Both of my parents were Irish Catholics from the North and my mother grew up in Manhattan. She often told me that she did not know there was anybody out there who wasn’t either Irish or Jewish. However, when she came to Texas she found out differently. In the period of time in the early ‘20’s, and that was the heyday of the Ku Klux Klan, my parents lived in Waco and my mother described it as a terrible experience in terms of anti-Catholicism and bigotry in general.
The situation in Waco continued and would be unchanged until a young priest from Ireland came to that city in 1953. He encountered the same resistance and hostility that my parents did but he tackled it head on. I am talking about Monsignor Mark Deering, the retired pastor of St. Louis Catholic Church, who last month celebrated his 90th birthday. Monsignor Deering made breaking through that prejudice and hostility the goal of his life and he succeeded extraordinarily well.
“He is, in my memory, one of the shining stars of the religious community of Waco. Just outstanding!” said Rabbi Mordecai Podet, who himself is approaching his 90th birthday having retired from Temple Rodef Sholom. Those two men worked together for many years to change the mentality and have done us a great favor. Waco is a better city because of them.
Happy birthday to both of them.