing a world class Catholic education for anyone, anywhere. And Loreen and I had most of our kids around us, and I was doing preaching and teaching and writing and all of that sort of thing. You understand? That's what you do. And somebody sent me, and I think I have it here, this document, the Constitution on teaching by a Bishop named Joseph Strickland. And by the way, I skipped something. I went off to CUA too, and worked on my PhD and finished the coursework, took the comps, passed the language things, but never finished my dissertation. So they gave me an M fill and maybe I'll finish it someday, but it really doesn't matter. So I read this Constitution on teaching. I thought if this were implemented in every parish in the United States, we would see the desperately needed restoration of an authentically Catholic Church. So I wrote to this bishop, he wrote back, and once again I had this wonderful relationship. And this time it was an Internet with a man of God. And we just grew close and we were texting one another and emailing one another and recommending books. And he invited me to come out to Tyler. And the first time I came alone and I am known a little bit nationally, so I did it incognito. Traveled with him for a week and I saw the humility and holiness and evangelical joy of this man and how he was loved by the faithful here. And I thought, I got to help him. I got to do whatever I can to help him. Went back home, we stayed in touch. Then he invited my wife to come. We went out. Long story short, at some point he invited me to consider coming and helping. And so I came here and I saw my task and I was 64. I'm now going to be 69 in a couple of weeks. I saw my task as basically holding his arms up, whatever it meant. So legal advisor, theological advisor. I became a director of Deacon formation, and then he also asked me to become dean of Catholic identity at a Catholic school here. The Bishop Thomas K. Gorman Catholic School. And I've been working at his side for five years. It has been the highlight of my life, honestlY. And I have to be careful because I tear up when I think of the way he's being treated. I've never met a more genuinely humble and holy man of God. He is a true successor of the Apostles. And the key is he prays. He is continually in Eucharistic adoration. He is consecrated to Our Lady. So things are shaking here right now. I think you know that. I don't want to get into that, but I will say this. In the almost five years that my wife Loreen and I have been here, we found a diocese in love with Jesus, dedicated to Our lady, committed to Eucharistic adoration. Flourishing. Let me make that clear. Flourishing. Flourishing spiritually flourishing in the seminary. More vocations than per capita than perhaps any diocese in the country. Flourishing in every way, financially flourishing in great shape. And I have stood with a man who guards the deposit of faith without compromise. And he does it with joy, not with finger wagging. And it was continually on his knees. And I'm proud and honored to stand with him. I don't know what the future holds, but I know this. He's going to continue to serve the Lord as a bishop now without a diocese, and I think the best is yet to come. So that's a quick jaunt through almost 50 years. [00:12:44] Speaker A: But you've done a lot, we'll say that for sure. And I remember first hearing your name back. I think it was early 90s, because I was involved with the rescue movement. And I had a number of friends at Steubenville who are students, and I think a few of them were part of that Youngstown group. In fact, one of my friends, she was in Youngstown, she got run over by a truck during a rescue, and she was miraculously not harmed at mean, during that might have been during that rescue. I don't even remember. And I remember Father Scanlon, of course, had gotten arrested and a bishop and all that. And I remember hearing your name being associated, helping out and all that stuff, and then just continually, all the work you've done over the years, as you just noted, in so many different capacities. And I like the attitude of the missionary. Attitude of, like, you're willing to go where God calls you, and a missionary doesn't ever consider any one location as their permanent home, because heaven's the only permanent. Tyler, you were Northern Virginia. You went to Tyler then? [00:13:49] Speaker B: No, Southeastern Virginia at that point. I'm sorry. Okay. Yeah. But I had been in Northern Virginia, too, for my two theology degrees, but we always went back to Chesapeake because that was really where we raised our kids, and that was our home. [00:14:02] Speaker A: So which diocese were you in when you were first ordained a deacon? [00:14:07] Speaker B: Diocese of Richmond. And that's another story. Again, I didn't stop because I was the only deacon. I was the first one chosen. Allegedly, they were never going to ordain men to the diaconate. There were some members of the clergy back in that diocese that said, until they could ordain