“The two best decisions I’ve made in my life are entering seminary and moving to Sealy,” Fr. Eric Pitre said, just three days after retiring from Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.
Born in 1945 in “the Holy Land” of College Station – “I’m an Aggie at heart” – Pitre spent the last 13 years of his ministry serving the flock in Sealy, a place he dearly loves.
“There’s something about living in a small town. I’m not a concrete person. I don’t know how people live in the city,” he said.
He grew up just outside the municipal airport that was located between Houston and Pearland and spent hours watching the planes fly.
“I saw the end of the prop age and the beginning of the jet age,” he said.
After graduating high school, Pitre took classes at the University of St. Thomas and the University of Houston and entered the work force doing finance for Dun and Broadstreet and the St. Joseph’s Hospital System. He earned his Master of Divinity from St. Thomas in 1979 and was ordained a deacon in 1980. He spent time working in social services and in 1988 was named the priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Richmond. He served there until 1999 when he was moved to St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in La Porte.
“I always wanted to have a beach house, but that was not on a pastor’s budget,” he said.
He ended up with a home overlooking the water at Sylvan Beach.
“It was nice to look out my window and see the ships on the water,” he said.
While there he found himself having to deal with the aftermath of hurricanes Rita and Katrina, including spearheading the diocese relief efforts between Galveston, Houston and Beaumont.
In 2007 Pitre made his final move, this time to Sealy.
“God saved the best for last,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed this assignment.”
Pitre made himself at home in Sealy. He frequented Sealy High football, basketball, and baseball games as well as theater shows and other events. He also closely followed the collegiate and pro career of his godson, Joe Pawelek of Corpus Christi, who played for Baylor and then the Seattle Seahawks.
In his 13 years in Sealy Pitre has guided the church of about 2,000 to 3,000 people, started an internship program, and has been active in the ministerial alliance, the Salvation Army, and the food pantry, among others. He is also a dean covering the counties of Austin, Waller, and portions of Fort Bend and Harris.
Looking back, Pitre said his career hasn’t always been easy, but it has been satisfying.
“I’ve had difficult assignments, not bad assignments, but difficult assignments,” he said.
On June 28 he presided over his last masses as the priest at Immaculate Conception. He has been replaced by Jonathan More. Following services, a surprise parade was held for him, keeping in line with COVID-19 social distancing. Pitre said he was very surprised and felt the parade – which had people from all walks of his life – gave him a chance for one-on-one interaction with everybody.
Pitre, who turns 75 on Sept. 11, said it was time to retire, but that doesn’t mean he’s finished serving the church. He will be a “circuit rider,” helping out small, rural churches as needed. He will also enjoy spending time working in his garden and tending to his lawn.
The people of the community are happy for him and are grateful for his service to the church and the community.
“At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, we were working so hard, trying to navigate truly uncharted territory,” recalled former Sealy ISD Superintendent Sheryl Moore. “Father Pitre called to check on me and to pray with me. Such a kindness. He is a good man and a true leader. Thank you for the love you have shared with this community.”
“This gentleman worked tirelessly and unselfishly for the betterment of our community,” said Joe Marusik.
Sealy High School theatre teacher Erin Moore is grateful for Pitre’s support of her program.
“Father Eric has had such an integral role in the Sealy High School Theatre Department,” she said. “He has supported us from the audience and, after much coaxing, from the stage. He has traveled to cheer SHS on at every level of competition from zone to state. And he’s served as not only an audience member but a warm smile as we’ve waited for results and hearty voice cheering our successes.”
Moore also noted that he has helped the students in other ways as well.
“Father Eric is also integral in helping students earn scholarships and in developing scholarships within the church community. He is aware of our students and their needs and he is relentless in finding opportunities for them,” she said.