By Jeff Miller
Special to The Texas Catholic
“It was like Easter again!”
That’s what the May 1 11 a.m. Mass at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Denison felt like to Suzanne Broussard, a parishioner who serves as the parish’s volunteer historian.
The sun shone brightly that day on the 108-year-old sanctuary, which was filled to capacity with slightly more than 400 congregants, as Bishop Edward J. Burns helped Father Stephen Mocio celebrate St. Patrick’s 150th anniversary. The parish, located about two miles south of the Red River, is home to around 1,000 families.
The Mass was followed by a luncheon at the parish center that required an overflow tent after filling the approximately 225 seats inside.
Debbie Gullett has been a parishioner for more than 25 years and remarked after the Mass: “So many people I had no clue who they were. The parish is growing.”
St. Patrick is the second oldest parish in the Diocese of Dallas to Immaculate Conception in Corsicana (130 miles to the south). It was founded in 1872, the year Denison became a municipality – and was then the sixth largest in Texas as the state’s railroad connection to Kansas City, St. Louis and Chicago. That was 18 years before the Dallas diocese was formed from the Diocese of Galveston.
“We’re a small parish, but we’re family like,” longtime parishioner Marge Nykoruk said.
The May 1 Mass was held in the classic Gothic sanctuary, dedicated by Bishop Lynch in February 1914, located on the southeast corner of Sears and Rusk downtown. The structure replaced the previous church, which opened on the intersection’s northwest corner in December 1872 — just in time for Christmas Mass — but was destroyed by fire in October 1911.
The construction of the current church generally followed the plans for its predecessor, which was designed by Galveston architect Nicholas Clayton. He also designed the Diocese of Dallas’ “home” sanctuary, the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Father Mocio has been St. Patrick’s pastor since 2009. John Hanel, a member of both the parish’s Knights of Columbus Council 830 and the Sherman-based KC Fourth Degree Assembly 1601 that includes members of multiple area councils, is an unabashed fan of Father Mocio.
“He pretty well lets you do what you want to do, but he doesn’t let anything get out of hand,” said Hanel, a “second term” parishioner after he and wife Edie returned in 2011 after about 10 years in Dallas.
The parish recently completed a massive, two-pronged renovation project. The church’s exterior was restored 2014-15, followed by restoration of its stained-glass windows 2018-21.
“They totaled about $2 million,” Hanel said. “From donations from parishioners.
“So, you know, you don’t see that from everywhere.”
Find more photos from the celebration in The Texas Catholic’s photo gallery.