women to the priesthood, which will never happen. And the bishop who called me forth, some of his priests, got quite upset. That's how I knew this was the Holy Spirit. I knew it. And I will never forget lying prostrate on the ground the day of my ordination on this St. Matthew's rock floor. And I had two things happen to me. One doesn't sound spiritual, but ended up being prophetic. The first does sound spiritual fiat, a complete surrender to Our Lady. But then right away, it was Uhoh. And the UHoh proved to be prophetic, because within a year, I was moved out to another situation. But that's okay. God had a plan. But I have to say this as a deacon. Deacons are ordained not unto the priesthood, but unto the ministry. And when you study the first four centuries, that ministry included assisting the bishops. And I have had the privilege now, particularly in the last almost five years, of, I think, living out the core of the diaconal vocation, and that is to assist a bishop. [00:15:39] Speaker A: And that is essentially, that is the core of the ministry of the diacon, is to assist the bishop. We see that in the early church, very much so. It was kind of lost in the west for a long time, but that's very much what it is now. At the same time, though, you are in Virginia, that's most of your life spent, know, Virginia, Boston, whatever. And then all of a sudden, we're talking about Tyler, Texas. Now, I had actually somebody on a couple a week or two ago from the Veritas Splendor community, so we were talking about Tyler a little bit. It's really out in the middle of nowhere, and it's nothing like the East Coast. I've lived on East Coast. I lived outside Washington, DC for ten years. I know what that's like, and I have to imagine Tyler, Texas, is nothing like that. I want to answer two questions. First is, what was the sales pitch that really sold you from Bishop Strickland to come out? And then, more importantly, what was the sales pitch you gave your wife to come, as well? [00:16:37] Speaker B: First of all, there was no sales pitch. I'm sorry. I'm at a school, so this is an overhead announcement. I'll talk right through it. [00:16:46] Speaker A: That's okay. [00:16:47] Speaker B: But there was no sales pitch. There was an invitation from a holy man in the midst of prayer. And as Loreen and I. And I'm so blessed. She's a devout woman of faith. She's a convert to the church. When we prayed, we knew. We just knew, just like we knew back know. We said yes in Steubenville and then said yes to go to Virginia beach to help build a public interest legal group and do Supreme Court work. We just knew. We knew this was a calling, and we had to do it. So it wasn't really a sales pitch. And in many respects, she continued to encourage me to do it. She's 72, but full of life and in great shape. I remember when we visited together, the one thing she said to the bishop, she said, jesus is everywhere here. And I remember thinking to myself, because Lorraine's so blunt. I mean, she's so down to earth and so real. She keeps me grounded. And the bishop smiled and said, what do you mean? And she said, he's being adored everywhere. There's Eucharistic adoration everywhere. And you know what? She was right. So let me say this. The folks out of Veritada Splendor are wonderful peOple. They're really out. However, they're outside of Tyler. Tyler itself is a delightful place. Now, listen, I grew up, you know this, in Massachusetts, New England. I've lived in northern Virginia, and I didn't know Texas. I kind of thought, and so did Loreen before we came here, that it was going to be tumbleweeds and cacti. But Northeast Texas is green and beautiful with rolling hills and trees. Now, Tyler itself is a very friendly, delightfully politically incorrect, behind the times place that's predominantly evangelical. People actually say to you, God bless you when you leave the grocery store, and they mean it. And very, very friendly. It's a very nice place to live. It's also a center, believe it or not, of great medical care through the Christus Trinity Mother Francis Catholic hospital system, which we had to take full advantage of, because within a year of my coming here, I ended up diagnosed with glaucoma and had to get lenses and heart situations and everything else. But Tyler is a nice place to live, very friendly people, and because of what the Lord has done through this bishop, I think close to 400 people have moved here to be a part of a Catholic diocese that is profoundly Catholic, like I like to say. And these are theological terms, legitimate diversity within orthodoxy and orthopraxy, right doctrine and right practice. So you have beautifully celebrated liturgies from the Novus Orto, the Novus Oro adorientum, the traditional Latin Mass. Beautifully celebrated liturgies, tremendous adoration and devotion to the Holy Eucharist, to the Blessed Virgin, and a really dynamic, authentic relationship with other Christians. For example, just recently, the bishop asked if we could gather in the town square and have an