SAN ANTONIO • Retired Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Flanagan marked the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood with celebrations at two of the parishes where he served in his long ministry as a priest of the Archdiocese of San Antonio.
Archbishop José H. Gomez presided and gave the homily at the Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Vincent de Paul Church on June 7, and Bishop Flanagan was later joined by Bishop Michael D. Pfeifer, OMI of the Diocese of San Angelo at a Mass of Thanksgiving held at St. Brigid Church on June 11, which also featured matachines dancers.
Bishop Flanagan was ordained a priest for service in the archdiocese on June 10, 1956 in his home country of Ireland and ordained an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese by Archbishop Patrick F. Flores on Feb. 16, 1998 at San Antonio Municipal Auditorium. Auxiliary Bishop Patrick J. Zurek was also ordained during the same ceremony. Archbishop Gomez announced the acceptance by Pope Benedict XVI of his retirement as an auxiliary bishop on Dec. 15, 2005.
Bishop Flanagan is well known for his work in the interfaith community, serving as the President of the San Antonio Community of Churches in 1991 and appointed by Archbishop Flores to the steering committee of the Billy Graham Crusade in 1997.
Since his ordination as a priest Bishop Flanagan served in eight parishes. During his eight years as a bishop, he has served as director and associate liaison of the Catholic Center for Charismatic Renewal, spiritual advisor of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, chairman of the Board of Assumption Seminary, director of Personnel Services, and the chapter chaplain of the Knights of Columbus of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, who played prominent roles in both celebration liturgies.
Bishop Flanagan was born on Oct. 23, 1930, in Rathmore, County Kildare, Ireland. He is the oldest of eight children. Three brothers and three sisters live in Ireland with their families. Bishop Flanagan’s mother and father, Patrick and Mary McNamara Flanagan, and one brother are deceased.
Attendance at the celebration on June 7 at St. Vincent de Paul included: Archbishop Gomez, Archbishop Emeritus Flores, Bishop Zurek, Bishop John W. Yanta of the Diocese of Amarillo, Bishop Edmond Carmody of the Diocese of Corpus Christi and other clergy from the San Antonio area.
Nine members of Bishop Flanagan’s family traveled from Ireland and elsewhere to be with him for his celebrations. He also was joined by one of his high school classmates from Ireland, Father Michael Killeen, who is now a priest in the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
In his homily at the liturgy, Archbishop Gomez offered a brief reflection on the greatest grace the evening’s honoree ever received.
“On June 10, 1956, at 26 years of age, Thomas Flanagan was ordained a priest. Tonight, we gather on the altar of the Lord to give thanks to 50 years of priesthood,” said Archbishop Gomez. “We give thanks for you and all the blessings in your life. I’m sure as you reflect on those days many great stories and memories come to mind.” The archbishop called for the dozens of priest in attendance to commit themselves to be ever more worthy, ever more Christlike.
“It is a serious commitment to strive for a holy life. That is exactly what Bishop Flanagan has done throughout his life,” he said. “Our vocation is not a call to selfishness. It is a call to give ourselves to others.”
He concluded, “Priests are called to build up the people of God as co-workers of the bishop. Eight years ago Msgr. Flanagan was called to the fullness of the priesthood. Pray for the bishops and priests to give themselves ever more willingly to the Lord.”
In his concluding comments, Bishop Flanagan offered his gratitude to a myriad of people in attendance at the liturgy, such as his brother bishops, his family from Ireland and those taking part in the Mass. However, he saved special words of praise for his fellow clerics.
“I thank my brother priests. I thank those that have traveled these 50 years with me, and those that have joined along the way,” he said. “I thank God and the Blessed Mother Mary. I thank you and give praise to God at this happy moment.”