Deacon Austin Hoodenpyle eager to serve by providing sacraments
Austin Hoodenpyle remembers the moment the trajectory of his life changed. During a summer vacation to visit his mother’s family in Illinois, the high school-bound Methodist attended his first Sunday Mass. The experience would lead to an eventual conversion to the Catholic faith and 10 years of formation in the seminary.
“There was a mystery there I didn’t understand but it was enthralling and struck me,” he said, recalling the liturgy. “Coming back home, I did a lot of research about the Catholic Church. Catholics believe Jesus is really alive in the Eucharist and that made everything click for me.”
Hoodenpyle came into the Church at the 2011 Easter Vigil with his mother and father, Kelly and Brent Hoodenpyle, watching.
The proud parents will welcome friends and family from Illinois, Wisconsin, Colorado, and Texas who are traveling here to witness Bishop Michael Olson ordain their 28-year-old son to the priesthood on May 20 in St. Patrick Cathedral.
“The whole experience seems like a long time but my year as a deacon has flown by overnight,” observed the former St. Frances Cabrini parishioner who entered the seminary in 2013 after graduating from Glen Rose High School. Beginning his studies at the University of Dallas, the seminarian continued formation at Catholic University’s Theological College where he earned a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology and a master’s degree in divinity.
Ordained to the transitional diaconate last May, Deacon Hoodenpyle spent the summer at St. Philip the Apostle Parish where he had the opportunity to hone his preaching skills in front of a familiar congregation. Years earlier, the seminarian served his pastoral year at the parish.
“I preached two Masses on the weekend and two daily Masses during the week so that was a good introduction for me on how to think, pray, and prepare for a homily,” he explained. “What it takes to craft a good homily and preach it to the people has been a significant part of my life as a deacon.”
Baptizing children offered another liturgical learning curve. Administering the sacrament to four children at the same service was nerve-wracking at first for the new officiant.
“Going into it, you’re kind of nervous about doing the rite correctly and remembering their names,” Hoodenpyle admitted. “But when I started, it all seemed natural, reverent, and the sacrament was done in an appropriate way.”
Witnessing the joy of the parents eased any lingering apprehension.
“I always keep those kids in mind and continue to pray for them,” the deacon added.
As he completes his studies and prepares for ordination to the priesthood, the transitional deacon is looking forward to celebrating the source and summit of the Catholic faith — the Eucharist. His first Mass is planned for May 21 in St. Frances Cabrini Church in Granbury.
“Celebrating Mass and giving people the Eucharist is something I’ve wanted to do since the beginning,” Hoodenpyle continued. “The reason I wanted to be a priest was to give people the sacraments. That’s a particular kind of service only a priest can do.”
He credits family, friends, and fellow seminarians for helping him realize his calling. Support is critical to someone studying for the priesthood.
“The most important support is from the priests in the diocese and your brother seminarians who you see every day,” he pointed out. “You need a real good foundation of friendships with them to help you get through.”
Hoodenpyle is also grateful to the Knights of Columbus — especially the Knights from his home parish — for being generous and supportive during his time in the seminary. Monetary gifts from the organization allowed the soon-to-be priest to purchase a chalice and vestments for his new ministry.
“What’s nice is when you come home to your family, parish, or places where you’ve served over the years and people you know say they’ve been praying for you,” he added. “They help with whatever needs may come up along the way and that reminds you of why you are doing this.”