All Saints Day of prayer. And we did. And we had evangelicals there. We had some high church Anglicans there. So I think that Tyler is an example of what is needed throughout the Church, and that is when we live the beauty of the Catholic faith. I mean, really live it and believe it. It's magnetic. Just as John Paul said, there's a splendor to truth. And I think that's also why it's under a frontal assault right now, because the fullness of truth does indeed subsist within the Catholic Church. And based upon that, out of all Christians, we ought not to be haughty but humble and be able to reach out to others. And the bishop does that. The bishop is loved here. His priests love him. Overwhelming majority of his priests love him. The overwhelming majority of the faithful love him. Now, I know people are seeing these things in the social media and everything else. I can tell you, I've never seen a bishop who's more fatherly and joyful and loved than this bishop is and was. [00:21:10] Speaker A: And you noted that close to me, 400 people have moved to Tyler. Catholics have moved to Tyler basically because Bishop Strickland was there. And, of course, you're one of them. But what are some of the themes, like, overall commonalities between why they say they decide to move to Tyler? [00:21:32] Speaker B: They want to be fully Catholic, and that means to live the Catholic faith according to the sacred Scripture, according to the sacred tradition of the Church, according to the authentic magisterium of the Church, and a vibrant, alive. Father Mike used to call it dynamically orthodox with a small o. Bishop doesn't use that phrase. When I started associating with him, he was using profoundly Catholic alive. They want that, and they get it here. They get beautiful masses celebrated throughout the day. I mean, for example, I'm sitting here in a small office in the school, and the Chapel of Saints Peter and Paul is right over the hill. It's an extension of the cathedral because the cathedral is beautiful, but it's small and so they extended it. And we have this beautiful chapel of Saints Peter and Paul, and there's Mass going on all the time, Eucharistic adoration going on all the time, people supporting one another in the Lord and living in various different ways. You've got intentional community things like Veritata, splendor and the like. And then you've got just people living their daily life, but living it in the Lord with one another, knowing that they're going to get good teaching, they're going to get solid homilies, they're going to be able to go regularly and adore Jesus in the Eucharist, and they're going to have a Catholic culture surrounding them. That's what's been going on here. And it's a wonderful work of God, a wonderful work of God that I think provides great hope for the rest of the Church. Now, I don't know how all of this is going to shake out, but I trust the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the head of his church and he knows what's going on here. And I believe we're going to probably have some surprises of the Holy Spirit. But in the interim, I invite people, please pray for this holy bishop and realize how simple and humble this guy. Know, I saw some guy on social media this morning and I just, well, he's in Baltimore, out staying outside because he's a showman. No, he's not at all. He never asked for any of this stuff. I remember when I first met him, he referred to himself as a skinny kid from East Texas. And he is. He never asked for any of this stuff. Why is he in Baltimore? Because a year ago he told these lay folks that he would come and lead the rosary. Little did he realize he would not be able to vote at the USCCB. So he went anyway because he promised to lead the Rosary. And that's what he's doing. That's where he's most comfortable. On his knees, calling people to Jesus Christ, calling people to a devotion to Our lady, calling people to the Eucharist. I mean, he loves to sort of take as his own the twin pillars of Don Bosco's dream or vision, the Eucharist and devotion to the Immaculate heart of Mary. Sorry about that. [00:24:35] Speaker A: Oh, that's okay. You guys are working. Things are getting done there. That's good. So you've mentioned Eucharistic adoration a few times. And so Bishop Strickland was in Tyler. It was Bishop of Tyler for about was eleven years, I think. Something like that. I think it was 2012, I think is when he was appointed. Is Eucharistic adoration. Is that something that's common in a lot of the parishes in Thailand? Is that something that Bishop Strickland has encouraged and has grown under his watch? [00:25:04] Speaker B: Absolutely. In fact, at the chapel I just referred to, right over the hill, there is a Eucharistic chapel and 24 hours adoration going on. There's adoration in most of the parishes, particularly the young priest, because they were ordained by Bishop Strickland and they have a deep devotion to the Holy Eucharist. I mean, all of the priests do for the most part. But yes, Eucharistic adoration