A GOLDEN CELEBRATION

By LORETTA FULTON

“For all those who are here to celebrate this fantastic time in our priest’s life,” the prayer leader said.

And the enthusiastic congregation, packed into every available seat and standing space, responded with heart.

“Lord, hear our prayer,” they entoned.

The Golden Jubilee Celebration held for Rev. Msgr. Robert Bush on June 5 was indeed celebratory. That was evident from the beginning, as pew after pew began to fill in Sacred Heart Catholic Church, where Bush has served 23 of his 50 years as a priest. And then, more people filled the folding chairs that were brought in. When those were taken, late-comers crowded together along the walls.

A joyous processional followed, with the choir leading the congregation in singing, “Come, O Holy Spirit Come,” sung to the tune of “Ode to Joy,” adding to the already festive air of the ceremony. Bishop Michael Sis of the Diocese of San Angelo was beaming.

“We have priests who have come from all over the diocese,” Sis said, in opening the service. 

The priests, robed in white and gold, and a contingent from the Knights of Columbus added splendor to the occasion. Bush’s only family member, younger sister Pat Vandecapelle of Louisiana joined in celebrating the achievement of her brother.

As of July 1, Bush, 75, will no longer be the priest at Sacred Heart. Whether he will retire or be reassigned by Sis, bishop of the Diocese of San Angelo, hasn’t been announced. At Sacred Heart, Bush will be replaced by the Rev. Albert Ezeanya, currently serving in Eden.

Sis served as the Celebrant for the service and Bush delivered a homily based on Matthew 20: 20-28, where Jesus explains how his kingdom is different from that of the world. In order to be great, his followers must be servants.

“To be like Jesus,” Bush said, “we become like servants, also.”

In his 50 years as a priest, Bush said, the best part is getting to be the one who serves. But all people are called to serve, he said, not just priests. At the end of our lives, we all are seeking eternal life, Bush said, and serving in this world leads there.

“That’s our goal,” Bush said of eternal life, “but the way to get to our goal is to be a servant.”

In photo at left, Bishop Michael Sis and the Rev. Msgr. Robert Bush serve at the altar during a Godlen Jubilee Celebration June 5 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Clergy from the diocese gather at the altar in the top photo at right. In the middle right photo, Bush shares a laugh with KTAB TV reporter Mercedez Hernandez. In the bottom right photo, the congregation holds their hands high in praise during the service. Clergy photo by John Starbuck. Other photos by Loretta Fulton. 

Bush’s own life of service served an illustration of his homily.  His journey to the priesthood began with his birth in Waco in 1943. He lived with his parents and his younger sister in Waco until Bush finished third grade at St. Mary’s School.

The family moved to Brownwood, where they lived for six years before returning to Waco. In Brownwood, the family were members of St. Mary’s Church and were there when the present church was built.

After finishing ninth grade at Brownwood Junior High School, Bush and his family returned to Waco, where he graduated from Reicher Catholic High School. It was during Bush’s years in Brownwood that a priest sent him and other altar boys to attend a conference on becoming a priest at a seminary in San Antonio. Afterward, his priest asked if he thought he wanted to enter the seminary himself.

“I told him no,” Bush recalled.

After the family moved back to Waco and Bush enrolled in a Catholic high school, things began to change. He and other students visited St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston, where Bush eventually enrolled.

“It just kind of grew gradually,” Bush said of his call to the priesthood.

After graduating from Reicher Catholic High School, Bush enrolled at St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston, graduating in 1966. That was followed with a degree from Immaculate Conception Seminary in Missouri in 1969.

Bush was ordained at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Brownwood on June 5, 1969. He has served parishes in Crane, Abilene, Odessa, and San Angelo. As priest of Sacred Heart in Abilene, Bush also is in charge of Saints Joachim & Ann Church in Clyde.

While at Sacred Heart, Bush oversaw the transformation in 2000 of an old auto mechanic shop into the Perpetual Adoration Chapel. The chapel, located next door to Sacred Heart, is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for anyone who wants a quiet place to pray.

During his long tenure as a priest in the Diocese of San Angelo, Bush has served on numerous councils and was a member of a  team serving high school youth called Search for Christian Maturity. Over 9,000 youths have gone through the program and several of those have become priests and religious sisters.

Bush looks for certain traits in young people that he believes are necessary for a life of service to the church. Among those are generosity, a spirit of service, and a love of people.

No one can vouch for Bush having those traits better than his sister, Pat, who flew from her home in Louisiana for the June 5 celebration. Vandecapelle is almost three years younger than her brother. She recalled a couple of notable traits about her big brother as they were growing up.

“He pestered me all the time,” she said, “but if I was in trouble, he was there.”

 

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