My son, the father
Growing up, Joseph, Steven, and David Keating were altar servers at the small parish on Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo. Their mother, Priscilla, and their grandmother would occasionally reflect, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one of the boys became a priest someday?”
Her oldest son, Father Joseph Keating, was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Fort Worth on May 21, 2016.
Now, two years later, Mrs. Keating admits to occasionally being a little distracted during the Eucharistic Prayer. Watching the miracle that occurs in every Mass, when the host and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ through the priest, the thought will sometimes cross her mind — “that’s what my son does.”
Mrs. Keating is a proud mother of each of her sons. The retired physical therapist said, “They sought out what they have known to be their calling.” She and her husband, Bob, intentionally gave them the freedom and space to seek out their individual vocation.
“We wanted to give them the independence to seek their dreams, what makes them happy. And they have each been successful in different directions.”
Reminiscing about the years that Fr. Joe spent discerning his path, Mrs. Keating shed a few happy tears.
As Joe earned his bachelor and master degrees at Texas Tech, “Bob and I and Joe would have talks about what his plans were, about his experiences, his ideas. He would share those with us.”
“He could say what was on his mind, what was on his heart. He knew he would have his parents’ support and confidence.”
Joe became involved in the Catholic student organization, and they saw his fervor for his faith grow. After graduation, he worked a year for a major corporation, but left to become a youth minister at St. Mark Parish in Denton.
When he announced his decision to enter seminary two years later, his parents were not surprised. “We embraced his decision, and we knew he had put a lot of thought into it. We felt included, although we had not nudged him either way,” she said.
Mrs. Keating saw Joe’s resolve to become a priest strengthen and his knowledge and love of his faith grow throughout his years of seminary.
When the day of his priestly ordination arrived, Mrs. Keating expected to feel “nervous, worried, and discombobulated. But I felt calm, collected, and content.”
It helped that Mrs. Keating had come to know Joe’s friends in seminary, and that he was being ordained by Bishop Michael Olson, who had been the rector of the first seminary Joe attended. She felt like he was joining a larger family.
“It was encouraging to a mother that he was in the care of God, our Savior,” she remembered. “I felt at ease, comfortable, and confident.”
After the ordination Mass and reception, Fr. Joe, his parents, and his brothers loaded up the car to drive from St. Patrick Cathedral in Fort Worth to his first Mass at St. Mark Parish. That’s where Mrs. Keating admitted to being anxious. With construction and red lights en route, they arrived with only 15 minutes to spare.
Looking back on his ordination and first Mass, Mrs. Keating remembered, “I had a special love in my heart through the whole day. Everything was beautiful and loving. It was the culmination of Joe’s dreams and efforts, shared with us, his family.”
The Keatings travel from San Angelo to visit their son, who is the pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Abbott and Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Penelope.
They have learned to arrange visits during the week, since he is quite busy on the weekends.
Mrs. Keating said she feels joy knowing that he is “touching the lives of so many in two rural communities. He can give individual attention to them as their pastor.”
Many little towns, she said, don’t have the support system of a resident priest, “but these parishioners have their own priest to talk to and confide in. They are not alone with their problems, and he can share their joys, too.”
Fr. Joe has told his mother that his parishioners support and help him in many ways, including bringing him food. She said, “I am not as worried as I thought I would be. He’s part of a larger family now. He has his brother priests and the parishioners.”