is encouraged and it's flourishing. [00:25:34] Speaker A: Do you know about how many priests have been ordained since Bishop Strickland became. I mean, obviously some of them would have been ordained right after he got there. He wouldn't have known them beforehand. But like the seminary there and vocations and the priesthood since he's been there, how has that grown? [00:25:51] Speaker B: Yeah, I can't give you the numbers. I can tell you that it's skyrocketed. I think there's close to 25 in seminary right now. And there's more that wanted to come. And you see the joy in these young priests. And I would call them, I'm an old guy now. I mean, I think I qualify, 69 years old. I don't know how much longer I'm going to be here, but I would call them John Paul II, Benedict Priest. And they've had solid. They're Orthodox, yet they're filled with joy and hope. They're great preachers. They're not cranky. They don't fit any of the stereotypes. They're not rigid. They're just full of the Lord and people love them. And I won't mention names, but probably the newest priest, the one who was ordained, the last one the bishop ordained, said Mass here for our students yesterday, and they just love them. And during our masses here at the school, Wednesday school, and we go over to the chapel for the Mass. We have a chapel here, divine Mercy Chapel right in the school. And there's adoration first Friday devotion and the like. But during the Mass, there are a couple of priests usually hearing confessions. And it's very inspiring to see the lines of young people that want to get free and they're going to confession. That's what I'm trying to say. It's not perfect, Mike. I never will be perfect, but it's just such a vibrant example of a lived, dynamic Catholic faith. And I don't know why that causes problems with anybody. Now, are there people who don't like. Here's one of the things that I've heard. Remember, I've only been here five. You know, I hear people say, oh, I knew Father Joe. This, that and the other. I never knew Father Joe. I know Bishop Strickland and he'll be the first to tell you something happened when he was consecrated as a bishop, something very significant. And he understands in the core of his being what it means to be a successor of the Apostles, to be the first teacher here, to be a father to the flock. He's a bishop who knows how to bishop. And I've been under a number of bishops. They've all treated me well, but I've never seen the closeness between a bishop and his priest that I've seen here. It's beautiful. It really is. So, yes, eucharistic adoration. The rosary. The rosary is continually being recited here, but also a love of the sacred scripture and a faithfulness to teaching the fullness of truth without compromise, but doing so with an evangelical joy. You've met Bishop Strickland. I mean, it's kind of an example or follows his example. I always see a smile on his face and it's not something he puts on his face, it just flows from him because he's a man of. And I don't want to say much more than that, but he lives so simply. I don't know if you've ever been here and seen where he lives and may not live there much longer, but it's a one floor, first floor, little stucco home. That's it. And it's right next to the. [00:29:19] Speaker A: This reminds me of something. And this is, I know, not the biggest deal in the world, but it did strike me. So I was with Bishop Strickland about a month ago and at one point a group of people are hanging out with him in a room behind the scenes and we're all sitting around a table. I'm sitting right next to Bishop Strickland. And in person he's exactly what? As you like. I honestly feel like I have a pretty good indicator when somebody is kind of faking it. And boy, he just comes across as like the least faking it person. Just, he is who he mean. [00:29:52] Speaker B: But this was interesting. [00:29:54] Speaker A: We're just sitting there. He's sitting next to me and I just kind of looking down at one point when he's talking and I look down, I know this is going to sound stupid to some people, but I see his shoes and they're completely beat up. I almost wanted to say, your Excellency, I'll buy you a new pair of shoes. Because, like, you're saying, he's not, like, living, putting on heirs and looking himself as above people. Who knows how long he probably had those very long. He probably just walks around so much, does so much, he probably beats him up. But it did strike me that this was a shepherd who was not trying. He was just like, how can I serve my sheep? He's not thinking about himself, like, okay, how can I look good? Or anything like that? So hopefully, Mace, I'll buy a new pair of shoes here soon. But it just was a sign of who he is. [00:30:41] Speaker B: I think it is a sign of who he is. He lives very simply, I would go so far as to say, and he probably won't want me saying this, but he's an aesthetic. I mean, every Tuesday and now I don't know if it's going to continue to break my heart. I don't know if you