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Deacon Cayetano "Sandy" Morales serves the People of God at Holy Family Church in New Braunfels, Texas.My name is Deacon Cayetano (Sandy) Morales. I was born January 29, 1939 in New Braunfels, Texas to Librado Morales and Refugia Treviño Morales, into a family of seven sisters and five brothers. I was raised in a very caring and compassionate family, and my mom taught us the Rosary, which we prayed every day. My education began in the parish school at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, where I learned my prayers in Spanish from a religious sister who lived on the parish campus.

On March 24, 1958, just out of high school, I married my sweetheart, Tomasa (Tommie) Hernandez. We had two children, Larry Lee and Elizabeth Linda. My son works at the Pentagon. My daughter got married out of high school and gave us four grandchildren: Elaina, Tania, Ralph Jr., and Laura.

When my children moved out of the house, my wife and I had the opportunity to attend church more frequently. I met a priest of the Missionaries of the Holy Family, the late Father Joe Lawless, and he inspired me by his compassion. Another priest, Father Joe Audet, asked me if I would like to help teach Sunday religious education classes. I was reluctant because I always played golf on Sundays, but I agreed to do so.

I began by filling in for a teacher who taught high school students. The assignment was just for one Sunday, but the regular teacher did not show up for the following three Sundays.

Guess what? I got "stuck" teaching the class all the time! 

I continued teaching the class for the next three years. I felt that teaching the class also helped me to learn more about the life of Jesus Christ, so I eventually began to enjoy the experience. When the coordinator of religious education quit, Father Audet asked me to fill in until he could find a new coordinator, and I agreed to do so.

Guess what? After one year passed, Father Audet named me as the new coordinator!

Later, I became a lector and I helped Father Lawless at our mission church in Hunter, Texas as a Eucharistic Minister. After one year of doing this, Father Audet invited me into his office, and he looked very serious. He told me that I should join the diaconate program at the Archdiocese of San Antonio.

I answered, “Oh, no; I don’t think so! I like to party when I play golf, and I don’t want to give that up!”

I resisted for two years, and then my wife told me that it would be a good idea if I went to find out what the diaconate program is all about. I agreed, but I told her, “It’s no use. They do not want sinners like me! But, to prove to you that they will not choose me, I will go, but only if you go with me.”

We went to the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio where the interviews were held in front of a panel of four deacons and one priest. They asked a lot of personal questions, and we answered to the best of our knowledge. After an hour, we were dismissed. On the way home, I told my wife, “I bet they are not going to choose me because I am a sinner. They want good Christian people.”

Guess what? A few weeks passed, and I received a letter stating that I was accepted into the diaconate program! I said to my wife, “Oh, no; what did I get myself into!”

My wife and I went to classes for four and a half years. Six months was on the job training, including many retreats, Marriage Encounter, Cursillo, jail ministry, and convalescence home visits. I was ordain at St. Matthew Catholic Church in San Antonio by Bishop Bernard Popp. I was assigned to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church on August 10, 1986 by Archbishop Patrick Flores. The following week, I had the honor of performing a wedding for my niece who waited for me to finish my classes. While at this parish, my wife and I joined the Guadalupana Society and the Altar Society. I was also a member of the Holy Name Society, and I have been in the Knights of Columbus for over 20 years.

When Father John Flanagan was the pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, he invited my wife and me to Cuatro Ciénegas, Mexico to do missionary work. We went for 12 days, and I had a great spiritual awakening by working with the humble, Mexican people. From the Cathedral where we were staying, we would travel 10 to 15 miles to small missions and pray with the people of the Indian villages who would only see a priest once every three months.

When we arrived at the villages, the people would drop whatever they were doing when Father Flanagan rang the chapel bells. One day alone we did several baptisms and one First Holy Communion. The families would invite us to eat with them in their adobe homes with dirt floors, but the homes were kept very clean. Father Flanagan told us not to eat too much at any one home because we would usually visit two or three homes a day. If we did not eat what they offered, even if we were not hungry, they would be offended.

One year after being ordained a deacon, I was honored to be asked to be a Eucharistic Minister at Mass with Pope Saint John Paul II when he came to San Antonio, Texas on September 13, 1987. It sent chills through my body because he was my inspiration! We were told to seat right in front of the Popemobile, about five feet away. There were thousands of people at this Mass on a very warm day, and it took us a long time to distribute Communion. It was a blessed experience.

In June 2014, I went on vacation to Rome. I was ecstatic because, when we arrived at Saint Peter’s Basilica, I was asked to serve Mass inside one of the chapels. It was an amazing experience, and I thanked God for letting me be His servant. We also went to see Pope Francis. We were very lucky because we were standing in front by the barriers when he passed by in his Popemobile. He stopped a few feet in front of us and gave us his blessing. It was awesome!

I served as a deacon at our Lady of Perpetual Help Church for 23 years, and then I was assigned to Holy Family Parish, also in New Braunfels, on March 6, 2009. I have completed 29 years as a servant of the Lord. My wife passed away on June 21, 2009 at the age of 70. We were married for 51 years. She was a very caring wife and mother, and I loved her very much.

In addition to my life as a deacon, I was a personnel director and employee relations director for WestPoint Pepperell, Inc. and a sheriff deputy. I also served 21 years in the Army Reserves and retired with the rank of Sergeant First Class. These are just some of the many activities in my life. Looking back, after first becoming a permanent deacon, I was filled with the Holy Spirit and I wanted to change the world.

Guess what? As it turned out, I was the one who was changed! The call to the diaconate changed my life. I gave up my old sinful ways to become a better person. I am grateful to Jesus Christ, My Savior, for calling me to be His servant. I will continue to serve Him until he calls me home. God love you! +JMJ+

[This article was written by Deacon Sandy Morales at Holy Family Church in New Braunfels, Texas.]

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