Dcn. Ruben Castañeda retires after 35 years of service to southwest deanery
BRECKENRIDGE — Deacon Ruben Castañeda’s journey to the diaconate started in 1983 with a young priest named Father Robert Thames, who asked him to quit his well-paying job working on cars to become the pastoral administrator of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Breckenridge.
Dcn. Castañeda explained that Fr. Thames was “the one who was really on me to start looking at my spiritual life. It was wonderful at the beginning, my ministry. I enjoyed every minute of it. Then the diaconate happened. It gave me a different outlook because I then began to offer and sacrifice myself more and more, loving people, loving every minute of it, and enjoying being with people.”
He credits Sharing in Ministry (now the Annual Diocesan Appeal) with making his job possible at Breckenridge.
On July 29, after 35 years of ministry both as a deacon and pastoral administrator, Dcn. Castañeda celebrated his retirement, thanking God and the people he served in the southwest deanery’s rural counties of the diocese for his vocation.
“You have been the inspiration behind everything I do,” he said. “It’s through you that I learned how to serve. It’s through you that [God] made all things possible. It’s not through Dcn. Ruben. It’s to glorify God. It’s not me. It’s God himself — the Lord Jesus.
“It’s you who made it possible to serve you all these years,” he continued. “I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve loved it.”
Dcn. Castañeda was honored at a reception and Mass at Sacred Heart of Jesus, celebrated by Bishop Michael Olson, who first met the deacon in the summer of 1989. At that time, Dcn. Castañeda served at Jesus of Nazareth Parish in Albany, and Father Tom Craig asked the deacon to take seminarian Michael Olson with him to meet and pray with people.
Bishop Olson recalled he had just graduated from the Catholic University of America and was about to start seminary in Houston. He was discerning coming to Texas to be a priest and had never been to Texas.
“And part of what helped me discern the will of the Lord and become a priest in this diocese was Dcn. Ruben’s hospitality, friendship, and selfless example of ministry. Dcn. Ruben, thank you very much,” Bishop Olson said.
“Dcn. Ruben has given himself for many years to the Church because he was called and he saw ministry as a gift — not as something private and exclusive to him, that it’s his church and his way of doing things – but rather that he is called to serve the Church,” said Bishop Olson during his homily.
He said deacons and priests are given to parishes to serve and to give of themselves as part of the cost of their pearls of great price, in reference to the Gospel reading from Matthew.
Dcn. Castañeda thanked Bishop Michael Olson, Director of Permanent Deacons Don Warner, Father Brijil Lawrence, SAC, and Father Pedro Camil Simoes, SAC, as well as acolytes, altar servers, his family, and all those who attended the celebration.
When Dcn. Castañeda talked about his work in ministry over the years, he talked about God being first.
“And that has always helped me with wisdom and knowledge. That’s what I must do to help parishes and to help people in need who need to come closer to God,” he said. “That’s what my ministry is. Even if it’s just one person who comes closer to Christ, I’m happy because that’s what my work is for.”
The Crowell, Texas native was ordained as a permanent deacon on August 19, 1989, and has served as a deacon in the southwest deanery for 28 years.
From 1985 to 2004, Dcn. Castañeda served at Jesus of Nazareth. From 2004 to 2013, he served four parishes: St. Francis Xavier Parish in Eastland, St. Rita Parish in Ranger, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish in Cisco, and St. John Parish in Strawn as administrator and as a deacon. From 2013 to 2014, he served as administrator at St. Joseph Parish in Rhineland and Santa Rosa Parish in Knox City, and in 2014 he returned to Breckenridge to serve as administrator at Sacred Heart of Jesus.
“It was like he was part of our family back then, and when they reassigned him back to us, it was like he was coming home,” said Mary Alvarez, the bookkeeper at Sacred Heart since 1991. “He never skipped a beat because people would call him back to do Baptisms and quinceañeras. He’s really a minister of God and to his people.”
For 45 years, Dcn. Castañeda’s wife, Jessie, was beside him supporting him. She passed away in August 2013. They have three children, all of whom attended his retirement Mass and reception.
“He treats everybody equally – like family,” said Tony Baeza, who has been an active member of Sacred Heart of Jesus since the mid-1990s. “If someone has a problem, he’ll take time and listen to you and give counsel. He’s just a deacon of all trades. He preaches, he sings, and he’s the parish administrator. He does it all. He’s like the backbone of our parish right now.”