Six Priests of Beaumont Diocese Died this Year, Leaving Strain on Clergy

Bishop David Toups, who has led the diocese since June 2020, said that the diocese will be forced to reshuffle some of the parishes to make up for the decline in the number of priests.

Saint Anthony Cathedral Basilica in Beaumont, Texas.
Saint Anthony Cathedral Basilica in Beaumont, Texas. (photo: Courtesy photo / Crichardson1776 via Wikimedia (CC BY 3.0))

Six priests from the Diocese of Beaumont died this year, including three who were in active ministry at the time of their death. The diocese is hoping to increase the number of vocations as well as to bring in priests from other dioceses to help ease the strain on the clergy.

“With the loss of 6 priests, it‘s been very difficult. And they happened so close together, it’s really kind of unbelievable and I haven't quite had time to process it,” said Father Shane Baxter, Rector of Saint Anthony Cathedral Basilica, to Beaumont’s 12 News Now. 

Father Delphyn Meeks, 80, was the first Beaumont priest to die in 2021. He died Feb. 11. In August, the diocese lost three priests: Msgr. William “Bill” Manger, 87; Msgr. Ken Grieg, 80; and Msgr. James Vanderholt, 88. Msgr. Manger died on the 2nd, followed by Msgr. Grieg on the 8th, and Msgr. Vanderholt on the 11th. 

Causes of death were not given for Father Meeks, Msgr. Manger, Msgr. Grieg, or Msgr. Vanderholt, but obituaries did note that Msgr. Manger, Msgr. Grieg, and Msgr. Vanderholt had recently begun hospice care. 

Msgr. Manger was the pastor of St. Anne in Beaumont at the time of his death. Father Meeks, Msgr. Grieg, and Msgr. Vanderholt were retired from active ministry. Msgr. Grieg was the first priest to be ordained in the Diocese of Beaumont following its establishment in 1966. 

In November, Father Duc Duong died on the sixth at the age of 63 as a result of Covid-19. Three weeks later, on Nov. 22, Father Luong Tran died at 63 following a medical emergency. 

Father Duong was the parochial vicar of Infant Jesus Catholic Church in Lumberton and at St. Mark the Evangelist in Silsbee at the time of his death. Father Tran was serving as pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows in China and as the judicial vicar of the diocese when he died. 

The Diocese of Beaumont has 48 parishes, and many priests are assigned to multiple parishes.

“We have so many parishes and only so many priests, so we’re doing our best to take care of all the spiritual needs of our people,” said Father Baxter. "We have faith that they‘ve gone to a better place, but we’d really like them here. That part of me would like them here and miss them.” 

Bishop David Toups, who has led the diocese since June 2020, said that the diocese will be forced to reshuffle some of the parishes to make up for the decline in the number of priests.  

"Our priests are so generous with themselves, it's obviously our vocation, our call from God is to give ourselves to our parish communities,” Bishop Toups told 12 News Now. 

In spite of the sadness, Bishop Toups believes his diocese has the potential for a bright future. 

"The good news is long term, we're working very hard throughout the Catholic diocese to recruit, to encourage, young men thinking about priesthood,” said Bishop Toups. 

He is encouraging his flock to “pray for vocations, support the wonderful priests that we do have, and to be understanding of this time, which is challenging.”

Ivan Aivazovsky, “Walking on Water,” ca. 1890

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