|Deacon Gary Picou holds up the Book of the Gospels during the Liturgy of the Word at a May 10 Mass at Holy Family Parish in Fort Worth where he has been serving. Dcn. Picou will be ordained to the priesthood at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 24 at St. Patrick Cathedral.|
Deacon Gary Picou is the eldest of Gary and Cathy Picou’s four offspring; as a young child growing up in Houston, he had a dream.
“I wanted to be an astronaut.”
“That was my goal,” he said, explaining at that time, the only way to the astronaut program was through the military. So, as he approached college age, “I looked toward going to an engineering school with an ROTC scholarship.”
However, when the young man took the physical, he learned he was color blind.
“My dream of being an astronaut kind of died,” said Dcn. Picou, soon to be ordained a priest for the Diocese of Fort Worth. But in one of many references to the mystery of God, the deacon noted the color blindness may have been one of ways God works, and a demonstration of his sense of humor and providence.
“Now I joke about it. People ask, ‘Why do you want to be a priest?’ and I answer, ‘Because I’m color blind and black goes with everything.’”
Dcn. Picou’s first “flash” toward the priesthood was during his sophomore year at the University of Houston, where he studied mechanical engineering. He spoke about the calling to his dad, who steered him to their parish priest, with whom young Gary conversed for a couple of years. Toward the end of that, “I felt I was ready to go into the seminary.” But with one more year of college, his dad encouraged him to finish the degree because, as parents are wont to acknowledge, “…you’ll have something to fall back on.”
After college, Picou applied to the Diocese of Galveston-Houston, was accepted, and began pre-theology at the University of Dallas. “My first two years were good, and I enjoyed the fraternity I found there.” But when he began his theology studies, in Houston, he said, “I began to ask the question ‘what is this really about?’ I realized, ‘I don’t know what it means to be a priest.’ I began thinking, ‘I don’t know if I’m ready for this.’”
“During my Clinical Pastoral Education, where we work in the hospital, my supervisor said, ‘If this is the path you choose to go, you’ll be a great priest.’ But he added, ‘If you are going to be an outstanding priest, you need to find your own voice, your own power.’”
That was August of 1997, when Picou decided to “take some time and think about it.” He got his first engineering job, purchased a Firebird T-top, a car he says he “still dreams about,” and began the process of finding his voice, his power, and what he was capable of doing.
He also set out to discover “what it means to be a priest.”
|Dcn. Picou preaches a homily at Holy Family Parish May 10.|
Thirteen years later, in August of 2010 he returned to the seminary at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C.
The intervening years were full. His work in engineering was successful; he was continually promoted upward, and his personal life became focused on his parish, St. Michael Parish in Bedford, where he interacted with the likes of Fathers Mel Bessellieu, David Bristow, and Jeff Poirot, Monsignor Phil Johnson, then-Father (now Monsignor) James Hart, and then-Father, now Bishop Steven Berg of Pueblo, Colorado.
“It was through involvement in active ministry with young adults that I began to understand the theology I learned in seminary,” Dcn. Picou said. “They throw so much at you, especially as a pre-theologian. Later, when I was working with confirmation and teaching, I started seeing the connections. So by being a teacher I began to understand what our faith was.
“I also taught adult Bible study. In the past when I had Scripture study, it was an academic subject; but when I was helping facilitate the Bible study program, it really came alive, it became THE living Word of God.
“Looking back I could see these little steps. In seminary, I was moving too fast to learn this stuff. So God decided to take an alternate route, unbeknownst to me, and was teaching me these little lessons.”
Other things happened to carry the future priest to the place where he belonged. While working with the parish’s student evangelizers and leaders, Picou was approached by Sam Maul, now a seminarian, who said, “I know you were in seminary and I’m thinking about it. Can we talk?”
“By him asking the questions,” Dcn. Picou said, “it allowed me the opportunity to look at my experiences and life as an adult, rather than with a young adult/adolescent mentality.”
Another college student, Rachel Para, had a class assignment to write a thank you letter to the most influential person in her life besides a family member. She wrote it to Gary Picou and mailed it to him.
“When I read it, I thought, ‘Okay, this isn’t something reflecting the past, this is something I am becoming. It was about everything a pastor does -- leading others in how to pray, greater devotion in the Mass, and a desire for God.’ And I thought, ‘Okay I need to look at this seriously again.’
“When I left the seminary, I’d had no idea what it meant to be a priest. It was something you put on with the collar on, and when you took it off, what were you?”
But what he learned through those 13 years, Dcn. Gary said, was “To be that good shepherd, to be that priest, comes from how you love, and that’s the only source. It’s unique to each man. So, to be a priest is about just being who I am. It’s nothing I can put on.
“It goes back to Jeremiah: ‘I knew you in the womb, I called you, I formed you.’ That’s all it is.”
He returned to the seminary after growing in his relationships with God’s people, significantly at St. Michael Parish. Later he served a pastoral year at St. Joseph Parish in Arlington. As a deacon, he served at Holy Family Parish, under the tutelage of Holy Family pastor Fr. Jeff Poirot.
“Those years helped me understand ‘What is the ministerial priesthood?’ Service, yes. But I also found I can, in fact, love ALL the people of God.
“And it is my calling to be there for them.”
Two priests’ lives converged May 24 at St. Patrick Cathedral, when, from differing backgrounds and histories, they lay prostrate in front of the same altar, knelt and promised fealty to the same bishop, and received the same sacrament.
Reverence and humility show in his eyes, smile, and carefully-worded homilies. Deacon Raul Martinez Lopez worries about his vocabulary and presentation, but to the assembly he delivers his thoughts clearly, even in his new, second language. Dcn. Martinez, whom Bishop Michael Olson will ordain to the priesthood at St. Patrick Cathedral 10 a.m., Saturday, May 24, assisted at Holy Family Parish’s noon Mothers’ Day Mass May 11.
A deacon’s call to teach the faith and serve the community is a vocation — a seed placed by God in the heart of a man. But the family is where that seed is nourished and cultivated. Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Dallas, offered words of praise to the parents of Raul Martinez Lopez and Gary Picou, Jr., before addressing the men he was about to ordain to the transitional diaconate Sept. 14 in St. Michael Church in Bedford.
As a young child growing up in Houston, Deacon Gary Picou had a dream. “I wanted to be an astronaut. That was my goal,” he said. However, when the young man took the physical, he learned he was color blind. “My dream of being an astronaut kind of died,” said Dcn. Picou, soon to be ordained a priest for the Diocese of Fort Worth. But in one of many references to the mystery of God, the deacon noted the color blindness may have been one of ways God works, and a demonstration of his sense of humor and providence.