It was November 1993 and Wade Russell was a young man of 30 with a head for business who was on his way up. At age 23 he had managed a lumber yard near Dripping Springs, at 26 he was running the warehouse and trucking operations for the Miller Beer distributor in Austin. Now he was in hi s fourth year of building his family's own business, a Radio Shack franchise at Canyon Lake. On Labor Day of that year, he was "knee- boarding" with friends when he was thrown off balance and hit the water head first. He thought at first that he had pulled a muscle in his neck, but after three or four days, the headache didn't go away. Instead, it got worse. Wade says he had been hiding his condition from his parents, but when they saw him later they were alarmed. "My Dad noticed that I was dragging my right leg when I walked, and I was running into things because my vision was getting blurry. I was experiencing a stroke in slow motion." He had a blood clot that covered the entire left side of his brain, and to remove it, the doctors would have to do a craniotomy, which means they would have to open a hole in the top of his head about the size of a softball. The doctors were blunt about his chances for survival: without the operation, he would
likely die within 24 to 48 hours. With the surgery, because the clot was so massive, he would have a 25 percent chance of living through it. "When you draw that close to death, you start playing back your life story, all the good and all the bad. I couldn't sleep the night before surgery; I had a long examination of conscience, a priest anointed me and got to a point where I was at peace with God." "That next morning, my family gathered around my bed, and we all said our goodbyes through tears. That was very tough. "As they rolled me away, I closed my eyes and told God, I’m yours; do with me whatever you will.' I did ask that if it was my time to come home, that the Lord would grant my family enough grace to deal with my loss." He was in surgery for 15 hours. Looking back on this time, Fr. Wade says that it was nothing less than miracle that he is alive today. After the surgery, he had to learn to walk and talk again. It's taken years for him to get his speaking back so that the words come more readily. While recovering from his surgery, he went to talk to a priest about a possible vocation. He mentioned to Fr. Pat Zurek, now bishop of Amarillo, that he was praying about being a priest, but he had $40,000 in medical bills that he had to pay off. Fr. Pat said “if God is calling you to the priesthood, you’ll be back here once the debts are paid off.”
Fr. Wade would go to work with Wal-Mart and word got around quickly that he was interested in the priesthood, so he was nicknamed "Padre" by his co-workers. Fr. Wade moved a dozen times across the country and rose to become the regional transportation manager for a territory that stretched from Hobbs, New Mexico, to Shreveport, Louisiana, encompassing north Texas and southern Oklahoma. Working out of an office south of Ft. Worth, he directed the annual distribution of $1.3 billion in groceries among 130 stores. This included sending trucks out to all parts of the nation to bring in 70 percent of the food that was distributed "The rewards were good, and I was pulling down a six- figure income, but God was always there," Fr. Wade recalls. "Whenever I moved to a new home, I would walk through the house and thank God for all that he had given me. I didn't lose sight that all of it, from the socks in the drawer to the pictures on the wall, was a gift from God." "I also saw how God was using my experiences at Wal-Mart to build confidence within me. He allowed me to grow at my own pace. I learned how to work with all kinds of people in all kinds of situations, some very stressful. I had considered myself a shy, wallflower type, yet I had to get up and talk before people, at first 20 or 30 workers in an office or a warehouse, then 20 or 30 managers, later groups of 400 or more. "I discovered that when you are passionate about something, it's real easy to talk about it from your heart, and God will help you." "God was preparing me for the time I would have served at San Jose parish in Austin, where I delivered my homilies as a deacon before 2,300 people, and in Spanish." "I am convinced that God uses every experience to prepare you for what he has planned for you." Even so, working at Wal-Mart presented its spiritual challenges. "I found that I couldn't go to Mass very often because I would be working on Sundays," he says. "So all I had was my prayer life, and that was my lifeline. So I would go home, and I would pray." Near the end of his career with Wal-Mart, Fr. Wade had paid off all his debts, and was seriously considering forming a production company that would present Christian music and a witness for Christ to young people in their 20s and 30s. It would be an alternative to the night club scene, and would seek to bring young Catholics and others into the Church for more wholesome pursuits on Friday nights. "My reasoning was that God must want me to be making all this money for some good purpose. If I worked for Wal-Mart for five more years, I could buy the production equipment, even