A Joyous Celebration in Houston

by Fr. William Rock, FSSP.

Some of the greenery in the arrangements of the High Altar were painted silver – a simple yet heartfelt touch to honor the Silver Anniversary of a Priestly Ordination.

The imposition of hands at Fr. Van Vliet’s Ordinaton and a contemporary article (click to enlarge)

For it was on June 15, 1996, that Fr. Charles Van Vliet, FSSP was ordained to the Catholic Priesthood. And 25 years to the day later, his parish, Regina Cæli [Queen of Heaven] in Houston, Texas, celebrated this milestone along with him.

In the time leading up to the celebration, the faithful arranged, in addition to the flowers for the Altar, a spiritual bouquet.  Some also prepared for the cake reception which followed the anniversary Mass, while others produced a slide show from old pictures or fashioned a trifold poster recounting Father’s steps to the Priesthood and his Priestly ministry.

On the day of the anniversary itself, Fr. Van Vliet celebrated a Solemn High Mass.  He was assisted by Fr. William Rock, FSSP as Deacon, and Fr. Stephen Braun, FSSP as Subdeacon.  This thanksgiving Mass was the Mass of the Queenship of Mary with the additional orations for the Priest himself and the Te Deum – the hymn of thanksgiving – was chanted at the conclusion.  The parish’s schola chanted the Mass with additional pieces sung by a mixed polyphonic choir.

During his sermon, Fr. Van Vliet related parts of his vocation story.  He recalled how, when he was young, a Priest calling him “Father Van Vliet” never left him, and led him to seriously consider the Catholic Priesthood.  He entered seminary, but his time there was not without difficulties.  Following the advice he was given, he suspended his clerical studies and entered college.  After graduating, he again undertook and completed his Priestly formation.

Fr. Van Vliet also shared some information about his first Mass.  The advice given to him by the preacher – to rely on the Holy Ghost as he fulfills his ministry – has stayed with him all these years.  In addition to relating other stories about his ministry – including saying Mass in Las Vegas, Nevada for the Carmelites – Father additionally touched on the theology of the Priesthood drawing from the Priestly Ordination Rites.

Making the sermon more personal for the members of his parish, Fr. Van Vliet told how the first Mass he celebrated for what would eventually become Regina Cæli Parish, when the Fraternity was becoming established in Houston, was the Mass celebrating his 15th anniversary.  He went on to relate the early struggles of the community and the help received from local clergy, for which he was very thankful.  And now, 10 years later, the community is an established parish with its own land and major building projects.  And while he has no plans of leaving the parish anytime soon, Father did say he does not foresee still being Pastor in Houston when he competes his next 25 years.  (The full text of the sermon can be found here.)

Following the Mass, there was a cake reception during which Fr. Braun, an early member of the community, presented Fr. Van Vliet with the spiritual bouquet.

The stories that Father can tell about his life both before and after his Priestly Ordination are varied.  And while it is impossible to capture the way he tells them in a printed format like this, we nevertheless offer our readers a short biography of Fr. Van Vliet and an interview he gave for the Texas Catholic Herald so that his life and ministry may be more fully illustrated.  In the same vein, there are also several past Missive posts detailing the growth and activity which Regina Cæli Parish has experienced under Fr. Van Vliet’s tenure as pastor, which we invite our reads to view:

Please join us in thanking God for the gift of Fr. Van Vliet’s Priesthood and in praying for him so that he may continue to become the saintly priest and the priestly saint God desires him to be.

Ad multos annos, Pater!

Fr. William Rock, FSSP was ordained in the fall of 2019 and is currently in residence at Regina Caeli Parish in Houston, TX.

June 25, 2021