Father Luis Urriza asked to leave Diocese of Beaumont after 75 years of service

Urriza, who’s originally from Spain, came to Beaumont in the 1940s and literally built Cristo Rey Catholic Church from the ground.

BEAUMONT, Texas — For over 75 years, Father Luis Urriza has served the Cristo Rey Catholic Church community in Beaumont, but his time within the Diocese of Beaumont may be coming to an end soon. 

The news of Urriza’s impending leave caught both him and his parishioners off guard.

Urriza said Bishop David Toups told him on Sunday that he has to leave the Parish he helped found by October 16.

Urriza, who’s originally from Spain, came to Beaumont in the 1940s and literally built Cristo Rey Catholic Church from the ground.

Some of those in the Hispanic Catholic community said he united the group at the time when they were divided.

Urriza celebrated his 100th birthday with a celebratory mass in August.

“Father Luis belongs to the Augustinians. His province is in Spain, and Bishop received a statement from his provincial that says that Father Luis needs to go back with his community,” said Jesus Abrego, co-director for the multicultural ministry office with the Catholic Diocese of Beaumont.

Urriza started his formation with the Augustinians in Spain. It’s a religious order that he has remained obedient to despite working for the Diocese of Beaumont.

The Diocese said they have no control over the order from the Augustinians but are grateful the religious order let Urriza stay in Beaumont for all these years.

The diocese tells 12News the move is equally as heartbreaking for them as it is for his parishioners.

Urriza said it’s a hard pill to swallow, but he loves his church members and will always remember them, even once he returns to Spain.

“I’m sorry I have to leave. Really, I don’t like it, but I have to accept it,” Urriza said.

Urriza said he understands his parishioners in the Cristo Rey Catholic Church community are upset with the news.

He too said he was blindsided when he sat down to visit with Bishop David Toups Sunday.

“I was to talk to the Bishop about something else and when I went into his office he begin to say ‘You have to retire because you are already 100 years,'” Urriza said.

So how did Toups come to this decision? If you ask the diocese, he really didn’t have much of a choice.

According to Abrego, the Augustinian order in Spain, which Urriza belongs to, contacted the Bishop and requested Urriza be sent back there.

“We definitely were surprised,” Abrego said. “And we’re so grateful to the Augustinians as well because they had allowed him to stay all these years, working past retirement age.”

Abrego said there are certain rules that limit Toups from keeping Urriza in the diocese.

“It’s up to the provincial,” Abrego said. “It’s not up to the Bishop when it’s religious priests. When it’s diocesan priests it’s a different story.”

This still doesn’t ease the pain many parishioners like Jacqueline Hernandez are feeling following the news.

Hernandez said many parishioners understand the reasoning but aren’t happy with how sudden the decision came, how soon he’ll leave, and how it was shared with them.

“It kind of hurts our feelings,” Hernandez said. “It really does because he is a figure in so many people’s lives that he is family to us. He spends more time with us than he has with his own family.”

One parishioner said some Cristo Rey parishioners met Tuesday night at the church considering this news. Hernandez said they planned a march to protest the move soon.

Written by James Grant (12NewsNow), KBMT (12NewsNow)

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