|Father Wilhelm Steckling, OMI, general superior of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate places an Oblate Cross upon retired Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Flanagan on Sept. 11, making him an Honorary Oblate.
SAN ANTONIO - Retired San Antonio Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Flanagan was formally invested Sept. 11 as the newest Honorary Oblate of Mary Immaculate by Father General Wilhelm Steckling, OMI, during a Mass in Oblate School of Theology’s Immaculate Conception Chapel.
“It is said of our founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod, that he had a heart as big as the world. Today, we present Bishop Tom Flanagan, a compassionate, big-hearted, loving priest of God, whom we honor as a son of St. Eugene and a brother in Oblate community life,” said Father Warren Brown, OMI, executive vice president of the school, in presenting the recommendation to Father Steckling. The General Council had approved the honor for Bishop Flanagan several months earlier. The Sept. 11 Mass provided the first convenient opportunity to confer it.
Following a long-established Oblate custom, Father Steckling bestowed on Bishop Flanagan the black and bronze Oblate Missionary Cross that had been used by Father Angel Villalba, OMI, during his ministry. Father Villalba was born in Spain in 1913, was sent as missionary to Africa and spent more than 20 years in ministry in Corpus Christi, with a special apostolate in media and preaching. He died in January 2008.
Bishop Flanagan, 78, was ordained a priest in his native Ireland in June 1956 for the Archdiocese of San Antonio. He served in many parish assignments in the archdiocese over a span of nearly 42 years before Pope John Paul II named him an auxiliary bishop to assist Archbishop Patrick Flores in 1998. He retired in December 2005. Bishop Flanagan had served twice as president of the San Antonio Community of Churches.
He graduated from Oblate School of Theology in 1979 with the master of divinity degree for clergy. Last year, the school honored him as a distinguished alumnus.
“Bishop Flanagan has demonstrated a commitment to the Oblate charism – ministry to the poor, the sick and the homeless; endless dedication to preaching and teaching the word of God; and outreach to our non-Catholic brothers and sisters,” said Father Brown. He also cited the bishop’s devotion to Mary, the Mother of God, his membership in the Oblate Madonna Residence community since becoming bishop and his commitment to apostolic community life as a basis for mission to the needs of God’s people.
“Many Oblates have been anointed and ordained by his priestly hands. He has celebrated the Mass of Christian Burial for many Oblates and has become a friend, brother, confessor and fellow minister of the Gospel,” Father Brown said.
In his homily for the Mass, Father Steckling spoke of the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, Sept. 14, using the distinctive Oblate Mission Cross as a focus of meditation,” he said. “We [Oblates] put this cross on ourselves to be close to Christ in his supreme hour of earthly existence. The back of the cross is empty; there is nothing there. As more than one preacher has said, this side is left entirely for me -- to be able to match, somehow, the sacrifice of Christ on the other side. The Oblate Cross comes with a call. We are supposed to carry it to the people, to preach Jesus crucified. We are to bring it to these ‘crucified ones’ so that someone who looks on this cross may be healed.”