By Christine Young Intermountain Catholic
SANDY — Msgr. Robert Servatius celebrated the retirement Mass in his honor June 26, as he prepares to step down from full-time ministry at Blessed Sacrament Parish and School, where he has been pastor for 30 years.
His retirement will be effective July 1.
Msgr. Servatius welcomed the more than 600 past and present parishioners, family and friends who attended to wish him well. “A lot of time and love was put in to preparing for this day,” he said in his opening remarks.
In a more solemn tone than that for which he is usually known, Msgr. Servatius spoke during his homily of closing his priestly ministry of 52 years. There are two priesthoods, he said: the ordained, “those called by God,” and the priesthood of the people, those who share in the Gospel, “the instruments of God.”
“God did not create some kind of special human beings for the priesthood, he chose people like myself to carry out this ministry. We have challenges, temptations, and we must also repent of our sins,” Msgr. Servatius said. “I thank you for your support, love and care for my priesthood; I can only carry it out by the grace of God. I am grateful for my priesthood.”
Msgr. Colin F. Bircumshaw, diocesan administrator, said during the reception that followed the Mass that Msgr. Servatius is “truly a priest’s priest, and a pastor to the people. Msgr. Servatius has been the ‘good and faithful servant’ of the Gospel these many years, willing always to take whatever assignment the bishop has asked him to assume. A significant note of his long career of ministry is that he and his father both served as editors of the Intermountain Catholic and worked together. But, his greatest legacy will always be his long and beloved tenure as pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church and school.”
During the celebration, the parish’s Knights of Columbus Council presented Msgr. Servatius with a 4th degree regalia silver sword and named him “chaplain emeritus.”
John and Shelly Valdez, Blessed Sacrament youth ministry leaders, thanked Msgr. Servatius for his support and mentoring for 25 years and his “amazing devotion to the youth,” said Shelly Valdez. “He went to World Youth Day in Denver in 1993, and on nine National Catholic Youth Conference trips, where he encountered 25,000 youth and 14-hour long days.”
John Valdez added that the success of the youth group is because “Msgr. Servatius has always had our backs. We appreciate everything you’ve done for us, Msgr. Servatius.”
The parish has created an area of remembrance where a maple tree will be planted to thank the pastor for shepherding them. “He has provided leadership, love, care and compassion to the people of our parish,” said Todd Brown on behalf of the parish and parish council.
Kim Matus of the Blessed Sacrament Council of Catholic Women thanked Msgr. Servatius for supporting the council for 30 years.
In retirement Msgr. Servatius will continue to serve as spiritual advisor to the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women; serving at the national level “was one of the highlights of my priesthood,” he said.
In an interview, Bobbie Hunt, past president of both the National and Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, said Msgr. Servatius had been a wonderful mentor to herself and the women of the NCCW executive committee.
“He is just a wonderful, blessed, spiritual man; it has been a blessing to know him and to be with him just to enjoy his company; he is a true steward of the Lord,” she said as her voice choked and her eyes filled with tears.
Fr. Langes Silva, judicial vicar and vice-chancellor of the Diocese of Salt Lake was a transitional deacon at Blessed Sacrament Parish in 1995; he also had praise for the older priest in an interview at the dinner. “Msgr. Servatius’ legacy in this diocese is that he is a great priest, a great friend and a great mentor,” he said.
Sharon Jackson, Blessed Sacrament pastoral associate, has worked with Msgr. Servatius for 16 years and is grateful for his “wisdom and dedication,” she said. “I’ve learned so much about liturgy and the Church; it’s been a pleasure.”
Bryan Penn, Blessed Sacrament School principal, said Msgr. Servatius will continue doing visiting the school for his regular Mondays with Monsignor.
“I am excited that he is willing because the kids love having him in the classroom and his presence in the school. He is the reason for the success of the school,” Penn said.
The school started out with very little, Msgr. Servatius said in an interview. “We didn’t have any furniture or a school; we held classes in the parish center while the first phase was being built. Now we have a full complex, with pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, a library, the learning resource center, a gymnasium/auditorium, and the science, music, art and Spanish departments.”
Of the many awards and community recognitions Msgr. Servatius received through the years, the most recent was in March when he was presented with the Jesus and the Children Award from Utah Catholic Schools.
“He has modeled for us the way to live this call of Jesus because he has welcomed children of every age in his 52 years of priesthood in the Diocese of Salt Lake City as teacher, administrator, editor, chaplain and pastor,” according to the award citation.
Msgr. Servatius taught for two years at Judge Memorial Catholic High School, his alma mater, on his first priestly assignment, then served in school administration from 1968 to 1975 at both Notre Dame School in Price (which has since been closed) and St. Joseph Catholic High School in Ogden.