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Father Saenz, ordained priest with roots in Brewster County

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Posted: Thursday, October 13, 2011 9:30 am

Alejandro Orlando Augustinus Saenz was born July 20, 1978, to Emeterio and Petra R. Saenz, in Falfurrias, in the South Texas, the youngest of six children (four sisters and the late Felix Saenz).

He attended La Gloria ISD in the Los Olmos ranching community seven miles north of Falfurrias. I graduated from Falfurrias High School on May 31, 1997, and entered discernment for the Diocese of Corpus Christi.

"My vocation to the priesthood had its beginning when I and my sister would search through the family photo album, and I came across a black and white photo of a priest I never knew," Saenz said. "I asked my mother who he was, and she deferred my question to my grandmother, Nieves C. Ramirez (who was born near Castolon, Texas, in a place known as El Ojito). She informed me that he was a great-uncle of mine who lived in Alpine, Texas, and ministered to the poor in Mexico (location I do not know). The stories of her childhood and the stories of this family member of mine who was a priest started when I was in third grade."

Saenz continued, "Several years passed and the thought of wanting to become a priest resurfaced again when I was in the eighth grade. This time it was stronger than before. Prior to the eighth grade I wanted to become a teacher (after my uncle, the late Francisco N. Saenz who taught at La Gloria ISD). I wanted to work with trains (little did I know that my maternal grandfather, Celso Ramirez, worked with Union Pacific before arriving to Premont, Texas). And the thought of becoming a priest was there because of my maternal great-uncle."

In eighth grade, Saenz received the Sacrament of Confirmation and that was when the vocation to the priesthood was in the front of his mind. Also, in eighth grade, he was asked to write an essay for English to prepare for the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS test). The topic was "Where do you see yourself in life 10 years from now?"

"While other classmates of mine did not take the question too seriously - for I believe that they were not prepared for such a leap into the future and were too busy worried about high school - I took the question into serious consideration," Saenz said. "I sat and reflected on the photo from many years ago and reflected on my maternal great-uncle's life in Alpine."

"I also have to thank Father Matthew J. Stephan, my home pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, Falfurrias," he said. "By putting the two together, I then was able to write my essay. The professor walked around the classroom and chose my essay to read. ... Little did the professor know what she was getting into when she read my essay. She ... almost looked dumbfounded that someone actually took the question seriously."

After graduating from high school, Saenz moved to Corpus Christi and in fall 1998, he entered St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa., outside of Philadelphia.

"I spent many good years there learning Latin, philosophy, Greek and the liberal arts," Saenz said. "They were challenging to me since I had no idea that I had to learn philosophy and different languages just to become a priest.

"After taking a little break from formation in the North, I finished my formative seminary formation in Covington, Louisiana, at St. Joseph Seminary College. I received a degree in philosophy and the liberal arts. This was a journey that I did not think would happen. I graduated from St. Joseph Seminary on May 6, 2005."

Since the seminary in Louisiana was only a college seminary, Saenz knew he would have to return to Texas and begin major seminary. After his father died in spring 2006, he took time off and returned to Falfurrias and worked at the parish office. He resumed seminary formation and was sent to Assumption Seminary in San Antonio in fall 2007.

He was ordained a deacon on December 18, 2010, in his hometown of Falfurrias by Bishop William Michael Mulvey, of the Diocese of Corpus Christi.

He did four years of formation/theological studies and finished with a master's in divinity degree from Assumption Seminary/Oblate School of Theology.

Saenz was ordained into the priesthood by the same bishop on June 11, 2011, at Corpus Christi Cathedral. He said my first Mass at Sacred Heart Parish in Falfurrias and is assigned to Sacred Heart Parish in Rockport.

Saenz Family Notes by B.J. Gallego

Alejandro Orlando Augustinus Saenz is the great-grandson of the late Agapito and Petra Carrasco, early 1900 residents of Brewster County. His grandparents were Celso and Nieves C. Ramirez, former residents of Alpine and Marathon. Saenz is a cousin of Margarito Urquidez and of the families of the late Liborio and Merced Uranga Urquidez of Alpine, and great-nephew of Agapito Carrasco, a native of Alpine and former resident of Van Horn. His great-aunts were the late Leonor Gallego Valenzuela and Luz Gallego Ybarra.

The great-uncle mentioned is a cousin of Father Saenz, the late Father Jose G. Valadez. Valadez died in Mexico City in January 1985. Valadez was a priest in the Diocese of El Paso, serving in several parishes in New Mexico and West Texas.

I thank Jimmy Ramirez of Premont, uncle of Father Saenz, for his donations of materials on the ordination of Father Saenz to the Archives of the Big Bend and for his assistance in making this article a reality.

It is anticipated that Father Saenz will someday visit his ancestry grounds and family roots to celebrate Mass in Alpine, Marathon, Terlingua and the Big Bend, where some of his ancestors were born, lived and cultivated the land.

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