With New Residence, Basilian Fathers Recommit to UST
In the stately white stucco Donaghue House nestled in the University of St. Thomas campus on Yoakum Boulevard, priests of the Congregation of St. Basil have made their home since the 1950s. Known as the Basilian Fathers, the order has grown to consider the University a flagship campus, and it has shown its commitment to the University it founded by relocating its Scholasticate—or formation house—from Toronto, Canada, to Houston. To make room for both scholastics and priests, the General Council of the Basilian Fathers decided to build a new building on their property in place of Donaghue House.
Demolition of the Donaghue House took place Tuesday, and construction of the new residence is expected to be completed by December 2015.
“The new residence will fit in with our campus,” said the Rev. Michael Buentello, CSB, chaplain and director of Campus Ministry. “The priests and scholastics will be under one roof. The Basilian presence on campus will increase in a way that will spiritually benefit the campus and be a blessing to all. With this new building, the Basilian Fathers are making a firm commitment to UST’s future.”
Father Buentello said the changes within the Catholic Church and the growth of the order’s presence in the southern part of the United States are reasons for the relocation of the Scholasticate, which is like a seminary for candidates to the Basilian order. Now, all Basilian priests will complete their theological studies in Houston, at the University, and they will study at St. Mary’s Seminary as well as on campus.
The new house will be divided into two sections: The northern half will house the Scholastics and will include 12 bedrooms, laundry room, community room, recreational room and a study. The southern half will house the priests and will include eight bedrooms, community room and a TV room. Both groups of men will share the chapel and dining room.
While the residence will no longer include a swimming pool, the Fathers will have a shop and workbench adjacent to the house where they can store their tools. The residence will also retain the fig and grapefruit trees that are on the property.
The Basilian Tradition
Donaghue House was purchased in the 1950s by the Rev. Victor Brezik, per orders from Toronto to find a house for the Fathers to reside in near campus. He explained to the homeowner the situation, and even though he did not have the funds to purchase the house, he was able to make a deal with the homeowner to purchase it. The house became the official residence of UST’s Basilian Fathers.
The process to convert the property began about a month ago when the Fathers moved to temporary residences surrounding campus. Three fathers are staying at Dillon House, a retirement house; one is at a Museum Gate condo; and two are at staying at the Muse apartments, all near campus.
Father Buentello, who currently resides in Muse, said one of the things he misses most about living in Donaghue during the temporary displacement is the sense of community the Fathers shared.
“I like the routine of our house, where we eat together,” Father Buentello said. “Father Braden would always watch the evening news at 5:30. Whether you watched it or not, you knew where he was going to be every day at that time.”
Father Buentello also said the Donaghue House, long overdue for renovation, did not fit the overall plan of the Basilian Fathers, and it would have been cost-prohibitive to make the upgrades. He said he is saddened to see the house replaced, but he is looking forward to the renewal of the Basilian presence.
“That house has so many memories for the priests that have lived there, and for the faculty and staff who have been a part of the University for a long time,” Father Buentello said. “It represents the presence of the Fathers on campus. So when the house goes, I think there’s going to be a void in all of us until it’s replaced. But we founded and established the University of St. Thomas, and we’re here for the long term.”