By Cathy Harasta
The Texas Catholic
DENISON — On an overcast October morning, some of the parishioners paused to view the new Memorial Brick Plaza that signified the history and endurance of the 101-year-old St. Patrick Catholic Church.
Some stopped to look up at the Gothic church’s stunning bell tower — a beacon not only for the Catholic community but for everyone in town.
Others scrutinized the bricks and mortar that had been restored with such precision and love that the landmark church seemed not to look a single day older than when it opened in 1914.
But on this special Oct. 25, when Bishop Kevin J. Farrell celebrated a Mass Commemorating the Completion of the 2nd Century Restoration at St. Patrick, a full church of more than 450 paid tribute to God’s grace as the bishop blessed the restoration.
“It really gives you chills,” said Frank Ventura, chairman of St. Patrick’s 2nd Century Restoration Committee. “The feeling is so exciting, just as it must have been for the parishioners in 1914.”
In delivering his homily and dedicating the restoration, Bishop Farrell drew smiles when he spoke of how his Irish heritage made him feel a deep connection to the St. Patrick Catholic community.
He remarked on the church’s beautiful stained glass with its deep green shades.
“It is a great joy to come and bless the renovations,” Bishop Farrell told the congregation as he spoke of continuity and the church’s next 100 years.
“We cannot help but think of the history of so many years that Catholic people have come, have sat in these pews and listened to the Word of God,” the bishop said.
Bishop Farrell thanked God for the “great gift” of St. Patrick Church and parish.
He told the gathering that the celebration reminded Catholics of Pope Francis’ great grace in bringing the faith alive in and beyond the Catholic community.
A Dallas-area Imam phoned him, Bishop Farrell said, to request copies of the Holy Father’s speeches so that the Muslim leader might absorb their message.
“Pope Francis tells us nothing more than what the Scriptures tell us in today’s Mass,” Bishop Farrell said as he went on to illuminate Mark 10: 46-52 and Bartimaeus’ outcry to call attention to his blindness as Jesus was leaving Jericho.
“We too many times in our lives are blind to what our faith is all about,” the bishop said. “We are blind too many times to what the Gospels are all about.
“The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not just a book that is meant to be read—It is a book that is meant to be lived.”
Charity, mercy and forgiveness form the keys to recognizing the church as not merely a structure that predated parishioners and will outlast their earthly lives, but as a symbol that “God has surrounded us with such great love,” Bishop Farrell said in blessing the restoration.
Ventura said that the restoration, which was launched in late 2013 with a pledge-raising campaign, sought to match as closely as possible the original building materials.
“We raised the necessary $1.4 million through God’s grace and a lot of sacrifice,” Ventura said. “We’re not a rich parish. We started on faith that we would raise the money.”
Of the final price-tag of about $1.7 million, about $1.2 million went for exterior repairs, which began in July 2014, Ventura said.
Time was of the essence, said parishioner Kit Broussard, a committee member and veteran of the restoration and
“There was deterioration in the bricks and in the mortar between the bricks,” he said. “If you don’t stop it, it
will be slow but steady deterioration.
“We can’t tell you how blessed we were.”
Broussard praised the inspiration of contractors and waterproofing experts who specialized in restoration, including the Conley Group of Irving, for taking to heart the history of a parish that began when Denison Catholics first gathered for worship in a private home in 1872.
Architect Nicholas J. Clayton, who also designed the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Dallas, designed St. Patrick.
The paving bricks at the church entrance, which feature parish family names, served as one of the renovation’s fund-raisers.
Father Stephen Mocio, pastor of St. Patrick, said that the celebration Mass provided a great sense of community.
“I’m thrilled because of the turnout and having the bishop here,” Father Mocio said. “I think the finished product is really beautiful, remarkable and restores the church to its original pristine beauty.”