Priesthood, birthday, and impending retirement of All Saints Pastor Fr. Stephen Jasso celebrated

North Texas Catholic
(Jan 3, 2018) Local

Fr. Stephen Jasso holds his hands together as Bishop Michael Olson applauds his years of service as a priest at the closing of a special Mass celebrating Fr. Jasso's retirement as pastor of All Saints Catholic Church, on Dec. 15, 2017 in Fort Worth. (NTC photo/Ben Torres)

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FORT WORTH — “This is an occasion of both joy and sadness,” said Ario Guerrero, describing the mood inside All Saints Parish as worshippers gathered to honor longtime pastor Father Stephen Jasso, TOR.

The Dec. 15 celebration — marking the friar’s 85th birthday, 60 years as a Franciscan, 53 years as a priest, and impending retirement as pastor — began with a solemn Mass concelebrated by Bishop Michael Olson, Fr. Jasso, and other priests in the diocese. It continued with a festive reception and program in the parish hall.

“Fr. Jasso came here 23 years ago and he’s been an outstanding priest and pastor. He’s helped a lot of people,” said Guerrero, an usher at All Saints. “He’s been a good friend to my family and many others.”

The busy padre always worked long hours meeting the needs of parish families — a trait that worried parishioners.

“So it’s probably good for him to step down as pastor but we’re happy he’ll stay in residence here for another four years as parochial vicar,” the parish volunteer explained.

Fr. Jasso will act as a mentor to his replacement, Father Genaro Mayorga Reyes, TOR, when he arrives at All Saints later this month.

“The new pastor is 29-years-old,” he told the congregation. “I’ll be here to help him. I’m sure he’ll make a wonderful pastor for this parish.”

A native of Waco, the retiring pastor is one of several children born to the late Domingo and Leonor Jasso who came to Texas from Mexico. Before entering the Franciscan order in 1957, he served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War earning the rank of sergeant first class.

After completing his seminary studies in Mallorca, Spain, and Rome, Italy, the veteran was ordained a Catholic priest in 1965. During his early years in the priesthood, he traveled to Peru where he spent four years as a missionary. His next assignment brought him to Mexico where Fr. Jasso spent 24 years serving parishes and the TOR community in leadership roles.

While working in Mexico City, the friar met a young seminarian who would later become a bishop for the Diocese of Fort Worth.

Addressing the crowd of parishioners filling All Saints Church, Bishop Olson remembered his visit with the Franciscans to study Spanish.

“Fr. Jasso taught me how to drive in Mexico City,” he reminisced with a chuckle. “But he also taught me very much how to be a pastor and a priest. For that, I’m personally grateful.”

In his homily, the bishop explained that Christ’s call often leads us away from our comfort zone to a place where we can find our true identity and vocation as God’s people. Free from distractions, we can focus on Him, His plan and will for our salvation.

“Fr. Jasso has been faithful to that call — his call as a Christian, as a religious brother and son of St. Francis, and his call as a priest,” Bishop Olson added. “He’s been faithful in his ministry here at All Saints in forming a church — Christ’s Church. Leading and guiding us is the mission of the priest.”

Fr. Esteban Jasso is greeted by young matachines from All Saints Catholic School at a reception celebrating his retirement as pastor of All Saints Catholic Church, on Dec. 15, 2017 in Fort Worth. (NTC photo/Ben Torres)

Third-generation All Saints’ member Mary Vela said the soft-spoken pastor is the reason why she enrolled her two boys in the parish’s Catholic school. A strong advocate for the faith-forming benefits of a Catholic education, Fr. Jasso received the University of Notre Dame Sorin Award for Service to Catholic Schools in 2013. Named for Notre Dame founder, Father Edward Sorin, CSC, the honor recognizes champions of Catholic education.

“He emphasized how Catholic education would help my children in the future by preparing them for life and strengthening their faith,” Vela recalled. “Sending them to All Saints was a sacrifice financially, but now we’re reaping the rewards.”

Her sons, Matthew and Paul Vela, are grown and both graduated from a Texas university.

The All Saints pastor is not only an effective leader when it comes to faith and uniting the church community, he’s also well respected in the city, she said.

“He’s a good representative of All Saints and Fort Worth,” Vela said, referring to Fr. Jasso’s participation in the Hispanic Leadership Summit and Faith-Based Initiative in Washington, D.C., as well as service on the United Way Board and Task Force on Racism. “He’s a strong advocate for immigration reform. He wants to help people do the right thing.”

Following the Mass, school children serenaded the pastor inside the parish hall as guests perused a timeline of awards and photographs that told the story of Fr. Jasso’s productive life. Included in the display were snapshots of a uniformed army sergeant, city proclamations, and a tribute citing the priest as “Outstanding Texas Role Model.”

Former Fort Worth City Councilman Sal Espino served as emcee for the program that brought together many of the honoree’s 14 brothers and sisters, longtime friends, and others in the city touched by his ministry.

“He leads by service and example,” said the parishioner explaining the pastor’s charisma. “Fr. Jasso is probably the hardest working priest I’ve ever seen. He’s always present. He’s always on call.”

Whether it’s expressing concern on a community or religious issue, or ministering to someone going through a tough time, Fr. Jasso offers reassurance, hope, and compassion, he continued.

“He follows the Gospel,” Espino observed. “He’s a strong listener and offers comfort and guidance when people lose a loved one, face a health challenge, or are experiencing personal difficulties. Fr. Jasso is very special not only to All Saints, but to Fort Worth and Catholics throughout the diocese.”

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