remember, but maybe 20 plus years ago, there's a little book that came out called Tuesdays with Maury. Do you remember that? [00:31:03] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:31:04] Speaker B: When I was doing my first graduate work at J. P. Two. I remember reading it well, I have had Tuesdays with Bishop Strickland. Whenever he's in town, we'll get together. My wife will pack him a simple little lunch, and she puts it in a paper bag, and it's got a bowl of fruit and some yogurt and a simple sandwich, and he'll only eat half the sandwich. And then he saves it for dinner. He doesn't eat. I mean, he eats a little. That's part of the reason he's so thin. He's got a grip, but he just doesn't eat. He does adore the Eucharist, and he's an aesthetic, and he would never say that about himself. Simple shoes. I think he probably owns maybe two suits. And he's down to earth. He never has heirs about him. Anybody who's around him just wants to be with him because he's just a joyful guy and he cares about you, and you know it. And kids know know. I think it's attributed to Groucho Marx, but sincerity is the hardest thing to fake. [00:32:14] Speaker A: That's right. [00:32:15] Speaker B: He's sincere. He's the real. You know, I grew up in Boston liking boxing, and I remember that there was a boxer out of, I think it was Taunton Mass or somewhere marvelous. Marvin Hagler. [00:32:30] Speaker A: Oh, I remember, yeah, yeah. [00:32:31] Speaker B: And he was the real deal. Well, this is the real deal, this bishop. And those shoes are symptomatic of how he lives. And he's just a good, good man. He's such a good man. And it breaks my heart to see people who don't know him. They don't know him at all, yet they're jumping into this kind of nonsense now, overwhelmingly on social media. Thank God. People who have come to know him say exactly what needs to be said. This is a holy, humble soul. He's a good man and a good bishop. But there are those few people who just think that they can say things that, and I have to watch know I bite my tongue because I just pray for them. I don't want to get into it. The last thing you want to do is take that bait, and you go back and forth, back and forth, and nobody benefits right now. [00:33:27] Speaker A: You also have the unique experience. You don't just live in Tyler, Texas, but you actually work for, you have worked for Bishop Strickland, I. E. He's your are people. There are holy men and women who are actually terrible administrators because it's a different gift and things like that. But how was it to work for Bishop Strickland, having him as your boss, as far as administering things going to him with issues and things of that nature? [00:33:55] Speaker B: Yeah, he's a pastoral man. He's a leader. He's what a bishop should be. He works off of an ecclesial model, not a corporatist model. So, for example, he chooses other people who are very able. This is one of the questions. I had to sign a nondisclosure, so I can't really reveal a whole lot of that visitation. But one thing I did say is, listen, I've led organizations. I led a national public interest law firm. A leader is someone who inspires people to excellence, encourages them, and knows how to pick other people to surround himself with so that things are done well. It was said of Jesus, and St. Jose Maria Scriba loved to quote this. He did all things well. This bishop does all things well, realizing that he needs help. And so administration things are flourishing. Things are flourishing. Financially, they're flourishing. Souls are flourishing, families are flourishing. So, I mean, he's a good leader now. He trusts me, and we're very close, so he doesn't sort of hover over me. But I report to him regularly, or I did regularly every week. We pray together a lot. I travel with him. I look forward to it. I look forward to it. But he is a great leader. Now I'm just going to say this, and I'm speaking generically now, I think we've fallen into a misguided model. We've accepted a corporatist model of the Church, a top down sort of business model of the church, where too often we think bishops should be CEOs rather than pastors, doctors of souls and holy. The ecclesial model produces people like this bishop, but also they know when they need support around them and they put it in place. They put it in place. To some know, the largest thing I ever led was the American center for Law and Justice. I think when I left, it's much bigger now. It's global. And Jay Secular has done a great, great job. I think when I left, when I got there, it was maybe 1000 names on a mailing list. But when I left, it was a $10 million operation. It's pretty substantial to lead, but I knew how to pick other leaders and to let them flourish. And that's how the bishop leads. And he prays you never begin. And you may have seen this, Eric, if you were with him. He always begins with a. Always. The first time I met him, I sat in his conference room. I don't know if you had a chance to sit in his conference room. Not his conference