Fr. Tom Rafferty Leads a Growing Community
Fr. Tom Rafferty ’79, Pastor at St. Anthony of Padua in The Woodlands, Texas, gets a lot of who he is from his father, a CPA who did people’s tax returns.
“I am really convinced that he was not so much interested in the tax work,” Fr. Rafferty said, “but he loved dealing with people.”
It is that same passion for people that first led Fr. Rafferty to earn a Bachelors of Art in Psychology at the University of St. Thomas before eventually informing his work as a priest across numerous churches in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.
A Call to the Priesthood
The seeds of his vocation were planted long before college through the examples of men joyously living their vocations as priests who he experienced growing up. His home parish boasts leadership from both Bishop Vincent Rizzotto and Bishop John McCarthy.
St. Thomas High School also played an important role in his development and eventual decision to pursue religious life.
“I am very grateful that I got to go to St. Thomas High School,” Fr. Rafferty said. “Because the uncommon brotherhood is very real. I tell kids who are going there 'you are going to meet somebody there on the first day of your freshman year that is going to be the pallbearer at your funeral'.”
Fr. Rafferty followed high school with another Basilian institution, the University of St. Thomas, where he continued his studies and discernment.
In the Basilians he found priests who were “normal” people.
“What I mean by normal is that when it was time to have fun, they had fun,” Rafferty said, “but when it was time to be serious, they were serious.”
After graduating UST Fr. Rafferty joined St. Mary’s Seminary.
“There was just a blessing of being more focused, when you are getting close to studying your life’s work,” Fr. Rafferty said. “It makes a lot more practical sense. Reading Thomas Aquinas as an undergraduate is one thing, but reading Aquinas as a grad student is a completely other thing.”
Conroe and Growth
After his ordination, Fr . Rafferty served the community of Our Lady of the Assumption, a predominantly blue collar, Polish, German and Czech community with whom he still keeps in contact. Before his assignment to St. Anthony, he served at five other parishes in the diocese.
In his 14 years at St. Anthony, Fr. Rafferty has witnessed the rapid expansion of Conroe.
“I tell people, we used to call this area South Dallas,” Fr. Rafferty said. “As soon as we found out that ExxonMobil was coming out here, we started putting together a master plan.”
With business comes the opportunity for growth, and Rafferty seized that potential. He spearheads a $30 million master plan called Horizon meant to help them meet the needs of a growing population by providing more space and opportunities to serve the community. The plan is currently in its second phase.
“We have an opportunity to welcome people back to the Church and do some great work,” Fr. Rafferty said. “But we know that Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
Church in the Time of Coronavirus
Like all churches across the country, St. Anthony of Padua is learning how to navigate life in times of Coronavirus. With the support of a strong team, St. Anthony has been on the cutting edge with how they have handled the crisis, creating live streaming events and maintaining open and consistent communication with the parishioners.
They have received calls from across the country and the globe seeking advice for how they have managed their collections, created a reservation process for attending church in person and maintained open communication with their parish.
Fr. Rafferty affirms that his staff makes the work he is doing possible.
“I have some great staff members,” Fr. Rafferty says. “I can say ‘lets try this,’ and we will work it out. It is fun working with talented people.”
Still, Fr. Rafferty is using this time to take things back to basics and focus on what is important.
“As a church we are good at what we do, but I think now is the time to focus on the why,” Rafferty said. “It is about Jesus and having that relationship with Him.”