Holy Family Gets First New Priest in 25 Years

By LORETTA FULTON

Following in the footsteps of a man who served in one place “since the days of Noah’s Ark” won’t be easy.

Bishop Michael Sis of the Catholic Diocese of San Angelo believes he chose the right man for the job, the Very Rev. Santiago Udayar, who was installed as priest at Holy Family Catholic Church on Sunday, Aug. 1. 

“I thank the Lord for sending me here to serve you as pastor of this beautiful parish,” Udayar said. “You are beautiful people.”

Udayar assumed his duties on July 1. He also will continue to serve as vicar general or second in command of the diocese. He will live at the Holy Family rectory. 

The Very Rev. Santiago Udayar greets a member of Holy Family Catholic Church after Udayar was installed as the new priest on Aug. 1. Photo by Loretta Fulton

Sis made the joke about Udayar’s predecessor, Msgr. Frederick G. Nawarskas, better known as “Father Fred,” during the Aug. 1 service. Nawarskas, 81, served as priest at Holy Family from 1996 until the end of June 2021. He will continue to serve Holy Family in the role of “reduced active ministry.” 

Udayar, a native of India, thanked the bishop and the many people who made the service and luncheon that followed possible. 

Holy Family, one of four Catholic parishes in Abilene, was packed for the installation. Music from combined choirs, an organist, and various musicians added to the splendor of the ceremony. Sis preached the homily for the service, drawing from the scripture readings for the day. God provided enough manna for one day at a time for the Israelites, Sis noted. 

“But Jesus is the bread of eternal life,” Sis said.

Bishop Michael Sis of the Diocese of San Angelo blesses a family following the installation Aug. 1 of a new priest at Holy Family Catholic Church. Photo by Loretta Fulton

Jesus emphasized that he came to serve, not to be served. His followers are expected to do the same. And priests of the church are called to set an example. 

“Being a pastor is about servant leadership,” Sis said. 

Udayar is replacing a man much beloved at Holy Family and beyond. “Father Fred,” received a rousing standing ovation at the conclusion of his last service as lead priest at Holy Family on June 27. But he isn’t going far.

Father Fred moved from the rectory to a house he bought just down the street from the church. In his “reduced active ministry” role, Father Fred will continue to celebrate two Masses a week and will hear confessions twice a week, in addition to other duties that the new priest assigns him. He almost made it through his final service on June 27 without showing emotion–almost.

“I thank you for your kindness and support,” Father Fred said as he neared the end of his sermon. “It’s been a very exciting and beautiful experience for me.”

Loretta Fulton is creator and editor of Spirit of Abilene

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