By Jacqueline Burkepile
Special to the Texas Catholic
Psalm 27:14 advises Christians to “wait for the Lord, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the Lord!” This verse briefly describes the long-awaited completion of St. Francis of Assisi Parish’s church construction on Eldorado Parkway in Frisco. After an 11-year process, the fundraising, planning, and building will come to a close sometime this fall.
The $21.5 million project began in 2002 with the first phase of their capital campaign, then in 2006 with a second campaign phase. The parish raised approximately $13 million in collected pledges through receptions, phone calls, presentations, and private dinners. Then in 2011, the parish began building a new church and Eucharistic chapel next to the current sanctuary on its 26-acre property.
Working together as a family, Msgr. Larry Pichard said parishioners not only donated money to assist in developing this project, but also donated time through parish committees such as the building, capital campaign and finance committees as well as the parish.
Capital campaign committee chairman Charles Donner said that the growth of the Catholic community in Frisco reflected the decision to build a new church. In almost 15 years, the parish grew from 200 to 7,000 families. In addition, Frisco expects to exceed the population of Plano by the year 2025. Donner said the main sanctuary will seat approximately 1,500 people, and the chapel will seat 300. The current facility only seats about 930 people.
“It’s emotional every time I see the project and we get closer and closer to the new church and chapel. It looks like a real church,” Donner said. “We’re so very excited to have this project come to completion.”
Msgr. Pichard said the main sanctuary’s form is similar to that of the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Assisi, Italy. The style is of Romanesque architecture, creating a Medieval European look.
Msgr. Pichard said the stained-glass windows also were remarkable. For example, the eight large stained-glass windows will run along the walls of the body of the church, all displaying a significant event in the life of St. Francis. In addition, the bottom of each window will include a saint from the modern era who captured that particular charism of St. Francis.
The church will also consist of a 14-foot San Damiano crucifix, hand-painted by local artist Nancy Rebal. There will also be shrines dedicated to several Marian devotions, including Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Sorrows and Our Lady of Lourdes.
Msgr. Pichard, as well as Associate Director of Development Nathan Byers, said the parish received design suggestions through surveys and town meetings.
“Every element in the structure is designed with a purpose,” Byers said. “We are not just putting up shrines or paintings with no reason. Like the churches of old, every part of this building tells an inspiring story, incorporating the past and present.”
Parishioner Lisa Story is happy with what she’s seen of the new church thus far. She said that many of the Masses are over-crowded, especially during the holidays. Story looks forward to the spacious 28,500 square-foot sanctuary.
“I’m excited about the design,” Story said. “It’s more of a traditional-looking Catholic church as opposed to what someone would consider a modern-looking Catholic church, and I’m a big fan of the old-school Catholic churches.”
In addition to a large sanctuary, the parish will have a chapel devoted to the Eucharist and dedicated to St. Clare of Assisi. The 7,500 square-foot worship area will be used primarily for daily Masses, small weddings and funerals, and for reconciliation and Eucharistic Adoration. The chapel is a combination of Romanesque and modern architecture, and inspired by the form of the Basilica of St. Clare in Assisi, Italy.
Parishioners expressed their excitement for the upcoming opening of their new church and chapel. Claudio Karolczak said he looks forward to kneelers in the new sanctuaries because the current facility does not have them.
“It’s more traditional,” Karolczak said. “It’s more of a formal feeling than what we have now.”
Parishioner Melissa Silvestro said the new sanctuaries are an answered prayer from God.
“It’s actually almost surreal that it’s happening,” Silvestro said. “I just pray that this will help our parish grow even more, and be such a beacon here in Frisco to all the Catholics who may not attend church right now—that they can see it as a sign of our faith here and that it calls them to Christ.”