Our family had only recently moved to Temple from Dallas when we first met Fr. Charlie. We had spent the Thanksgiving weekend in Dallas and planned on attending the recently introduced “teen Mass” back in Temple at St. Luke’s on Sunday evening. Upon our arrival at St. Luke’s, we were miffed by the empty parking lot 10 minutes before Mass was scheduled to begin. A lone man was walking through the parking lot; and when I questioned him about the Mass, he said that it was Thanksgiving weekend and there would not be any service that evening. This created a bit of anxiety because missing Mass is never an “option” in our family and it was my idea to wait until Sunday night to attend Mass.
I convinced my husband Philip to go home, and I would call around and surely we would be able to find a Sunday evening Mass, just like they were available in Dallas. I frantically began searching through the yellow pages, and thought I was calling St. Stephen’s in Salado. The voice answering the phone said, “Hello, this is Father Davis.” I explained the predicament I was in, and Fr. Davis said that a church could either have a Sunday evening Mass or not and cancelling it was not an option. He then went on to say, “Honey, you just bring your family over here and I will celebrate Mass for you.” I was completely caught off guard by the offer, not to mention that I had to ask which church I had actually called and that I needed directions!
Upon our arrival, he was the sweet, kind, loving Fr. Charlie. He was turning on all the lights in the church and lighting the candles on the altar, just for our family – the 6 of us. He greeted us with open arms and an open heart. Fr. Charlie led our children who were 4, 6, 8, & 10 years old up to the altar and gathered them around the advent wreath. He very gently explained that it was the first Sunday of Advent, the purpose of the wreath, the candles, had them read the words on the ribbons and asked John, our eldest, to do the readings for Mass. And in true Fr. Charlie fashion, he delivered a homily about our family and how God had strategically placed each of our children in their birth order for a reason. He particularly emphasized how much responsibility John had, being the eldest and how he, (Fr. Charlie) could never have been strong enough to be the “firstborn”. Where Austin and Sarah were concerned, he told them that the pressure was off because they were in the middle; however, he assured us that he knew, understood, shared, and enjoyed Rebecca’s order of birth, since he, too, was the “baby” of the family.
I will never forget how he emphasized the importance of our children to God and that God had a plan for each of them. Fr. Charlie made us feel as if no one else mattered in that span of time. After communion and the final blessing he invited us to the rectory because he had something for us. He gave each of the children a crucifix and told them to pin it to their pillows so that if they ever were afraid at night they could hold onto it, pray and ask God to keep them safe.
As we were leaving, Philip and I talked with Fr. Charlie about how we had considered sending our children to St. Mary’s School, but they were settled in public school. Fr. Davis looked at us square in the face with those piercing, blue eyes and said, “Well . . . you are the parents.” When we got back to our van, we looked at each other and Philip asked me, “Do you feel like you were just hit over the head by a 2 x 4?”
Our family just had their first experience of God speaking to us through Fr. Charlie and all our children were soon enrolled in St. Mary’s School. This experience was the beginning of a relationship that led to uniting others who loved and believed in Catholic education and the dream of Holy Trinity Catholic High School. Our lives have never been the same or is yours, if you were fortunate enough to have been touched by this holy priest. Fr. Charlie was truly a gift from God.
* * *
The joyful witness of Fr. Charlie is one that we need to preserve so that he can continue to touch the lives of our students like he did during his lifetime. If you have photos or fond memories of Fr. Charlie, please feel free to share them with us by contacting Alyssa Snyder at email@example.com or Isabelle Brogan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please limit written memories or stories to 400-500 words a piece.
* * *
About the Author
Donna Reilly is a member of the original group of men and women who worked to start Holy Trinity Catholic High School. Her children John, Austin, Sarah and Rebecca all graduated from Holy Trinity. Donna Reilly continues to serve the school community as our Business Manager.