build a studio, and launch this ministry." That changed one night when he was praying at home, kneeling before the crucifix that now hangs in his office here at St. John's. "I had this vision of a priest. That priest turned around, and it was me. I knew then that I could not run from the Lord any more. I could not make excuses any longer." Fr. Wade sent a note to Fr. David Konderia (now pastor of St. Mary's in College Station), who was then director of vocations. That was in 2003. By the next year, Fr. Wade was studying at St. Mary's Seminary in Houston. "When you are doing the will of God, things just flow," he says. "When we encounter obstacles, that's not God who's doing that. Sometimes the biggest mountains we have to move are those of the ego. It's not easy to get past our own egos sometimes." Seminary, he says, involved six of the toughest, most challenging years of his life. "But it was good," he says, "I know more of who I am now." Then in April 2010, barely a month from his ordination date, Fr. Wade was riding a bicycle on a Houston street when he was hit by a car and thrown 50 or 60 feet. He landed on his head, but was wearing a helmet, which saved his life. The green racing helmet, shattered and broken nearly in half, sits on a shelf in his office. He broke his pelvis and arm, but the worst injury was to his heel, which was nearly pulled off the bottom of his foot. He stayed in the hospital for 27 days, and underwent seven surgeries that lasted 18 hours. He didn't know whether his foot would have to be amputated or whether he would be able to walk again without a limp or a crutch. "I refused to give in to despair," Fr. Wade says. "The Lord didn't bring me all this way, especially when for years I felt unworthy of the call, to let some accident - small or large - get in the way. The God that I have always looked for and prayed to has never left my side. He was always there, saying that he believed in me." He was also buoyed by all the people who prayed for him. "I heard from people from distant places who didn't even know my name; they just prayed for the seminarian who had been hit by a car in Houston." "God heard those prayers and he rained them all back down on me in healing graces. For that I am truly grateful." From his wheelchair, Kevin Wade Russell, 47, was ordained with the rest of his class at St. William Parish in Round Rock on Saturday, May 29, 2010. He reported on schedule to St. Thomas Aquinas in College Station in July, and as the summer months have passed, he has laid down his cane and no longer limps. "I feel so very blessed to be here at this church," he says, "and I have come to serve, giving everything I have back to God." Rev. Wade Russell was appointed as parochial vicar of St. John the Evangelist Parish in San Marcos, effective July 26, 2014.
Story told by Dave Mayes
This fall, our parish has been asked to help in the education and formation of one of our diocesan seminarians from St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston. This is a great honor for our parish, for it shows that our parish is indeed a place in which our bishop has entrusted one of his seminarians to learn about priestly ministry. The parish offers an original and especially valuable contribution to the formation of a future priest. The parish community should continue to feel that the young man on his way to the priesthood is a living part of itself. (Saint John Paul Ii, Pastores dabo vobis , 68).
The seminarian assigned to our parish is Jesse Martinez. He will be with us for nine months as part of an internship called the Pastoral Year. While here, he will draw up a learning agreement with Fr. Victor Mayorga, our pastor, to insure a fruitful year of learning. This is a serious internship in which he will earn 12 hours of academic credit. He is expected to minister to our parish in any way he can, but above all to learn all he can about parish life and ministry. During this time, Seminarian Jesse will be mentored by Fr. Victor. However, everyone here at St. John is asked to play a role in his learning experience here. Please welcome him, introduce yourself to him , and invite him to share in the life of this parish. He will be arriving the weekend of September 6-7, 2014, and he will be present at all weekend Masses to greet the parish community. Please let him know who you are and make him feel welcome. Thank you!
Jesse Martinez originates from the small town of Caldwell, Texas where he grew up as the oldest of two boys. His parents encouraged active participation in his parish church of Saint Mary’s where altar serving and youth group fostered a vocation to the Priesthood. After graduating from High School in 2008, Jesse entered college at Holy Trinity Seminary on the campus of the University of Dallas. He completed his studies in 2012 with a Bachelor in Philosophy. After completing a year of theological studies at Saint Mary’s Seminary in Houston, Jesse transferred in the fall of 2013 to the Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio where he continues his formation toward priesthood for the Diocese of Austin. His six years of studies and service in various ministries have fostered a greater love for Christ and His Church.