MIDLAND Monsignor Larry Joseph Droll has held a series of key leadership positions in the Diocese of San Angelo, but his evangelistic fervor has been undiminished as he also served as a parish priest here and at San Angelo, Ozona and Wall.
As senior pastor since 2004 at St. Ann’s Catholic Church at 1906 W. Texas Ave., Droll said, he has tried to teach his parishioners that it’s important not only to understand God’s love but also to learn about Catholicism and attend church regularly.
Citing his favorite book, he said, “We as people in the 21st Century need to have an introduction to Christ be put into meaningful terms, and Luke’s gospel helps us to do that.
“We believe that Jesus came into our world to let us know God loves us and to offer salvation. Through his death on the Cross, he offers us a new life through the Holy Spirit and the opportunity to go to Heaven. It’s also important for people to know a lot about the church and not only to come to church but also be part of the community in an active way.
“I try to help them make that connection with Christ and in the spirit of the liturgy, filled with his grace and power, go out and take the message to the world. I have always been interested in evangelization, inviting people to come to Christ, and I like to teach about the Bible as we go along, clarifying points they might hear when we read Scriptures in Mass.”
St. Ann’s averages more than 1,400 people at its Masses at 5 p.m. Saturday and 8:30 and 10:45 a.m. and 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday
Droll is a 70-year-old San Angelo native who grew up at Wall and Rowena, where his father Harvey was a cotton farmer. The eldest in a family of seven, he attended seminaries in San Antonio and Collegeville, Minn., and was ordained on June 15, 1973. His late mom’s name was Sidona Multer.
He was pastor of St. Ambrose Catholic Church at Wall for 11 1/2 years before being assigned to St. Ann’s, which is the oldest parish in Midland, dating to the late 1880s. “I really enjoy the priesthood,” he said.
“I enjoy working with so many families and being part of their lives.”
Serving Bishops Stephen A. Leven, Joseph A. Fiorenza, Michael Pfeifer and now Michael Sis, he has balanced his parish duties with service as director of vocation, recruiting candidates for the priesthood, from 1974-87; chancellor of the diocese as an assistant to the bishop from 1980-2004; and vicar general, or second in command to the bishop, from 2004-16. He is now vicar for all the priests in the 29-county area. His associate here is the Rev. Tony Franco.
Droll helped locate the property and lead the fundraising campaign for the construction of the Christ the King Retreat Center, which opened in San Angelo in 1983 for spiritual retreats, preparations for marriage and other purposes. “It has been a lot of work to balance these responsibilities, but I have always worked for understanding bishops,” he said.
He said the 69th Annual St. Ann’s Family Fair in late September did well, raising $150,000 for St. Ann’s School, which has been in operation since 1950. Its current enrollment is 455.
In late November, Droll had been reading a book by Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles and John L. Allen Jr., “To Light a Fire on the Earth: Proclaiming the Gospel in a Secular Age.”
He is also following the consideration of Maria de Jesus de Agreda, the 17th Century Franciscan abbess and spiritual writer known as “The Lady in Blue,” for beatification related to her miraculous appearances to the Jumano Indians in West Texas.
Droll noted that Father Stefano Cecchin of the Vatican, president of the Pontifical International Marian Academy and vice postulator for the Spanish nun’s cause, visited San Angelo and spoke at St. Ann’s here in August.
“Sister Maria de Jesus de Agreda had a miraculous way of communicating with the Jumanos to bring the message of Christ and invite them to be baptized,” said Droll, adding that a committee has been formed to put a statue of her on the banks of the Concho River in May.
Asked if he expects her eventually to be canonized, he said, “I don’t know.”
“I have heard the story through most of my priesthood, and it has been renewed lately. The church moves very carefully, which is usually slowly. The process goes back almost to her time (1602-65).”
Bishop Michael Sis said in an email that Droll “can be at home anywhere from the high-powered corporate boardroom to a thatched hut in the jungle.
“His family are wonderful salt-of-the-earth people, and he connects easily with people from all backgrounds because he has a fundamental respect for them,” the bishop said.
Crediting Droll with establishing a partnership with the Diocese of San Pedro Sula in Honduras after Hurricane Mitch hit Central America in 1998; Sis said that relationship “has continued to be active through all these years, largely due to his leadership and dedication.”
“Monsignor Droll is a visionary who dreams big dreams but takes the time to do his homework,” he said. “His love of God is at the middle, and that keeps everything else in perspective. We could use 20 clones of this guy. But since human cloning is unethical, we send seminarians and young priests to serve in his parish so they can learn some of the skills and attitudes it takes to pastor a large and thriving flock.”