St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church celebrates Monsignor Paul
- Written by By Trilla Cook
– Church community bestows 80th birthday greetings and thanks – On Feb. 23, retired priest Reverend Monsignor Paul Procella celebrated his 80th birthday, and not without notice from his friends and family at St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Humble. Procella was once an ordinary businessman, married to Bobbye Trout Procella. Four years after his wife died, he decided to become a priest and began studies for the priesthood in 1983 at the Sacred Heart School of Theology in Wisconsin. Four years later, Procella was ordained and celebrated his first Mass of Thanksgiving in May of 1987. He began a life of service that many came to know and appreciate, while he was pastor at St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Humble from 1990-2008. “While I was there, we built a new church. The old church would seat 400 and the new church seats 2,400,” Procella explained. “We also constructed a family life center, a rectory, and a multi-purpose education building for Catholic education, as well as a day school. I really enjoyed the people there. When I went there, we had about 1,200 families and when I left we had about 5,000 families. Humble was a small town when I went there and has grown a great deal.” In 2000, at age 67, Procella received a Papal Honor from Pope John Paul II, when eight local priests were named Prelates of Honor, under the title “Reverend Monsignor.” But members of his church family still endearingly refer to him as Father Paul. A page on the church’s website, st-mm.com,is dedicated to “Msgr. Paul’s 80th Birthday.” Many of his friends and family sent Happy Birthday messages to share with their beloved pastor, friend and mentor. A spokesperson from the church said they would attempt to put all the messages on the webpage to share with him. “Procella's pastoral ministry at St. Mary Magdalene is a legacy of prayer, leadership and service to the parish, founded 101 years ago, as well as the elementary school he helped to found 11 years ago,” said Rev. Michael Carmody. “Father Paul, as he is widely known and loved, dedicated his time, talent and earthly treasure to the people of the greater Lake Houston area for almost two decades. God has certainly blessed this community through Father Paul's many efforts on our behalf; may God give him the reward of his goodness. We love you, Father Paul – Happy Birthday.” Another long-time friend and co-worker talked about their time together. “Happy Birthday Msgr. Paul – It is with great pleasure and honor to wish you a Happy 80th ,” said Irene Dornak. “Our friendship dates back to those 10 wonderful years that we worked together at St. Mary Magdalene and continue to this very day. You are a wonderful and genuine priest, and I truly believe that you have made an impact on all you have come in contact with and this will never stop. May God Bless you and continue to use you as an instrument of His peace. Thank you for all the love and pastoral care you provide to my family and me.” Because Procella did not pursue priesthood until after his wife passed away, some people thought this brought him the ability to better understand all couples. “Of all the priests that have served at St. Mary Magdalene Parish, none has had such a profound effect as Msg. Paul,” Gilbert Alfaro said. “Over the years he pastored, he served God’s people by unselfish giving and wise decision making. His married life experience gave him a unique appeal to all couples, young and old. The pleasure was all ours Monsignor. God Bless.” Ivana Meshell and her husband Deacon James Meshell have a close family connection to Msgr. Paul. “The very first time I laid eyes on Fr. Paul was at the Chrism Mass of 1988,” said Ivana. “I did not know who he was at the time, but there was something about him that captured my attention, even though I did not even know his name. Within the year, I met his first cousin, whom I would later marry, and eventually I came to work for Msgr. Paul. He presided at our wedding, and he has had a great influence in my life over the last 25 years. You never know what one person can mean to you, or when and how you will meet that person.” Deacon Meshell and Msgr. Porcella are cousins who worked together at St. Mary Magdalene in Humble. “He remembers when I was born and I want to thank him for being there,” said Meshell. “It’s been an honor serving with you at St. Mary’s. Our family is honored to have a priest and a deacon in our family.” Porcella’s deep dedication and sincere efforts are admired by many and the sentiments expressed by Jim and Marion O’Brien are a testament to just that. “We have great memories of Msgr. Paul and his dedication in growing the parish, not only with a new church, but with his spiritual direction and support of the community!” the O’Briens agreed. “He had a vision for a Catholic elementary school in the area and worked tirelessly on that project. He is a generous person and an inspiration to St. Mary Magdalene parishioners and all in the Humble area.” Many similar sentiments, too numerous to include, came pouring in, praising the good works of Father Paul and wishing him a Happy Birthday. Born in 1933 in Hemphill, Texas, Procella graduated from Hemphill High School in 1950, and served in the U.S. Air Force, before earning a B.S. degree in history and chemistry from Stephen F. Austin University in 1956. Procella said he is now happily retired and living at the Pope John XXIII Home for Retired Priests, St. Dominic Center in Houston. Photo: Reverend Monsignor Paul Procella, left, known as Father Paul, and Deacon James Meshell at St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Humble. Father Paul recently celebrated his 80th birthday.