HOUSTON — As the late Bishop George A. Sheltz was placed into his funeral hearse, a chant of an ancient prayer suddenly filled the air.
His fellow bishops and priests surrounded him while they chanted the “Salve Regina” (Hail Holy Queen), a fitting send-off for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston auxiliary bishop who dedicated his life to serving God and his people.
Sheltz’s Dec. 31 funeral Mass gathered many people to honor his life, including Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, who was the presider, and Father Jeff Bame, rector of Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral in Houston, who gave the homily.
“Bishop Sheltz was my pastor, my bishop and my friend,” said Bame noting that the bishop, then-Father Sheltz, was his pastor while the priest was growing up at Prince of Peace Parish in Houston.
“In over 50 years of priestly ministry, George Sheltz has reflected with his life, just how great is the assistance of God’s grace and goodness,” he said. “He lived his life as a sacrifice to God.”
Bame said the congregation made their “ultimate act of love for him in commending, a soul to God and praying that he may hear those beautiful words we all long to hear, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.’”
At the conclusion of the Mass, DiNardo briefly reflected on his time with Sheltz, who served as his auxiliary bishop for nearly a decade.
Sheltz “was a great friend and just a great person,” he said. “There is a genuine and deep loss on the part of people he served and even beyond, and a loss certainly from our priests, and certainly on the part of me as the ordinary” of Galveston-Houston.
DiNardo said the bishop was “an exemplary diocesan priest” and “a Houstonian all the way,” who “carried with him stories” from the church and the city. He described him as “an everyday priest” who “served the Lord every day.”
The cardinal also shared a message from Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, which said Pope Francis was saddened to learn of Bishop Sheltz’s death.
“His holiness joins you in giving thanks for Bishop Sheltz’s many years of devoted priestly and episcopal ministry to the church in Galveston-Houston,” the message said.
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Ramos is a staff writer and designer for the Texas Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.