Prelate of Opus Dei Visits WA

On an unseasonably cool and cloud-covered Tuesday morning in late July, the Prelate of Opus Dei, Fernando Ocariz, visited Western Academy. For those that are not aware, Opus Dei is the Catholic institution which oversees the religious instruction and activity in our school.  Many faculty members and their spouses, school staff, and board members and their families came to greet Monsignor Ocariz who was making a pastoral trip to the United States and Canada for the first time in over a decade. The prelate’s visit was originally planned to last 30 minutes but he was so interested in Western Academy that he stayed for almost an hour!

The prelate was first met by the Mr. Hebert, Mr. Hoff, and Mr. Carroll (with “Aly” the yellow labrador dog comically circling round) and stopped for a short visit to the Blessed Sacrament in the school chapel.  He then made his way to the Great Oak for brief welcome from Mr. Hebert and an explanation of the importance the “Sorting Tree”.  Mr. Hebert then led the prelate up the driveway towards the third-grade classrooms where they popped in on a group of young “Bug Camp” campers busily mounting the dead insects they had caught that morning. Msgr. Ocariz seemed to take a special interest in the detailed work of the boys and enjoyed their enthusiastic and knowledgeable descriptions of their bugs. Upon exiting Mr. Melendez’ bug den, they moved down the boardwalk towards the 4th grade classrooms. Soon they encountered the newly renovated duck pond, with students Matthew Hebert (entering 4th) and Joseph Owens (entering 6th) feeding the ducks on cue for the prelate’s arrival.

Once inside Mr. Kolf’s 4th grade classroom, the prelate was treated to Joseph Owens feeding frozen white mice to the rat snake and big snapping turtle.  The prelate commented that he never knew turtles were carnivorous!  They headed back to the main part of campus for the next stop in Mr. Saylor’s 6th grade classroom. Here, Benedict Saylor recited Patrick Henry’s “The Inevitable War” speech, famously ending in “Give me liberty, or give me death!” We all applauded Benedict’s excellent delivery, and the prelate was very impressed with how much he had memorized!

Moving back to the Great Oak, Mr. Hebert explained the meaning of the houses at Western and “listened to the sorting tree” to see which house the prelate should be sorted into.  This was all in good fun, and unsurprisingly the prelate was presented with his membership card for Mr. Hebert’s own House of the Raven! The faculty choir sang a heartfelt rendition of the Irish Blessing, “May the road rise to meet you…”, and the prelate continued greeting families, several with babes and in arms, like the McManus, D’Andrea, and Henderson families. Everyone received a rosary that was blessed by the prelate, and the kids got little bags of candy. 

At the end of the visit, the prelate blessed all the families of Western and the school itself, promising that he would keep us all in his prayers.  As he made his way to the car, he was met with the graceful strains of CJ Carroll’s (Old Boy ’15) bagpipes, playing Amazing Grace and dressed in full Scottish kilt regalia.  The prelate’s next scheduled stop was a visit with leaders and families of the Magnolia School for girls just down the road.  Magnolia will open for the first time this coming school year!

It was truly a special occasion to have this visit from Msgr. Fernando Ocariz, the first-ever visit of a prelate of Opus Dei to our school!  And the cool weather in the middle of the summer in Houston could only be described as miraculous!  What a blessing for the entire Western community!

Adam Thompson