Bishop Olson blesses foundation stone for Eastland family and youth center
EASTLAND — Four parishes share a single vision of having a place for community and religious education. The property is purchased, architectural plans are rendered, and on June 5, the vision took another step towards reality.
Bishop Michael Olson prayed the Rosary and blessed the foundation stone for the All Saints Family Activity and Youth Center, accompanied by parishioners from St. John Parish in Strawn; St. Rita Parish in Ranger; Holy Rosary Parish in Cisco; and St. Francis Xavier Parish in Eastland.
The first phase of the construction includes three classrooms, bathrooms, foyer, and commercial kitchen. A basketball court/multi-purpose auditorium is slated for the second phase. Father Vijaya Mareedu, SAC, pastor of the four parishes, describes the project as “like a seed that is planted. It grows slowly, but it will grow.”
The property, on I-20 in Eastland, exceeds 50 acres and is central to the four parishes, which were established more than 100 years ago. Fr. Mareedu envisions the center will become a hub for youth, including college students from nearby Ranger College and Cisco College. In addition to regular religious education classes, it will be able to host retreats and fellowship events.
More than 125 parishioners attended the blessing. “Whenever the shepherd of the diocese gives attention to the rural parishes, it makes our day,” said the Pallottine priest.
Martin Esquivel, a member of St. Francis Xavier for nearly 25 years, said the Eastland parish is growing rapidly and doesn’t have a facility large enough for the entire parish community to gather.
Janie Ortiz, a religious education teacher and mother of five from St. Francis Xavier, explained the religious education program has outgrown its current building.
She said, “We have a great future with all these children, all these youth. We see a brighter future — better things are coming.”
Fr. Mareedu pointed out, “Structures never bring people, but when people make institutions with love, they prevail, because God is love. He is the one and only constant.”