Reverend Mark Woodruff has been a historic priest in Odessa’s religious history, overseeing a series of major construction projects at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, and now at age 74 he is entering semi-retirement.
Father Woodruff resigned Thursday from Senior Pastor to Sacramental Minister, but will still hold Mass regularly and hear confessions in support of the new Senior Pastor, Reverend Giuseppe “Joe” Barbieri, who had been a parish administrator since last fall. .
In addition to a $ 6.2 million expansion that opened in July 2018, Woodruff also helped preside over the construction of the quaint youth center at 7601 N. Grandview Ave. and its parish pavilion for sporting and social events. “We recognized the tremendous growth within the parish with eight apartment complexes and 3,000 to 4,000 new homes at Parks Bell Ranch, 87th Street between 52nd Street and Yukon Road and the area around Eastridge Road,” did he declare.
“Looking back, I’m proud of what has been built. I had tremendous help from the building committee, the parish council and the finance council.
Woodruff is from Westfield, NJ, who served four years in San Jose, Calif., Before being posted to Odessa 25 years ago.
Inspired by his uncle, the late Reverend Stephen B. Early, he said: “Father Stephen was a very dedicated preacher and he was a great example for making the most of the preaching ministry.
Known as a gifted preacher himself, Woodruff said, “You hope to make the presence of God very real in the lives of people by giving them something that will help them live out their Christian calling in a more authentic way.”
When asked if he would like to work in another parish after having invested so much in this one, he replied: “I would be ready to go wherever I am needed, but I think we can do it. still needs me in St. Elizabeth Ann.
“If Bishop Sis sent another priest here, I would look for a way to serve in another place where I might be needed.”
In addition to continuing his service to Father Joe, Reverend Johnny Aldas, Minister of Youth and Coordinator of Religious Education, and Deacons Gary Brooks, Jose Gallegos and Sal Primera, Woodruff will volunteer two or three days a week. at Catholic Charities.
“Catholic charities are my second love,” he said. “They were badly needed during the time of COVID and the bad economy. Previously, they served 800 people a month with their pantry and now it’s over 3,000. ”
Woodruff’s uncle was a Jesuit and he could have joined that order of teachers, but he chose the parish priesthood for its closeness “to people at the most basic level,” he said.
“A priest is like a general practitioner,” he says. “Other priests are more specialized. I could have gone elsewhere, but there was never a good time as we almost always planned, built or paid for a building.
Bishop Sis said that Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton “is now one of the largest Catholic churches in West Texas.
“The youth ministry center is excellent, showing the strong commitment of the parish to serve our young people,” he said. “When we launched the new Holy Cross Catholic High School for the Permian Basin, they needed facilities. Father Woodruff graciously provided a set of classrooms at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton which helped the school get started. They could not have taken off without his generous support and enthusiastic welcome.
Holy Cross now teaches at the Way Retreat Center, east of Midland, at 4014 N. County Road.
“Father Woodruff’s role on the Catholic Charities Board of Trustees has been extremely valuable,” said Sis. “When their building was severely damaged by the hailstorm a few years ago, he provided key leadership to help manage this crisis.
“After the shooting in Odessa on August 31, 2019, he dedicated a large outdoor cross in memory of all the victims. It has become an important memorial place that is visited by the residents of Odessa, regardless of their church affiliation. “