You’ll never believe what I said to my husband (then-boyfriend) when I first laid eyes on Fr. Mike Sis, now Bishop-Elect for the Diocese of San Angelo.
Back in 1992, when I was a brand-new baby “fish” at Texas A&M, I met a cute boy named Scott with blue eyes; he just happened to be Catholic. After dating a few months, I would join him occasionally at Mass. One afternoon, we ventured to Northgate for an infamous Freebirds burrito. Just as we sat down to eat, I noticed a man in black, with a sweater vest on, out of the corner of my eye. He was smiling and shaking everyone’s hand.
Then I saw it. He had a white collar on. That has to be a priest, I thought.
I whispered to Scott: “They make priests that young?”
And then Fr. Mike ordered a burrito.
I whispered again, “They let him out of the church?”
People, these are things converts say. I had never – in my life – met a priest or seen one in person. This was all so new and foreign and fascinating to me.
Fast forward three years and Scott and I found ourselves sitting in Fr. Mike’s office. We had just taken our FOCUS test, a pre-marriage questionnaire the church uses to assess potential areas of challenge for an engaged couple.
“This looks great, you two. There’s really just one area I want to focus upon. It was your answer to this question,” Fr. Mike said. “Children will change our lives.”
Scott answered “strongly disagree.” I, the opposite, “strongly agree.”
Fr. Mike just ended the conversation with, “That may be something you want to discuss and pray about” and gave us his infamous wink.
Truer words have never been spoken.
Fast forward even further and Scott has spent nearly a decade working at the Diocese of Austin in fundraising. Much of that time has been spent alongside Fr. Mike – in meetings, making Aggie jokes and sporting the ‘gig ’em’ sign. Fr. Mike has provided us with wise counsel, held our hands in the hospital while we prayed for our beloved Luke, dined at table in our home, taught our children that Mary really was an Aggie and shown us all that good and holy priests exist.
They even order burritos at Freebirds.
Some say it is Austin’s loss. Perhaps. But I also believe that men that holy, that humble, that focused on Christ cannot (and should not) be kept in one place. They have so much to share with the world. And so it is with Fr. Mike. If he had stayed in Aggieland, what would’ve been of all those men he encouraged to join the priesthood as vocations director? If he had stayed as vocations director, how could he have touched the lives of parishioners at St. Thomas More parish? And, if he had stayed a parish priest, how could he have led the diocese as Vicar General?
The direct route of his path is unknown, as is all of ours, but each stop in the journey affords us the opportunity to show the love of God. Fr. Mike has done that ten-fold and will continue to serve the Church. Rather than be sad (even though there’s a part of me that certainly is), I’m choosing to rejoice for San Angelo. Great things are in store. And, as Fr. Mike reminded us recently: “Aggies are doers.” Buckle up West Texas, y’all have a doer headed your way.
Gig’ em Bishop Sis. You are so loved at the Whitaker house. See you on January 27!