A Roman Catholic Franciscan priest, who specializes in community development programs, has been installed as minister of outreach for three Lutheran churches here with a mandate to foster social service ministries in the local neighborhoods.
The Rev. Roberto Flores, O.F.M., a member of the Santa Barbara province of the Franciscan order based in Oakland, Calif., moved to Houston in July to begin coordinating social ministries in racially changing areas served by three parishes affiliated with the American Lutheran Church.
Representatives of Roman Catholic Bishop John Morkovsky of Galveston-Houston and American Lutheran Bishop Vernon Mohr of Austin, Tex., attended Father Flores' installation at Zion Church.
The service, not a regular worship service, was conducted by the pastors of the three Lutheran churches.
Father Florese, 42, who previously was coordinator of the Spanish-speaking Unity Council in Oakland, said 'it was made clear when I was hired that I was not to go out and evangelize for Lutherans." While he is not assigned to any Catholic parish, he has been asked by the diocesan chancellor to celebrate mass on Sundays as a substitute priest.
Father Flores said he will spend his first months in Houston surveying the communities, meeting people and developing ideas about what direction his new ministry should take. This fall, he will assess his findings with his Lutheran contemporaries and decide what tasks to undertake.
The three Lutheran churches decided two years ago to band together and provide needed social service ministries in their neighborhoods. They say they created the joint ministry to "meet the people of the community where they are, to foster greater contact between the congregations and communities, to enlarge their congregations' vision of mission."
Father Flores, whose appointment was approved by his provincial, the Rev. John Vaugh, O.F.M., Bishop Morkovsky, and Bishop Mohr, said he feels his work in Houston will enhance Catholic-Lutheran relationships and help bring grass-roots Catholics and Lutherans closer together.