Father Garcia is new vicar general of the diocese
By Amy Moraczewski
On March 3, Father Danny Garcia took office as the vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Diocese of Austin. Prior to this post, he served for 19 years as the pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Austin.
A tight-knit Catholic family shaped Father Garcia into the man he is today. His parents formed the foundation for their son and three daughters, a foundation that was reinforced by their grandparents next door and the community of Blessed Sacrament Parish, only a few blocks from their home.
Raised in the small town of Cameron, about 75 miles northeast of Austin, life was primarily composed of the four aspects that define many small towns: church, family, school and athletics. Many days after school were spent at the Cameron Ice Plant, where his paternal grandfather, also named Daniel, worked. To distinguish the three generations of Garcia men, his grandfather was known as “Daniel,” his father as “Dan,” and the youngest as “Danny,” a name that has stuck throughout his life.
Although he played many sports as a child, from the time he joined the city league at the age of 6, Father Garcia discovered an unparalleled love for baseball. He excelled on the diamond, both on the pitcher’s mound and as a shortstop, throughout high school. When he was not playing baseball, he enjoyed watching one of his favorite professional teams, the Chicago Cubs, a passion that prepared him for his vocation that often involves sharing in the pain of loss.
When a devastating electrical fire destroyed Blessed Sacrament Parish during his ninth grade year, Father Garcia’s family began attending St. Monica Parish. The pastor, Msgr. Louis Pavlicek, often encouraged the young Garcia boy to consider the priesthood through attending the Explore summer program at St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston, which exposes teenage boys to seminary life.
“But I always resisted because I felt that the goal of Explore was for one sole reason: that is to go to be a priest (and that was the last thing I ever wanted to do). I knew it was an option, but I never wanted to look at that possibility,” Father Garcia said.
It was not until two years after high school, while preparing to transfer to Texas A&M University to pursue his dream of becoming a medical doctor that Father Garcia began to consider the possibility of becoming a priest. While discerning, he decided to postpone school and instead worked in his hometown for another two years before ultimately entering the seminary.
“Even after I said yes, I went to the seminary more to convince myself I shouldn’t be there. I told my family I was going to discern whether or not God wants me to be a priest. I went to the seminary in 1982 at age 22. Each year I kept saying ‘I’ll give it a try.’ And every year it was a positive year. I began to find out that the call God was giving me was being affirmed by my experience,” Father Garcia said. He was ordained by Bishop John McCarthy in May 1988.
A few years after ordination, Father Garcia met a couple of “Winter Texans” from Michigan who would eventually become almost like “second parents.” They invited the young associate pastor from St. Louis Parish in Austin to visit them the following summer at their home on the Upper Peninsula in Michigan, and for the last 22 years, he has traveled north each summer to enjoy the peacefulness and serenity.
“I think one of the most important things for a priest is to not be uncomfortable being around families. Not being married, having my own wife or kids, I just love to be with families,” Father Garcia said.
During his 19 years as pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Austin, he has been welcomed into the homes of numerous families and individuals to share many precious moments of life. He has also worked hard to maintain his relationship with his own family back home. He often drives back to Cameron to visit his father on his days off. Over the course of his mother’s 11 year battle with leukemia, a battle she ultimately lost last year, he would accompany her to appointments at MD Anderson in Houston.
“My mother was always the strength of our family. Just as any family, we’ve had our struggles, and I’ve always admired how my mother was able to weather the storms of life and relied on her faith to not lose hope,” he said.
In his time as a priest, Father Garcia said the most meaningful moments have been when he can “accompany a person and their family in the last moments of life.” While these moments may become less frequent as he takes on many of the administrative responsibilities involved in his new role, a well-respected retired priest in the diocese recently suggested he bring to his new job the “pastoral care of a shepherd.”
Reflecting on this, Father Garcia said, “It’s my hope that I bring to the role of vicar general and moderator of the curia my pastoral sensitivity in listening to my brother priests, religious and deacons, and the people of God. My life as a priest has been very rich. I’ve had some wonderful experiences at every parish I’ve been at, challenging but very life giving. The people of God have helped me to be the priest I am. I hope that my experience at every parish collectively serves me in the position I’m about to take.”
As vicar general, he serves as the principal deputy to Bishop Vásquez, exercising the bishop’s ordinary executive power over the entire diocese. Thus he is the highest official in the diocese after the bishop. As moderator of the curia, Father Garcia coordinates administrative duties and oversees those who hold office in diocesan administration.
“The Diocese of Austin is blessed to welcome Father Garcia,” Bishop Vásquez said. “I look forward to working closely with him in the years to come.”