room anymore, I guess. But he has a beautiful crucifix and he has it right in front of him, always in front of him. And he points to it. It's about him, meaning Jesus. It's about him. And it really is. So his leadership style is very much early church. One of his favorite sayings is that we need to be first century Christians in a 21st century world. That's how he lives. And I'm glad you pointed to the shoes, because I never would have said that. Believe me, I see them. I kneel at his side at the altar all the time. And I think to myself, my gosh, you're going to get holes. Your toe is going to stick out. But I wouldn't say that to him because there's something rather inspiring even about know. Yet he spares nothing on the altar of the almost. It's like Francis of Assisi, really. Francis lived very simply, but boy, when it came to the vessels and to the altar, that's how he lives. It's a very much an ecclesial model of leadership and governance, much more like the acts of the apostles than the sort of CEO infrastructure that unfortunately, in my personal opinion, has taken over much of the church and her administration. [00:38:12] Speaker A: Yeah, absolutely. I think we're going to wrap it up here soon. But what I would like to do is just ask you to kind of give your final thoughts on Bishop Strickland, about his leadership in the Diocese of Tyler, and just essentially kind of the type of man he is. You've talked a lot about it, but I just want to give you a chance to kind of give final thoughts on your experiences there in Tyler and working with Bishop Strickland. [00:38:39] Speaker B: It's been really the honor of my life. That's all I can say. I've been serving the Lord in one capacity or another for 50 years, over 50 years. A member of the clergy, a deacon for 27 of those years. And I've worked in leadership, and I've been with great leaders, but I've never been with somebody like this, because his greatness comes from his littleness and his genuine humility and his authentic holiness. He's truly holy. He's in love with the Lord. And it's because he prays all the time. He has a little eucharistic chapel in that little house he lived in, and he's continually before it. One of the great joys I had was, on Mondays, I would go over to the St. Joseph Chapel, a little St. Chapel in the chancery office, where he would say Mass, and he always had a holy hour beforehand. And you'd walk in, and he's kneeling before the monstrance, just quietly praying. Another thing, and I've never said this publicly, but I'm going to let you know, which means I'm going to let all you folks know it. Just be between. Yeah, just between us. I think I may be the only deacon who had a bishop ask me to preach a homily every Monday. You imagine that? I'm not looking to do things. I've always had plenty to do, and I preach and teach and like, and that's fine. But it was amazing to me that he asked me, would you preach on Mondays? Every Monday. Every Monday. And the way he presides at Mass tells you a lot about, have you been to Mass with Bishop? [00:40:14] Speaker A: I mean, the Catholic Identity Conference? He said Mass that Sunday morning, so. Yes, but that was with, like, about 800 people. [00:40:22] Speaker B: Well, when he elevates the Lord and holds the body of Christ, it is so powerful. And then when he holds the blood of Christ, he takes a long time of silence, and it's just so powerful. He's a very devout man of God and a priest. Priest. And all I can say is, it's been the honor of my life to assist this wonderful holy man. [00:40:55] Speaker A: That's great. I really appreciate you sharing this with. Understand, I understand. I mean he's had a tremendous impact on your life and on so many lives there in Tyler, Texas. And obviously we pray for everybody there in Tyler. All the Catholics in the non Catholics were impacted by Bishop Strickland because I know he has an impact on them as well. And so I just pray for everybody there know, like you said, we don't know what's going to happen next, we don't know anything like that, but we just pray for all the souls there. And of course we're praying for Bishop Strickland as well. And I appreciate you giving this personal kind of testimony because I think it allows us to see the context of what was going on down there in a better light. [00:41:39] Speaker B: Well thank you for having me and I know he would share this when I say to you and to all of your viewers and anyone who sees this podcast, stay close to Jesus, stay faithful to his church. It is his plan. There is no plan B and he knows what's happening and he is the head of his mystical body. We will get through these times. And as somebody who's studied a lot of church history, we've been in difficult times before. We've gotten through them. The gates of hell will not prevail against his church. [00:42:14] Speaker A: Amen. Amen. [00:42:15] Speaker B: Amen. [00:42:16] Speaker A: Well, thank you very much. Until next time everybody. God love.

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