Father Ron Mohnickey, TOR, celebrates 50 years of priestly life
COLLEYVILLE — That Good Shepherd Church parishioners treasure Father Ronald Mohnickey, TOR, as attested by a standing ovation of sustained applause and long lines of well-wishers following a May 16 Mass of Thanksgiving honoring the 50th anniversary of Father Mohnickey’s ordination is obvious.
In person, the parochial vicar, 78, comes across as gentle, engaged, and caring. Not to mention humorous in relaying his unconditional love of donuts or friendship with Father Jim Angert, TOR, of St. Maria Goretti Parish in Arlington, who also celebrated his 50th ordination anniversary on May 15.
“We were ordained together,” Fr. Mohnickey said. “He was featured recently in the North Texas Catholic and I have chided him ever since. I asked him to autograph my copy. We’ve been friends for 55, 60 years.”
The years since his 1971 ordination seem both long ago and not so much, Fr. Mohnickey mused.
“Sometimes unbelievably so, sometimes not,” Fr. Mohnickey said. “My body tells me it’s been a long time, but not necessarily my spirit.”
Although Fr. Mohnickey claims his is hardly “a very noble story,” others would beg to differ.
His humility and devoutness are easily discernable, Good Shepherd parishioner Martha Eberlein said. “When he talks, when he sings, he’s got this heavenly voice. I’m always excited when I know he’s celebrating the Mass.”
In characterizing Fr. Mohnickey as a saint, parishioner Jose Jimenez agreed.
“He’s very humble,” Jimenez said. “He’ll never tell you he doesn’t have time. There’s never, ‘Oh, I’m busy.’ He’s very passionate.”
Cleveland, Ohio, born and raised, Fr. Mohnickey’s ministries before coming to Good Shepherd included serving as an instructor and administrator at St. Francis University and as director of novices and instructor at Franciscan University’s Gaming, Austria campus, among other assignments. Texas, however, was love at first sight.
“Texas really feels like home,” Fr. Mohnickey said. “I'm with a cane now and a dry Texas summer is safer than a slippery Ohio winter.”
So too does Good Shepherd feel like home.
“I have a sign over my desk that says ‘Extravagant Appreciation,’” Fr. Mohnickey said. “That’s what I’ve experienced here.”
The feeling is mutual.
“He’s just got this peaceful presence and wicked sense of humor,” Good Shepherd Director of Faith Formation Tammy Sandoval said. “He’s quite a storyteller with a gift for gab and always available. He’s very pastoral and stops whatever he’s doing to help others.”
Sandoval said that during a recent stop at a donut shop, a man noted the church name on Sandoval’s shirt and asked if she worked for the parish.
“He said Fr. Ronald saved his marriage, and I asked what he meant,” Sandoval said. “He said, ‘We called three parishes before we found a priest that would meet with us to get us through the night.’”
Mass and Reconciliation, Fr. Mohnickey answered when asked the best part of being a priest.
“I never thought confessions would be particularly a delight,” Fr. Mohnickey said. “But we have them four times a week here, and I spend 10 percent or more of my time on that sacrament. It recently dawned on me that if you’re ever looking for a quitter, you would never find one in line for confession. No matter the struggles or pain people are going through there are just no quitters in that line. They’re not going to let darkness, or addiction, or whatever have the final say.”
On the other hand, homilies pose much challenge and soul searching, Fr. Mohnickey said.
“Well, some of the parishioners have told me they think his homilies are so on [point], so impactful,” said Rita Rawlings, Fr. Mohnickey’s sister, who flew in from Ohio for the May 15 Mass.
Fr. Mohnickey’s brother, John Mohnickey, agreed.
“They paint a picture,” John Mohnickey said. “In Cleveland, before Mass he would go to the lake and spend a good bit of time formulating. Peaceful time where he could connect with his inner spirit and get a feel for what he was directed to talk about.”
John Mohnickey, a McKinney resident 19 years his brother’s junior, joked that Fr. Mohnickey called several years ago from Austria asking John if he’d ever heard of a place called Colleyville.
“He could’ve been assigned anyplace in the world,” John Mohnickey said. “It’s like a mini miracle he ended up in a place so close to me. Being 19 years younger, I didn’t get to spend much time with him growing up. This has given us the opportunity to see each other and, in a sense, learn more about each other.”
John Mohnickey received his first Communion during his big brother’s first Mass, an apparent first in the Diocese of Cleveland.
Good Shepherd Pastor Michael Higgins, TOR, noted during the May 15 Mass that Fr. Mohnickey has celebrated about 50,000 Masses.
“Even after 50 years, sometimes I’ll walk in formally and I’ll get chills [at Sunday Mass],” Fr. Mohnickey said. “How is it possible that I’m doing this? I’m going to this altar to celebrate these sacred mysteries. Some days that’s absolutely almost a new shock.”