By David Sedeño
The Texas Catholic
New sanctuaries. New classrooms. New community centers. New gyms and ball fields.
Over the past six years, parishioners throughout the Diocese of Dallas, although weathering the economic downturn that gripped the country, have contributed to their parish communities generously through numerous infrastructure, and new or renovation projects to the tune of more than $91 million.
Various other projects in the works will increase that number by more than $38 million, bringing the total to more than $130 million.
Those projects have been undertaken since Bishop Kevin J. Farrell was installed as the diocese’s seventh bishop in May 2007 and demonstrate the Catholic Church’s leadership in numerous communities in the nine-county diocese, said Bill Keffler, the diocese’s chief operations officer and former Richardson city manager.
“When you see budget reductions and real estate development curtailment and the impact of a slow economy it truly is unbelievable that a church organization can be a significant economic engine that has made a pretty dramatic impact over the past six years,” Keffler said.
Although many of the projects, have been in the multi-million dollar range, many of them have been smaller, including those for roofs, landscaping, security systems and HVAC repair and installation, among others.
Keffler compared the investment by parishioners to “yes” votes for school and municipal bond programs for specific projects.
“The significance of this is what our Catholic community feels is their commitment to their faith, represented by offertory baskets and ability of parishioners to want to make long-term investments,” Keffler said. “These were not the diocese’s projects; these were the parish communities’ projects.”
Indeed, Father Jason Cargo, pastor of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Corsicana, said that parishioners have been generous for sanctuary flooring and pews, landscaping and a new Marian garden.
“What people were wanting was to see their money put to good use and as soon as I explained the vision as to where their funds would be allocated and they saw the beautifying of the campus, people began to offer resources to make that happen,” he said.
Father Stephen Bierschenk, pastor of St. Monica Catholic Church in Dallas, spearheaded two projects to completion during the past six years, one for a new sanctuary at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in McKinney and the renovation of the sanctuary at the Preston Hollow area parish.
In McKinney, he said, doubts from parishioners about having the ability to raise funds for a new sanctuary dissipated once they saw the plans and accelerated when the construction began.
“I’ve said time and again that people are especially generous to help renovate or build a church because the church is the center of their spiritual life—it is where they get their children baptized, married and where they pass on their faith and celebrate their faith and they are willing to make a sacrifice for that more than anything else,” he said.
Schools and parishes are continuing to assess their building and infrastructure needs through feasibility studies and master plan developments and over the next few years the investment in the school and parish communities will continue to grow, Keffler said.
“What we have done here in the Diocese of Dallas, what the parish communities have done so far is a great example of what we can do in the future,” he said.