Just a Thought: passing of Archbishop Patricio Flores

El Arzobispo Patricio Flores, primer obispo hispano en el país, falleció el 9 de enero de este año. (Foto, cortesía)

A couple of weeks ago, San Antonio’s beloved Archbishop Patricio Flores passed away at age 87. A man of integrity and principles, we have lost an icon.

In the late 90s as a public speaking teacher at McCollum High school, I was afforded the opportunity to host 51 guest speakers for my speech classes. One of those speakers was none other than Archbishop Patricio Flores, the first Mexican-American bishop in the United States.

He was gracious, articulate and told a very good story growing up as a migrant worker, attending 10th grade twice because he missed so much school that he was forced to repeat his sophomore year.

He informed my students about his dreams of becoming a singer. He shared that it was okay that God didn’t allow him to be a singer because he realized God had bigger plans for him as a priest and an archbishop.

The students received him well. He was one of their favorite speakers that spoke to them. The faculty was abuzz as well when he showed up to the campus. He was very humble and drove himself to the campus. My students walked him out to his car when he left.

Ironically, during the 90s, I was still in the Army Reserve and each year flew to Washington D.C. for my two week annual drill at the Pentagon.

On one of my trips back to San Antonio, I had a short layover in Dallas. As I sat in the airport waiting for my flight, I happened to look up and there was the archbishop sitting next to me waiting for the same plane to take us home. I reintroduced myself, and we chit chatted for about 40 minutes waiting to board our plane and get back to San Antonio.

I profusely thanked him for taking time out of his busy schedule to visit with my students and encourage them in their dreams. He said he enjoyed visiting with them talking about his life and answering some of their questions. He said he was used to speaking to students attending catholic school, and I was one of the few public school teachers who invited him to speak. That made my day.

Having been raised Catholic, attending St. Gregory’s Catholic School in Balcones Heights and scheduled to attend Central Catholic in 1960, I shared with him that I was crushed that we moved to Massachusetts two weeks before school started, and I missed the opportunity to attend what was and still is a great school in San Antonio.

He laughed and told me that it appeared I turned out all right after all. That was good to hear from the archbishop of San Antonio during our short respite in the Dallas airport.

As I have written in previous columns about my disappointment on moving and not attending Central Catholic High School and being a classmate of former Mayor Henry Cisneros and radio personality Sonny Melendrez, to this day I take heart that the archbishop was very encouraging to me.

The archbishop was also very kind to my students by sharing part of his life experiences with us. After that encounter in Dallas, I did speak with him again on occasion over the years in San Antonio. Sadly, I haven’t spoken with him since he retired some years ago. Like everyone else who personally knew him, I will miss him greatly. Adios Archbishop Flores. Rest in peace.

And as always, what I write is “Just a Thought.”

Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran and former Justice of the Peace and Journalist.