Meet Father Morgan Rice, CSB
In preparation for his latest assignment as pastor of St. Basil’s Church, Father Morgan Rice, CSB opened his heart and mind to the new experiences that will come with taking on the administrative role associated with pastor in ministering to a different demographic. As with each appointment, he knew any preconceived notions would be proven wrong and his gifts would be used in unexpected ways.
“I have learned to see each appointment as a blessing and graciously do what’s asked,” he said.
After graduating from the University of Virginia in mechanical engineering, Morgan was eager to live and work in one of Texas’s big cities. Although he wanted to stay close to his family, he was also looking for the opportunities and independence that came with living in a big city. His parents, Stewart and Geraldine, lived in Corpus Christi, Texas, and when he started his job search he focused on positions available in Austin or San Antonio. When that didn’t pan out, he expanded his search to include Houston, where he received two job offers within a week.
It was in Houston at St. Anne’s Parish where he first met the Basilians including Father Thomas Mailloux, CSB. Their homilies that focused on a loving God really resonated with Morgan. The messages came at an important time in his life as he had quietly been contemplating a vocation to the priesthood.
When he saw the poster for a Basilian vocation retreat run by Father Jefferson Thompson, CSB, he signed up and was excited to finally have a definitive answer to this calling. At the retreat he was surrounded, for the first time, by other young people who were also discerning. “It was helpful because I didn’t feel alone with these thoughts,” he said.
Following the retreat he decided that he needed to further explore this calling. He considered both religious orders and the diocesan priesthood through come and see evenings. However, he felt he couldn’t discern seriously until he told his family. He planned a trip to Corpus Christi with the sole purpose of telling them. It was a stressful three and half hour drive as he rehearsed what he was going to say the whole time. When he finally worked up the nerve to tell them, their reaction was supportive and helpful. After that he told his brother and other close friends.
After careful consideration, he decided on joining the Basilian Fathers. “I felt comfortable with their work in the parishes and schools, and I determined that I needed the community life,” he said.
In 2002, he took the next step and completed an application to join the Basilian associate program and that summer he went on the associate retreat. He was in Toronto, Ontario during World Youth Day and introduced to Father Thomas Rosica, CSB, who served as the national director and chief executive officer. Father Rice found himself riding on buses with Cardinals and Bishops and attending the final outdoor mass. This was followed by the retreat held at Strawberry Island, where Pope John Paul II had just spent time.
Back in Houston, Morgan continued on as an associate and would visit the University of St. Thomas house on Sunday nights and took part in Morning Prayer with the members of the St. Anne’s house, while he awaited his first assignment. He was assigned to teach algebra and physics at Holy Redeemer, a Basilian school in the inner city of Detroit, Michigan. Although the teaching was a challenge he felt like he was making a difference and was well supported by the Basilian and greater community.
After his year of teaching in Detroit with fellow associate, Chris Valka, he eagerly awaited to learn where he would be assigned for the novitiate, hoping to go to somewhere foreign, possibly Mexico, like the most recent novices ahead of him. Instead, he and Chris were assigned close to home in Sugar Land, Texas with Father Vincent Dulock as director and Father Roy Oggero, CSB as assistant director. As an introvert, Morgan appreciated the time for quiet prayer, but he also enjoyed the intracommunity aspect. Every month they would travel to San Antonio to meet with novices from other religious orders to hear excellent speakers. They also traveled to Colombia and participated in a three week retreat with the Basilian novices from Latin America.
He professed his first vows in 2005 and as a scholastic he studied theology at the University of St. Michael’s College. He found his engineering degree surprisingly helpful as it allowed him to think logically, which helped with writing his theology and philosophy papers. However, the challenge would be to balance his studies with community life.
He was living in Frassati House with five other scholastics in what Father Rice described as, “a house of hospitality.” Father Rosica, who served as the director of scholastics at the time, would often host guests from out-of-town. “There was a lot of entertaining and chatting with whoever was visiting. We were always meeting interesting people,” said Father Rice.
On November 21, 2009, he was ordained at St. Pius X Parish in Corpus Christi, Texas. Having the ceremony take place in his home parish made the ceremony extra special. His first assignment was as Parochial Vicar at St. Kateri Parish in Rochester, New York, following a Basilian tradition to assign the newly ordained there due to the numerous pastoral opportunities to learn. “The parishioners have the mission of training the new Basilians,” he said. Initially, he thought he would be there for two to three years, but he stayed for eight. “Perhaps I needed to be there longer,” he joked.
During that time, Father Morgan built a strong support network. He benefited from a number of wonderful mentors who ministered in the parish including Fathers Paul English, CSB, Dennis Noelke, CSB, Norman Tanck, CSB, and Joe Trovato, CSB.
Father Rice also loved building a connection with the younger generation at the elementary school associated with the Parish. “There was so much joy and curiosity for life and seeing them made event the hardest days better,” he said. It also gave the young students a chance to see another dimension of priestly life outside of Mass.
In 2014, he was elected to the general council. In this position he is involved in decision-making for the entire Congregation and his favourite aspect is visiting the local houses. “It has allowed me to get to know some of the Basilians who I might not have met otherwise. It’s a chance to meet one-on-one and learn about who they are and what they’ve done,” he said.
In Toronto, the new role has allowed him to grow and develop new abilities and one of the many surprises has been living in close proximity to the senior priests of Orsini and Anglin house. “I look at what they’ve accomplished and it’s inspiring and shows me what’s possible through the Basilian Way of Life especially through the openness and humility they bring to each stage of life. I hope to bring these gifts to my ministry,” he said.