The priest who led TCU Catholic Community for 30 years isn’t being reassigned within the Fort Worth diocese because he was “on long-term loan” from the Steubenville, Ohio, diocese, a Fort Worth diocese official said.
The Rev. Karl Schilken, the vicar general of the Fort Worth diocese, explained Fr. Charles Calabrese’s status in an email sent to a member of the TCU Catholic community who was upset about the decision to move Calabrese.
“He has never been a priest of the Diocese of Fort Worth,” Schilken wrote to Kym Roberts, of Azle, whose family has been attending Mass at TCU for several years.
Roberts described her reaction to Calabrese’s move as “so upset I can hardly stand it.”
Officials with the diocese had said they would have a formal statement for TCU 360 about Bishop Michael Olson’s decision on Monday, but as of Thursday morning no statement had been received.
A representative from Schilken’s office said that the vicar general could not comment on the content of the email sent to Roberts.
Calabrese announced on April 12 that he would be leaving TCU at the end of the spring semester.
“The Bishop said it’s time for a change at TCU,” Calabrese wrote in a statement shared with Catholic Community. “He has a different vision for this ministry.”
Reaction from the community
The news of Calabrese’s departure created a mix of emotions in Catholic Community.
“I was not expecting it at all — it kind of struck me,” said Brad Horn, a junior religion major and co-president of Catholic Community. “It threw us for a curveball. It’s very hard to think where we’ll be next year.”
“I’d imagine that some people are angry, some people are very hurt and then some are just completely fearful that they don’t know what’s going to happen.”
“Father Charlie was the rock in which Christ built the Catholic Community,” said Jordan Rubio, a TCU alumnus. “I find it very odd that he’s one year away from retirement, now all of the sudden they ask to make a change.”
Rubio said Calabrese is a TCU institution, much like Chancellor Victor Boschini and Gary Patterson, TCU’s head football coach.
In her email inviting the campus to a farewell reception for Calabrese, campus minister Rev. Angela Kaufman wrote that Calabrese has served “multiple generations of students, faculty, staff and alumni across campus.”
Possible reasons for the move
Marlon De La Torre, the director of Catechesis for the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, said last week that it’s common for priests to be moved.
“It’s pretty general and pretty standard,” De La Torre said. “Typically, how the Church views those and how they’re deemed is basically, it’s an assignment that a priest is given to continue the good work of the Church.”
But in his response to Roberts, Schilken wrote that Calabrese would be “expected to take another assignment in his own diocese.”
Roberts said she thinks the bishop is trying to push the families from outside of TCU back to parishes.
“He wants TCU Catholic Community to be for students only,” Roberts said. “The bishop has told Father Charlie that he is taking families away from the local parishes.”
Schilken wrote to Roberts that he hopes “this could be an opportunity for [Roberts] to reconnect with St. Andrew Parish.”
The loss of the non-student members of Catholic Community to local parishes could have a financial impact on the community.
“I think the next couple of years are going to be very interesting in terms of adult congregation,” said Jake Harris, a TCU alumnus. “A lot of the funding for a lot of the retreats we go to came from those adults.”
Non-student members have also said that without Calabrese the community he built could change.
“Losing the community as a whole, there’s such a bonding with students and those non-student members,” one non-student member said. “That’s just going to be a loss, a very big loss for the students as well as the adults.”